Despite all the fanfare around the vaccination programme in the UK lately, it’s likely that we will still have social distancing requirements to adhere to when this third lockdown lifts and even when businesses are allowed to open again the impact on our emotional wellbeing will be long lasting.
As social animals, many people find the lack of physical interaction a hard cross to bear during these times. We must be thankful that such distancing keeps us safe at the moment, and lockdowns would be much, much more difficult if we didn’t have the internet to keep up with each other digitally; however, this will never be as good as in-person contact. Some people haven’t seen their families for almost a year, which could make this lockdown harder to endure and more devastating for our emotional wellbeing than those previous.
Our emotional wellbeing may be more fragile today…..
Leaders need to recognise that, although we’re probably more used to working from home, and though we may have accepted that we can’t enjoy certain leisure activities, as well as us having come to terms with the effect social distancing is having on our relationships, our emotional wellbeing may be more fragile today than it was at the start of the pandemic.
In March 2020 it was difficult to see past the immediate fear of catching the virus and the shock of the country effectively shutting up shop. Now, almost a year on, people are under no illusions that this situation will not fizzle out or go away quietly. We will have to live with Covid19 for many years to come. From this point in the pandemic, it appears that staying indoors will be advised until summer is on the horizon; even if we’re able to enjoy a couple of months’ relative freedom then, it won’t be long until the ‘stay home’ message is enforced as next winter looms.
The days when you’d happily shake hands with a new contact, of jam-packed seminars, of huddling over computer screens/project papers when collaborating with others, may all be part of the past. Would you feel comfortable doing those things again if Covid-19 forever lurks in the background? Will you hug friends in the future? What if they weren’t comfortable with this level of interaction after the last year—would you have to first qualify whether they’re fine with you touching them? Would that put you off even bothering?
There’s no way this pandemic won’t have a long-lasting impact on people’s emotional wellbeing, (granted, in varying degrees), going forward.
Who will look after the leaders emotional wellbeing?
And that goes for leaders and managers too, who will be the people, they look to for their own comfort. Who will look after them?
Leaders will not only need to be there to support, motivate and inspire their people during one of the most significant events to happen to most of us on this Earth, they will also have to move everyone forward in an uncertain world.
That’s a hell of a responsibility.
When leading teams, companies and brands before the pandemic, leaders could at least rely on some things. Markets, both at home and internationally, may have fluctuated in their worth, but at least they would run without significant interruption. The economy, whilst it suffered various recessions, it would still turn—as opposed to today, where whole industries are prevented from trading, and extra billions are having to be found from somewhere to prop up the existence of hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their jobs.
Leaders, before the pandemic, would have felt relatively certain about much of the future. They would have been able to use financial models, perpetual trends and past successes to make plans. At the moment, if they tried to predict the future, they’d find it very difficult…if the country’s top scientists and governments across the world can’t be certain of many things over the next twelve months, what chance do our business leaders have?
Perhaps employees should take some responsibility going forward
Perhaps employees should take some responsibility going forward, when it comes to team cohesion. They may need to lean harder on their manager for support, but there’s no reason why they can’t offer the same in return. Leaders are human, too.
As it’s often said during aeroplane safety demonstrations, you must put your own mask on before helping others. It’s the same for leaders at the moment. Your emotional wellbeing are just as important as your team’s.
At Jigsaw, we’re experts in human behaviour and understand well how external influences (such as a global pandemic) may impact both leaders and their teams, even if the individuals themselves don’t know how they’ve been affected. With future planning more difficult, for all the reasons mentioned above, it will be more helpful than ever to understand that, whilst the external factor may change, our reactions to each one doesn’t actually differ that much. We’re habitual as well as social creatures.
Future success will be based on fact
Leaders must make their decisions and base future success on fact, not ‘what-may-happens’ or conflicting information. Fact is all anyone has at the moment, there’s no point guessing.
There are a lot of things to be positive about at the moment…truly:
- Flexible working, with a mix of virtual and in-person, as well as a lesser focus on hours worked vs. results achieved, will remain an integral part of how we work in the future
- Housing costs in expensive areas/other countries will likely fall as fewer people relocate for their roles
- It’s suggested that salary freezes will dissipate. Many companies will need specialists and top talent to help them gain competitive advantage in the post-pandemic world, and they understand that they will have to compensate accordingly
- The huge growth in e-commerce comes with lots of opportunities
- The vaccine programme has seen many companies begin to invest in their business and people again—rather than scaling back like they did in 2020
- People are keen to travel, which will see a huge boost to this industry and others once restrictions are lifted
- We have come through two huge threats to business: Brexit and the introduction of Covid. There’s much less fear about what either could mean and more energy being put into adapting to the changes that have already occurred
- Mental health and emotional wellbeing in the workplace: no longer topics unworthy of investment or things that can be ignored…