I’ve heard the term ‘bounce back’ quite a few times recently – certainly covid is bouncing back all over the place. When we talk about it with business in mind though, it implies resilience, positivity, opportunity yet with leaders, whilst in public they sound upbeat, when you talk to them privately they let their concerns and doubts about the future show.
Listening to health professionals and those on the front line they’re barely recovering from the first covid wave and are tired. With covid set to be around for a long time there’s probably going to be a need for multiple ‘bounce backs’ so how do they/ how do we cope?
The British Psychological Society have considered this and how staff cope with three phases of psychological response: the preparation, active and recovery phases. It is the recovery phase where our attention should be focused. Here’s three things that all good leaders should be doing.
Be there, walk the floor, speak to your staff and whatever you do, don’t hide away in your office. Where possible guide people to the resources they need even if it’s the most basic such as take a rest, speak to your family. It’s OK not to have all the solutions. Most people, given the opportunity to think through what they need, know that already. Set the environment (a Thinking Environment) where that type of thinking can occur. Be willing to tolerate and manage the uncertainty that is around and be kind to yourself.
2.Have a communication strategy
As a coach and consultant I know that the biggest source of complaints in an organisation is poor communication. It’s even more important that you communicate with your workforce regularly and frequently in simple, clear ways using a variety of methods. In advertising they say now that you need 9 touch points before someone picks up the message.
Actively encourage others to communicate with you, enable them to express their concerns and fears and listen patiently – again this is much easier when you have a Thinking Environment within your organisation. Remember that. Encourage peer support with daily buddying if necessary – say that’s it’s OK to look out for your buddy – particularly important when there’s a growing increase of poor mental health arising directly from the effects of lockdown and uncertainty over covid.
3.Normalise psychological responses
This pandemic and the impact it’s had on families, society and our economy is unprecedented so it’s OK not to be OK. Experiencing symptoms of stress means that you’re human not that you can’t do your job. Give people permission to step back and ensure they have rest – again particularly important when people are still working from home (or rather at home trying to work) as they have to cope with all that entails.
Research has shown that women are disproportionately affected by the impact of working from home and my own anecdotal conversations appear to show that couples are reverting to gender stereotypes of female = home and child care, male = work only even when women also work full-time.
Having said this, if you’re worried about workers’ mental health get expert advice. ACAS is a good place to start for general advice about managing mental health in the workplace.
As a leader it’s essential that you set the right tone to enable bounce back to occur. It’s yet another task to undertake so be kind to yourself too. You are not superhuman and will experience all of the uncertainties and anxieties of your workforce, if not more for good leaders also feel responsible for all their staff. Give yourself Time to Think. Even better, introduce Time to Think to your organisation – have it embedded into your approach to leadership. I know from work that I’ve done with a wide range of groups that using Time to Think reduces stress levels and enables staff to better cope with the issues that surround them.
Yes, we can bounce back and we’ll be asked to bounce back many times more before covid has done with us. As a leader take the steps now to give you and your workforce the best chance to recover.
Laura Murphy blogs about things that interest her. They might not interest you but read them anyway. It might even change your mind.