Emerge Stronger – Leading through Covid-19 Stress
Updated: Mar 10
The last two months of social distancing, working at risk, and working from home, have changed the way we live, work, and play. As a result, people are stressed.
While working with our clients, we have been surveying them on their stressors. Our surveys show the following:
Financial stability and security are the number one concern.
Friends or family becoming ill and potentially dying is the second concern.
Personally catching COVID-19 ranks last.
People are wondering, what do I do? What if I get laid off? How do I take care of my family? Will I lose my home? What if I can’t pay my bills? These are all safety and security issues.
I have a stepdaughter who works as a COVID-19 nurse. For me, I worry about her. She is a single mother of two boys. What happens if she gets sick?
As states start to open up, there is concern about how to maintain health and safety if you have to go to the office. Over the coming months, each of us will be making choices that impact ourselves, our family, and our community.
This virus has caused significant business disruption.
According to Fortune Magazine, on April 23, 2020, the jobless rate is above 20%, with over 26.5 million jobs lost. No wonder people are worried and stressed. As I listen to the news and talk with our clients, many businesses are putting people on permanent leave. When I read statistics like these, and as I learn of permanent layoffs from clients, I too am worried about the long-term economic impact for everyone.
In the meantime, the way we work has changed. The question is, have you changed how you lead others? To be effective, we have to change the way we are leading. Right now, people want and need leadership.
People are stressed
With the stressors listed above, people fall to the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. They need to know they are secure and safe before they can become creative and perform at peak levels. When we are focused on safety and security, we are afraid. In business, fear has a way of constricting teamwork, conversation, and productivity.
What Can You Do? For yourself? For your team?
During times like these, one of the most important things you can do is reduce your stress levels so that you can be grounded, centered, and find clarity.
None of us know for sure what the future will bring, so we need clarity within ourselves so that we can make the right choices based on the information we currently have.
Good leadership starts with resilience, emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and self-management. If you aren’t managing your stress, how can you lead others through it?
The following 3-minute video describes what stress is and what you can do personally to reduce it.
Here are three things you can do to reduce and prevent stress:
Eat a healthy diet. Drink water. Sleep 7-8 hours. With COVID-19, I’ve been telling our clients to double down on their healthy habits. All of these things help prevent stress because your body is healthy.
Move your body. Stress produces cortisol, which is your body’s fight or flight response.
Your body wants to move. Cortisol is designed to get you moving. If you sit at your desk for another three hours trying to get it all done, you will increase stress. I’ve owned a rebounder for over 40 years. I will get on the rebounder and move for just one song sometimes to release the frantic, worrisome, and any aggressive energy I may have. When you move, you metabolize the stress. If, while you are moving, you think about your emotional stressors and situations, you can run the emotions out and reduce your stress.
I’ve been meditating since the age of 14. Even earlier if you count praying and reciting the rosary. Meditation also lowers cortisol levels. I love using the Insight Timer meditation app. No, I don’t own any stock in it, in case you are wondering.
The Insight Timer meditation app has over 40,000 different types of meditations that you can follow. The app contains meditations on stress reduction, sleep, anger management, conflict avoidance, forgiveness, grief, spirituality, and building self-confidence.
For your team:
Don’t underestimate the simplicity of a heart-to-heart conversation. If you, the leader, are stressed, it is safe to assume that many of your people feel the same way. As we work with teams, now we are finding that the following methodology works:
Create community and belonging
Creating community and belonging is essential.
Before COVID-19, your team had its strengths and weaknesses regarding the way they functioned as a team. What we are learning is that when people feel strongly connected with their work team, and they build plans to achieve a common goal that they can control, this brings the feeling of safety and security.
Don’t assume your team has a deep sense of community and belonging. You need to ensure it. Start a connection conversation:
Ask about the most awkward, funniest, or unusual thing that has happened while working remotely.
Ask people about the most heartfelt story of kindness and compassion that they have witnessed personally at work or home.
Let people connect and talk human-to-human.
Ask people to share their stresses. We are finding that most people feel overwhelmed and don’t know what to do. As a leader, sharing your fears and stress makes you human.
People generally want to connect when others are open and honest with us. Be creative in creating connection time with your team. You don’t have to wait for a virtual happy hour; you can build time in regular meetings and hold informal coffee chats simply for connecting and authentically checking in.
People don’t build trust with people they don’t know
That’s why it is crucial to building a sense of community and belonging. The more you have connection conversations, people start to know one another in a deeper sense. That’s when they start to build trust.
If your team has been together for a while, and there were trust issues in the past, you will need to surface those issues.
It is much easier to surface difficult trust issues after you have built that sense of belonging.
Create an atmosphere of open dialogue and feedback.
Empower and enable your team
With many of us working remotely, now is the best time to develop, empower, and enable your team.
Give them the authority to make decisions individually and collectively.
An easy way to start a deeper conversation with your team is to share the 3-minute video above on Managing Stress.
Share this link with your team then download the #EmergeStronger Team Toolkit. The toolkit has instructions to help you start the conversation, build trust and enable your team.