1. Become a role model for others
There are fewer things that discourage your team from following a good mental health regime than watching their leader suffer. It’s important that you practise what you preach, and just as important that your team can see you do so. Regular check-ins with your colleagues provide a good opportunity for you to share what you are doing to keep yourself sharp while allowing you to monitor the wellbeing of others.
Talking about what you saw on your morning walk, finishing meetings early to encourage others to take a few minutes off and being transparent about your own downtime can encourage others to follow suit.
When organising meetings invite people to suggest an alternative time if they prefer. Don’t assume others can be flexible and remember that all home situations are different - some may find it difficult to meet during school hours and prefer to break their day up, working earlier or later than normal hours. Be mindful of times when you send out communications – it can have an implicit message that you expect your team to always be on and that you expect a response even when you don't.
2. Be more sensitive to your team’s emotional needs
One of the most common pitfalls in leading a team is in assuming you know what they need. The only way you can truly gain their trust and understanding is by being curious and testing your assumptions by speaking to colleagues. While it can be more efficient to meet in larger groups, shier team members, who can be the most vulnerable, may find it difficult to speak out in front of others. Make sure you take the time to meet one-to-one as well as in larger groups.
Once you’ve listened, check your understanding of what you think is needed. When we are left alone with our thoughts and assumptions during periods of lockdown, people are far more likely to read into things and misinterpret guidance. Be explicit about the intention behind your requests or decisions to leave little room for ambiguity or a negative misinterpretation of your intent. Review your actions on a regular basis and be prepared to change as they see fit – what worked last week may need to change this week.
‘It is presenteeism, and not absenteeism, which can lead to rising stress levels and a loss of productivity.’
Stuart John Chuan, clinical director, Amplify
3. Create the right culture
Being open about when you aren't on top of it yourself, when you messed up, or have simply had enough will make it clear to your team that it’s ok to feel vulnerable and helps them feel more comfortable with being fallible. Creating a safe space and having conversations about what the telling signs are for a drop in performance will make it easier for them to reach out to each other.
People always say “I'll tell you if I need help,” but they often feel they shouldn’t bother others who may also be under pressure. When working remotely, how else would you know if they don’t say anything? By creating the right culture of support, team members will feel far more secure in their roles and flag when they need help.
4. Lower your expectations
Lockdown has caused workloads to shift dramatically. In some cases, colleagues are facing unprecedented demand as work moves to new channels, while some face anxiety as their previous responsibilities evaporate. For others, changes to childcare arrangements have loaded additional challenges to working from home, or the desire to help colleagues has seen new challenges being taken on.
Now more than ever it’s important to be clear with your team that you understand the additional pressures that they face and adjust your expectations of them. Spreading workloads across the team, extending deadlines to fit in with their timelines, and providing additional training to inexperienced colleagues taking on new roles will help relieve the pressure.
5. Remember to have some fun
Cast your mind back to the beginning of lockdown and you’ll remember the flurry of ‘organised fun’ that flooded home offices. From quizzes, online games and team socials to sharing baby photos and giving people tours of your homes, we couldn’t get enough of it. While the novelty has worn off, it’s important to reignite the spark of having fun with colleagues so it’s not all work, work, work.
Challenge team members to organise events, pairing people who don’t normally work together to squeeze the creative juice out of them and take the pressure off. Share bloopers and gaffes that you’ve made, embarrassing moments caught on camera or inadvertent interruptions from children that are keen to share their latest creation with you while you’re on that important client call.
Breaking the monotony and giving people something to chuckle about will help lift their mood and give them some time away from thinking about work.