As most working professionals spend a third of their time at work, it’s been a massive adjustment for you to start working from home; not only that but to continue working from home with no end date in sight. Mix this situation with having the children home full time and a not so healthy dose of financial worries and health worries, and you have a whole new level of anxiety and stress - both of which are not ideal for working at our best.
As accountancy practice owners, it’s your responsibility to support your team’s mental well-being during this uncertain time. If you don’t, then you won’t have a happy and healthy workforce to help you keep your business growing during this difficult period AND thereafter. To help you help your team, here is how to support your team members during the coronavirus.
Always put your self-care first
It may seem strange, us talking about putting yourself first when we are supposed to be covering how to support your team members during the coronavirus, but it makes sense. You are only one person with finite energy, so for you to be a strong leader, you need to be replenishing your own energy regularly.
In our previous blog - The essential 4-step guide for leading your team virtually during the Coronavirus - we talk about this a lot more, about how important it is to “put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others,” and it’s important for you to remember that.
So, in order for you to be able to help your team through this difficult time, you first need to look after yourself. Make sure that you are sleeping well, that you’re exercising often and are eating as healthily as you possibly can. To keep your own mental health ticking along, find the best methods that work for you. That could be exercise, meditation, journaling, practising gratitude, doing mindful hobbies or perhaps a mixture of a few of these.
How to support your team members during the coronavirus: the 3 Ps!
1. PRIORITISE the health of your team
There is a symbiotic relationship when it comes to health and performance, so if you prioritise the health of your team members, you’ll help them to perform better. We realise this is easier said than done, especially since everyone will deal with this situation differently, but it is your responsibility to enable and empower your employees to make decisions around their own health that best suit them.
To help support your team during the coronavirus, here are three ways that you can prioritise their health:
- Consult best practices and protocols outlined by the World Health Organization, region-specific public health authorities such as the CDC, and county or city public health departments.
- Measure and track the stress of your team and respond accordingly. Implementing stress surveys is a great way to do this and with the results, you can then adapt your leadership style or strategy to help support those who might be more affected.
- Provide consistent and clear information. At such an uncertain time, it’s important that you’re providing your team with frequent and clear objectives. This will help give them a sense of control and purpose which is crucial for positive mental well-being. By striving for clarity and consistency, you’re creating the conditions for your team members to feel empowered and supported.
2. PRACTICE compassionate leadership
There have been many books about the art of compassionate leadership and there’s one in particular by Manley Hopkinson which comes to mind now. The author writes about how compassionate leadership gets the best for and out of people through the fulfilment of self-worth, and the book itself shows leaders how to give their teams a real sense of purpose and direction in order to motivate and inspire them to perform at a high level.
As we find ourselves and our teams working from home amidst a sea of uncertainty, there has never been a more important time to lead with compassion and empathy. You won’t know what each of your team members are going through, who has vulnerable family members who may be at greater risk, or who already suffers from anxiety and experiences the uncertainty and fear more acutely. That’s why it’s so essential to be compassionate. As the team leader, the primary goal now needs to be to ease the pressure of this difficult time for everyone.
If you want to know how to support your team members during the coronavirus, you need to practice compassionate leadership with these 5 steps:
- Stop - It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness but stop and take a step back from it once in a while.
- Look - Check-in with your team regularly. You may have to look closely for the unsaid so look at people’s energy levels.
- Listen - Give your team a platform where they can be open and honest about how they are feeling, both mentally and physically. Help them be heard.
- Feel - Take the time to acknowledge how a team member is truly feeling so that you can respond with kindness.
- Respond - Don’t react to situations, pause and give yourself time to respond to them appropriately. At such a stressful time, it can be easy to let frustrations overtake skilful communication so give yourself space to reflect before responding.
3. PROMOTE positive habits
While short-term stress and anxiety can be part of a healthy range of emotional experience, chronic stress can tax our immune system and cause other severe problems such as generalised anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbance.
Now, in a situation like the coronavirus, where we are currently in an extremely stressful situation with no clear end in sight, we can’t really reduce the cause. What we can do, however, is to control how we deal with it and that involves developing positive habits. (Discover 16 Ways to Cope When Life Changes Suddenly)
To help your team cope with and reduce their stress levels, here are some positive habits that you can promote:
- Making a plan for the week and then every day
- Sticking to their daily routine as much as possible - also stress the importance of the 3 foundational habits (regular sleep, healthy eating, and frequent exercise).
- Mindfulness activities such as meditation, breathing exercises, and journaling - research shows that mindfulness meditation can reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression as it deactivates our emotional centre in the brain. Put simply, it allows us to react rationally rather than emotionally.
- Being proactive versus reactive
- Taking a step back from social media and the news
- Making time to properly ‘switch off’ - find out how headspace can help with anxiety and growing your practice during a difficult time.
Maintain a happy and health workforce
If you and your practice are to make it through this crazy time in the world, you are going to need your team. Not only that, but you’re going to need to know how to support your team members during the coronavirus crisis.
It has been said that “to create great work, the employees’ health, wellbeing and happiness is the most important factor.” This means, as the leader, you need to start prioritising their health, practising compassionate leadership, and promoting positive habits. Only when you do this can you maintain a happy, healthy, and productive team.