I remember 10 years ago when you would get that fake smile from managers if you would want to increase your HR budget for mental health and stress prevention measures. Often, they would get approved, because it was becoming something society was expecting and needed to be a part of employer branding and CSR strategies for companies. But still, it was not that common and especially not well-excepted coming from a young woman trying to build a career as a leader in HR. Back then I was insecure, not sure if I was the one seeing things wrong here? Not understanding why top-notch leaders didn’t seem to understand the consequences of burnet out and sick people to the company. Not having enough sense for responsibility and little too much confidence that: “Ah, they will be fine.” - as one of my former CEOs liked to say. “they get paid for their work, what else do they need?”. Fortunately, I didn’t follow that lead and understood early that EI is crucial for successful leadership and that many high-level managers had a tremendous lack of this important skill. Although many companies were trying to see that, the levels of stress were rising continuously. Something I think many are only realizing now in these difficult times of Corona-Virus. When people have time to find some peace and slow down their pace, they start to see what levels of stress they have been working in. And for almost all, the stress has nothing to do with the workload – it has to do with interpersonal connections; absence of leadership, communication, and organization. The biggest misunderstanding with stress at work amongst managers and leaders is that think, reducing stress means reducing workload and efficiency – when it only means to push their ego behind their employee’s well-being. 2 things will happen after Corona: Some managers will be forced to adapt to a new way of working; home office and communication will change, and leaders’ skills will be challenged. Especially those that in the past would gain power solely by fearful energy around their appearance – with creating tension and stress amongst employees only through their presence. They will have to impress with their skills. A chance for more introverted leaders, which will probably gain more appreciation soon. EI is going to be an even bigger crucial part of our daily work. Second: People will need more emotional support and HR teams will be challenged with re-boarding employees to a new way of working. Do we handshake? Do we sit in the same meeting rooms for hours sitting close to each other?
Most probably not. The measures that we need to apply, will require concentration and time and slow our days down. Not forever, but for some time for sure. Workdays will be different with, in most cases, less work – but more stress. Stress beginning when leaving the house in the morning, getting on public transportation and choosing to go or not to go to the coffee shop before going to work. Some additional fear of losing their job might also add up and for many, not knowing how do we behave? Are you allowed to hug that colleague you missed so much in the past 4 or more weeks? And as mentioned at the beginning of this blog – something that also now people might fakely smile at and say: “Oh, come on. It will not be such a big deal. We will get back to normal soon.” Even if that will be the case, which it will most probably not - there is one thing I am certain about. The small things - the basic things, are the things that stress people out the most. Just getting people to not be scared of each other will be a challenging enough. And it will be leaders and HR profesionals job to ease that fear and have a clear plan on how they will get people motivated again.
So what does that mean for leaders and HR professionals? Use this time to get prepared and get ready for making the new not so normal feel as “normal” as possible. If you have guidelines in place, people have something to follow and it will relieve them at least a little. But those littles are what matter now. Step by step, day by day. Be clear about internal and external communication strategies, code-of-conduct policies and especially be clear about what you expect from your leaders and if you are a leader, then what it is you expect from yourself. There is so much support and so many people outgrowing themselves in these difficult times. Those are the role models we should be looking at and staying down-to-earth when business creeps up again on us. Guidance, emotional guidance will be the most important thing in the next 2 years. Every business, every sector, every country – we will all be facing the same challenges. I deeply recommend using this time, to have a post-Corona plan and do everything you can, to be in alignment with yourself and build your inner strength. Then you will be able to help others and be an emotionally intelligent guide for our future. Stay safe, stay positive.