The year 2020 will go down in history for many reasons. It is the year a global health pandemic brought the world to its knees, a year when businesses and the lives within them have significantly impacted and when many things about the life we love has been put on hold. When we counted down the new year, plans were being made to travel, to secure that promotion and plan that wedding.The challenges of 2020 so far are more than what anyone could have predicted and under these circumstances it is ok not to be ok.
Within business currently, there is a huge amount of pressure on leaders and HR practitioners to be ‘super leaders’, trying to navigate these unchartered waters with a smile on their face, a positive outlook and the ability to demonstrate emotional intelligence in every employee interaction.
The truth is, the pandemic is taking its toll on our leaders. No-one could have predicted the challenges that this year would bring and whilst our HR teams and leaders are conducting redundancy, reduced hours and stand down discussions – they themselves have fears about the safety and security of their own family.
It can easily be forgotten that leaders and HR are also people who have vulnerabilities and fears. They are exhausted and deflated that 2020 has been the year of breaking down teams instead of building them up. To survive this season, leaders and HR professionals need to be able to take a breath and understand that in order to help others they need to first help themselves.
So, what practical things can leaders and HR do to look after their own wellbeing?
It is not easy to make someone redundant and just ‘get on with your day’. COVID-19 is not anyone’s fault and it is certainly not the fault of the leader delivering the bad news. It is important to be kind to yourself and focus on what is within your span of control. If your job is to deliver the bad news, how can you do that well? What support can you provide? How do you invest the time to make the discussion authentic?
It takes courage to seek support, but it isimportant to understand that you are not alone. Perhaps you have a trusted peer in another organisation that may be feeling the same? Or maybe there is someone in your personal network that you feel safe to be honest with? It is normal to be feeling low at this time – but you are not alone. Consider using your EAP provider or contact Beyound Blue or R U OK? if you find it hard to stop worrying, speak to your GP or health professional.
It is normal to feel helplesswhen so much of our lives have been turned upside down. It is important, however, to remember that the crisis will end and this is not the way life will always be. Rather than focusing on what has been ‘taken’, consider focusing on what has remained and what there is to be grateful for.
It is tempting to remain in the ‘COVID headspace’ as every news bulletin and piece of online information is dominated by the health pandemic. It is important to understand the key details, but don’t allow the pandemic to be the only tenant in your mind. What are some important business, personal or people priorities that you can focus on?
It is challenging to create a normal routine when things are anything but normal, but a clear structure to your day is important. Ensure that you are not putting additional pressure on yourself with tight deadlines or progress on projects. Create a space in each day that is not controlled by zoom meetings or demands from others and use it to reflect, plan and just breathe!
Being a leader is similar to being a parent – you always put someone else’s needs in front of your own. Just like a flight attendant tells us to ‘fix our own oxygen mask before helping others’, we need to do the same when our feet are on the ground. To be the best leader or HR professional, you need to make sure that your own ‘cup is full’ first. You are not a machine and your health is the top priority. Your favourite gym might be closed, but find time to go for a walk in your lunch break, create a morning meditation ritual or dust the cob webs off of your push bike.
Your home office may be only a few steps from your loungeroom but be strong and resist the temptation to keep ‘checking in’. You wouldn’t ask your team members to spend their evenings tied to their laptop and nor should you. When you start blurring the lines and become too accessible after hours, you send a message that you are happy to be contacted at any time. Worse still, you are indirectly telling your team that they should do the same.
Talking to others and seeking support is the best thing to do during such uncertain times. When we have the courage to share our true self – we open the door for others to do the same.
Even though times like these are extremely isolating, we gain strength from the support of others and the knowledge that we are not walking this path alone. 2020 may be the year that brought us to our knees, but it will also be known for the year that HR and leaders looked adversity in the eye and collectively rose to the challenge.
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Georgina is Senior HR Content Editor – Publications at Ai Group. She is an accomplished Human Resource professional with over 25 years of generalist and leadership experience in a broad range of industries including financial services, tourism, travel, government and agriculture. She has successfully advised and partnered with senior leaders to implement people and performance initiatives that align to business strategy. Georgina is committed to utilising her experience to create resources that educate and engage and is passionate about supporting members to optimise an inclusive workforce culture that drives performance.