Looking Toward September
Updated: Aug 18, 2021
It’s August. The hoped-for summer with COVID on the wane was an illusion. Will employees who were told they’d be heading back to the office actually be going back as planned? Will students resume in-person learning? Will parents of school-age children face another school year of virtual learning for their children?
The news and its effects can make anyone feel overwhelmed, frustrated, anxious, and depressed. This can lead to, or exacerbate, mental health issues. How can we honor these reactions (after all, they’re normal for an abnormal situation), without staying mired in them? This is a challenge indeed, especially since mental health struggles affect both home life and work life.
It’s no surprise that people’s mental health is at a low point - the majority of employees are seriously contemplating changing jobs or have already made the switch. Employees have been, shockingly, even more productive since the pandemic than before. This has reinforced that remote working can work for many organizations, jobs, and people.
However, the pandemic, its related working conditions, and current uncertainty have taken a toll. We may not be over the hump. We are still living through an unfortunate experiment of inequity, remote work, remote learning, and profound uncertainty.
For Leaders, What Now?
For leaders, it’s a time to gather information, to learn what can be learned, and to communicate as openly as possible. It's important to make folks aware of what’s planned and what isn’t yet known. COVID has already shown us that leaders who do this are the most helpful to their employees and to their organizations.
Support your employees as much as possible. As they look to the fall, there is again uncertainty about what their day to day lives will look like. Ask what you can do to help and follow through wherever possible, but don’t promise more than you can actually do.
Convey respect to each employee. Let them know you value them as individuals and as people, not just for their contributions to the organization. If they share with you their mental health struggles, thank them for sharing that with you. They’ve made themselves vulnerable in doing so and put some degree of trust in you.
All the lessons from over a year ago about how to be a good leader in a crisis are still true:
be as transparent as possible
communicate clearly, concisely, and frequently during uncertainty.
Support, Support, Support
Many people are struggling. We need to give each other grace. Deadlines may not be met. People’s performance may (temporarily) decline. Put people first.
If you know how your coworkers and managers can help, ask them. If you are asked to help a colleague, try to do what they are asking, but don’t overpromise. That said, don’t try to be their counselor or therapist. Know your own limits.
What we’re living through is hard for you too! As we learned this past year, self-care is critical for the long game. Make sure that you are getting the support you need, saying ‘no’ when you need to, and taking the breaks you need to breathe and appreciate something in your day.