As a successful entrepreneur, company Executive, or industry leader, your leadership role requires that you provide the resources, tools, and positive atmosphere to maximize your employees’ success. Often, this includes setting standards for operation, dedicating time for annual reviews, and troubleshooting any lapses in successful operation. From ensuring that sales people are aptly trained to continuously hit their benchmark numbers, to leading inspiring board meetings to create a cohesive corporate culture, success within your multifaceted leadership role is somewhat parallel to the success of those who look to you for professional guidance.
In today’s unprecedented times, ensuring this feat can seem challenging, confusing, and somewhat scattered. Seemingly overnight, as a large portion of the professional workforce pivoted to a “work from home” model, new professional considerations came to light. For many companies, this swift shift did not come armed with a previously perfected action plan, nor with instructions for maintaining successful operations under brand new conditions. Thus, inherently, the current pandemic has left many professionals reeling mentally, unsure of the relative stability of their jobs, while simultaneously anxious about expectations. More than ever, mental health and wellness is integral to professional success. As you navigate the proverbial new normal, it is important to consider ways in which you can champion the mental wellness of employees as a leader.
Lead By Example
As a widely known “rule of thumb”, the concept of leading by example is the foundation for setting the tone, expectations, and plans for just about any facet of life. Within the professional aspect of the widely adapted work from home model, leading by example will help employees to gather an understanding of expectations, and allow them to follow your lead. For example, by sharing your own fears and implemented procedures to overcome fear, you will allow your team to understand that their own fears are not too different, and will open the doors for proactive, honest, and fruitful communication. If employees have difficulty with creating efficient daily plans, being able to share those concerns with you may be the key to resolving the issue together.
Frequently Check In With Staff
At a time when many people are feeling isolated physically and mentally, and may be experiencing anxiety related to limited workplace communication, frequent and proactive staff check-ins are a great way to ensure continued communication, and ensure that all staff members feel connected. In many industries, projects tend to be collaborative, and team members tend to benefit from the camaraderie of sharing ideas, adding their input on various topics, and generally feeling the bespoke office atmosphere.
As a leader, you can help to alleviate the mental health consequences of limited interaction by proactively reaching out to team members, updating employees about any ongoing projects, and providing a positive outlet to answer any ongoing questions.
Set Up Communication Mediums
In order to stave off frustration, anxiety, and feelings of disconnect within a company, team, or professional sphere, you can set up various tech-based resources that will enable employees to remain connected in real-time. While your company already most likely used corporate emails, consider setting up an intra-office chat service to allow for swift communication at all times. This will enable team members working on a usually collaborative project to discuss ideas efficiently, without having to overload their inboxes with several messages.
Additionally, file sharing and cloud computing resources can ease the frustration of having to ask colleagues for various files, and will allow all team members to see, have access to, and potentially utilize newly created collateral. Finally, to champion the face-to-face interaction that work from home situations have diminished, consider hosting video chat meetings regularly to champion normalcy, connectivity, and the sense of community.
Set Realistic Expectations
For many professionals who seemingly excelled within the corporate culture, finding themselves in a work from home situation may have proven to come with a complete life overhaul. Juggling uncertain professional expectations, maintaining a household while being proverbially stuck in it, and even having to learn to homeschool children while attempting to work can certainly manifest initial chaos. Thus, as a leader, recognizing the notion that your team’s daily existence may vary greatly is a good first step to setting realistic work from home expectations.
If you allow certain flexibilities in terms of deadlines, project management, and autonomy, it is crucial to provide all team members with concise instructions, expectations, and timelines. By not leaving any expectation vague, you can maximize efficiencies for employees, and limit any potentially detrimental mental health concerns related to being unclear about tasks. Then, allowing team members to complete these tasks in whatever capacity best suits their needs will truly champion the mental wellness of each team member. For example, for a new parent of a small child, completing a large amount of work during nap times, odd hours, and frequent intervals may be more productive than during a traditional schedule. While that may not be ideal in terms of always being swiftly responsive and communicative, it may be the overall best option for that team member. As a leader, your trust in your team’s dedication, and ability to create tangible results on their own timeline, will champion their overall long-term wellness.
While dedicated employees try their best to navigate the new normal, they may work through mental health concerns sparked by the overall instability caused by the pandemic. Now, more than ever, showing signs of gratitude as a leader can alleviate the pressures felt by team members working remotely. While you certainly don’t have to create a spectacle each time a team member simply responds to an email, taking the time to personally say “thank you”, or “great job”, can go a long way to foster a positive professional atmosphere. You can consider the completion of tasks, hitting of certain benchmarks, or continued victories as reasons to virtually pat your team members on the back.
Have Virtual Happy Hours
For many busy professionals, the social interactions experienced at work create a sense of community, allow coworkers to vent, and heighten a feeling of belonging to a group. Thus, in the isolation of the pandemic, the disappearance of this camaraderie may have negative impacts on the overall mental wellbeing of employees. To offset this lack of face-to-face time, and invite families and friends to bond, consider setting up appropriate virtual team building opportunities.
From traditional versions of happy hour taken to Zoom, to interactive games that can be played by entire teams, there are various options for inciting the spirit of connectivity, playfulness, and community. Family-friendly events may include virtual versions of smartphone games, while fitness inspired employees can partake in a virtual weight loss challenge. The possibilities are endless, but are sure to elicit positive results.
As leaders across various industries work to navigate the new normal, their previously perfected skills can certainly seamlessly carry over into the new realm of professional normalcy. However, they must pay close attention to the bespoke needs of employees that arise directly from the pandemic, including the need to champion mental wellness.