If you know anything about me or my Vida Aventura work with clients, you are aware of my mantra about celebrating: Celebrate everything, often! But lately I haven’t been so great about following my own advice. The reason? Pure, bottom-of-the-barrel, end-of-my-rope exhaustion.
In fact – and it’s hard for me to admit this – I was supposed to meet up with a friend a few weeks ago to celebrate a big project we finished together, and it didn’t happen. Neither of us could find the time, due to over-scheduling and never-ending deadlines. We resorted to a late night Facetime, just long enough for a virtual toast. Hey, it’s better than nothing!
I bring this up because “I’m completely exhausted” is what I’m hearing from my clients, colleagues, friends … everyone. And it’s affecting our work and personal lives. Which means that executives, leaders and managers need to increase their awareness in this area, and take action for the sake of their teams.
Why Are We So Tired?
For over two years now, we’ve been dealing with a pandemic, life transitions and feelings of unrest. We’re completely worn out. In Leading An Exhausted Workforce, by Robin Abrahams and Boris Groysberg, the authors explore this in detail. “Nearly everyone has lost someone or something — a job, a relationship, their peace of mind. Any hopes for a clear, definitive end to the pandemic are dashed. We are post-emergency, but still in crisis.”
What does this mean for leaders? While, as the article explains, leaders are not responsible for the mental health of every individual, they are in a unique position to help:
Leaders aren’t therapists and shouldn’t try to be. But people are coping with collective grief and trauma on a global scale, which means leaders have to learn and exercise new skills. There are steps you can take to foster healthy coping mechanisms and discourage unhealthy ones; help ward off some of the typical mistakes that people make under pressure; and ensure you don’t cause additional anxiety on top of what people are already dealing with.
What Leaders Can Do
Lead By Example. Leaders are stressed out too, so it is crucial to practice self-care – whatever that means to you. Perhaps it’s taking regular walks, getting out in nature, meditating or journaling. It could also mean eating ice cream and binging true crime documentaries. When you bring your rested, re-energized self to your team, it encourages them to do the same.
The article frames it as role modeling. “If you’re tense, irritable, withdrawn, or volatile, your team may suffer similarly. If your view of reality is warped by denial, delusion, or us-and-them thinking, your team’s ability to take effective action is severely curtailed. If you act out in harmful ways or make rash, inconsistent decisions, you will destroy trust and morale.”
Practice Empathy. I shared some statistics in a recent blog about empathy and great leadership, and the results were very telling. According to a recent study by Qualtrics, workers are dealing with significant mental health shock in the wake of the pandemic:
Two out of five (41.6%) of respondents said that their mental health has declined since the COVID-19 outbreak. The number of people who rated the state of their mental health in the lowest range (3 or under on a 10-point scale) has doubled since the outbreak began.
When respondents were asked what things had the biggest impact on that decline, the top five reasons were:
- More anxiety (24.0%)
- More stress (20.1%)
- Worry about losing their job (14.2%)
- Being less busy (8.6%)
- Challenges of working from home (8.5%)
When you approach challenges, team building and goals from a place of empathy, it helps create positive team dynamics and aids in everything from addressing day-to-day challenges to holding difficult conversations.
Be Intentional. This goes hand-in-hand with empathic leadership. Do you genuinely care about the health and well-being of every individual on your team? Hopefully, your answer is a resounding yes! Show your support, and regularly check in to gain understanding as to how each person is feeling.
Build Cohesive Teams. When the Qualtrics study asked participants who could help them the most if they had a discussion about their mental health, coworkers rose to the top. The positive effects of team building cannot be overstated, particularly in times like these.
In the months and years ahead, we will continue to see transformations in the way we work, and the needs of an evolving workforce. It’s vital for leaders to respond to industry changes and trends, and cultivate healthy and productive teams. If you need help navigating change, or improving emotional intelligence and leadership skills to meet the needs of employees, I can help. Check out our Vida Aventura Leadership Development Programs, and contact us today.