It’s 2022 and it feels a bit like 2020 all over again with a new wave of Covid-19 ready to enter WA. Our state has fared pretty well compared to the majority of the world but that doesn’t mean the ongoing uncertainty and constant changes to the way we live haven’t taken the toll on you as a Manager and the team you support.
Covid-19 has created dramatic changes in the workplace. Depending on your organisation, you and your team may now be working remotely, running staggered rosters, or working modified duties on site. These changes, coupled with the ongoing health and economic threat of Covid-19, can have a significant impact on employee wellbeing. As a manager, it’s important to think about how to support your staff, particularly those struggling with stress and other emotions.
Here are some ideas;
Maintain regular catch-ups with your team
Regular team catch-ups are an excellent starting point for maintaining a sense of connection with your team. While your current work setup may make these catch-ups trickier to implement than normal, they’re worth scheduling.
If working remotely, jump online for a group catch-up in the morning and discuss the plan for the day, including individual strategies for ensuring self-care while working from home. Think outside the square and begin your team meetings with a ‘name that song’ activity or encourage your team to participate in Fancy Friday’s; anything to keep your employee’s engaged.
“Having regular contact from early on means you build up a rapport, you get to understand your staff, your team, and then you’re more in tune to picking up those little changes that may indicate that someone’s having a particularly hard time,”
Lead by example
Don't just say you support mental health. Model it so that your team members can prioritise self-care and boundaries. More often than not, managers are so focused on their team's well-being on getting the work done they forget to take care of themselves. Share that you are taking a walk in the middle of the day, or taking 5 minutes for mindfulness while enjoying a cup of tea and avoid sending emails to your team outside of work hours so they don't feel pressured to respond.
Build a culture of connection through check-ins.
Intentionally checking in with each of your direct reports on a regular basis is more critical than ever. It was important but often underutilised in pre-pandemic days. Now, with so many people working from home, it can be even harder to notice the signs that someone is struggling.
In a recent study 40% of employees said that no one at their company had asked them if they were doing OK while working remotely — and those respondents were 38% more likely than others to say that their mental health had declined since the outbreak.
Go beyond a simple “How are you?” and ask specific questions about what supports would be helpful. Wait for the full answer. Actively listen and encourage questions and concerns.
When someone shares that they’re struggling, you won’t always know what to say or do. What’s most important is to make space to hear how your team members are truly doing and to be compassionate. They may not want to share much detail, which is completely fine. Knowing that they can is what matters.
Communicate more than you think you need to.
Uncertainty breeds anxiety. Make sure you keep your team informed about any organisational changes or updates. Clarify any modified work hours and norms. Remove stress where possible by setting expectations about workloads, prioritising what must get done, and acknowledging what can slide if necessary.
Make your team aware of available mental health resources and encourage them to use them. If you’ve shared them once, share them again. And be aware that shame and stigma prevent many employees from using their EAP to seek support, so normalise the use of those services.
Keep an eye on your own mental health
As a manager, it’s easy to get distracted by meeting the needs of those around you while forgetting about your own, but it’s important to take the time to check in with your own feelings and make sure you’re still on track. Maintain regular catch-ups with your own manager or a trusted colleague who has some insights into your professional situation, and be frank about the challenges you’re experiencing both at and beyond work. Sharing your experiences with your team can also be beneficial – acknowledging the difficulties you are experiencing with this new arrangement can help staff feel more comfortable speaking to you about their difficulties early on and can also help you clarify your own feelings. If you need extra support, use the channels available to you both in and beyond your workplace.
“Being in tune with changes in your own behavior or ability to manage workload is important,”
Download the employee Wellbeing Action Plan and encourage your team to complete it. Use it as a team-building exercise by getting together to discuss how each team member will be prioritising their self-care.