The stress of the COVID-19 pandemic affects us all differently, and emotionally we’re all in different stages of dealing with this crisis. Social support — family and friends you can count on, as well as other close relationships — can cushion us against a variety of worries, including workplace stress, that can compromise health. Caring was the top priority of our Best Workplaces this year. As such, they succeeded well in creating a psychologically and emotionally safe work environment that allows for a personal approach, despite the uncertainty and blurred work-life boundaries, the pandemic brought to us.
3 tips to get you started
1. Give each other a “pass”
It’s another way of saying we need to practice forgiveness in a variety of ways:
- Give your colleagues and employees the benefit of the doubt
- Internalize that everyone you interact with is struggling to work and live in this difficult time, and in ways we may never fully know or understand
- Assume that everyone is acting from a place of good intentions; when someone acts in an atypical way toward you, avoid taking it personally
- Show patience and compassion toward ourselves and others.
2. Check in and trigger informal interactions
In the socially close physical office, people pop over to desks or gather in the kitchen for an informal chat. These exchanges often bring together employees from across teams and give junior team members an opportunity to connect with their senior colleagues.
You can still foster these spontaneous interactions without a physical office. One easy way to do this is to set up casual meetings such as virtual coffee dates or opt-in meetings with no agenda. To encourage extra connection, you can make these gatherings cross-departmental.
3. Remind employees to practice self-care
Under stress, it’s natural to feel like we should be doing more, whether out of:
- Gratitude for still having a job while unemployment climbs
- Fear that we’ll join the jobless ranks if we don’t do more than ever to show that we’re indispensable
Under the best of circumstances, many of us struggle to take care of ourselves, opting instead to worry and care for everyone else. These are not the best of circumstances, and it’s more important than ever to be sure we are taking time to care for ourselves.
When leaders encourage and model self-care, it gives employees permission to do the same. Let employees know:
- In these circumstances, we are all going to be less productive
- You want them to take breaks to exercise, give time and attention to their children and loved ones and get more rest
- Ways you are practicing self-care as a leader
Your encouragement will go a long way to supporting this important need.
A Swedish proverb goes: “Shared joy is double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.” Shared experiences are valuable as they can cut across generation, race and workplace hierarchies and bring us together. As these examples show, you don’t need to be sitting side-by-side to encourage social closeness.
Eager to learn more about how Best Workplaces got Better during the pandemic?