Having faced some of the worst natural disasters in its history, Australia is now affected by the global pandemic COVID-19, leaving many bosses and employees alike emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed.
With this in mind, Marcela Slepica, clinical services director at AccessEAP, said it’s important that leaders start to strengthen their own and their teams’ ability to cope with challenges.
“In the current climate, it’s important to manage the demands of COVID-19, such as social isolation, caring for our families and home-schooling children while juggling work,” Ms Slepica said.
“It’s vital to remember that we are not born resilient. We can develop coping strategies, including practiced traits and learned behaviours that will help us remain positive and deal with new challenges.”
Acknowledging that the way of life in Australia has transformed dramatically in a relatively short period of time, Ms Slepica cautioned that unexpected change and the resultant feeling of losing control can be extremely hard to come to terms with.
“People who rely on work for social interaction, live with mental health conditions or who are now financially impacted will be among those who can most benefit from building resilience,” she said.
“Focusing on negative impacts and getting trapped in thoughts or feelings of anxiety or helplessness will restrict people from building emotional strength, so focusing on what you can control rather than what you can’t is imperative.”
She underlined that workplaces play a part in maintaining a semblance of normality, by providing employees with structure, some social connection and purpose.
Managers are encouraged to prioritise personal interactions with their teams, by checking in regularly and asking focused questions to find out their current goals and challenges, while providing encouragement.
She said: “For employers, it’s important to acknowledge that senior managers will face an additional burden on assisting the wider team, while also being subject to their own anxieties and fears.
“Therefore, these workers in particular will need support, as employees will look to them as leaders for behaviours they should be following and reassurance.”
Her tips for managers and employers alike include:
- Make and maintain connections with friends and family. Reaching out to someone you trust outside of the workplace can be comforting and supportive.
- Remember that some things are beyond your control. We cannot change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but we can change how we interpret and respond to them, while modelling behaviours for our teams.
- Keep things in perspective. Try to consider the stressful circumstances in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Keep staff focused on your business’s objectives and how they can help restore the normal ways of working.
- Maintain an optimistic outlook. Having an optimistic and hopeful outlook enables you to expect that positive things will happen. It also sends a message to team members that the outlook is bright and encourages them to think in the same way.
- Take care of yourself. Engage in healthy behaviours like eating well, regular exercise and plenty of rest. Boosting your physical wellbeing is good for your emotional health and puts you in the best position to support and lead your colleagues.