A Guide for Leaders. How to Look After Your Own Wellbeing as well as the Wellbeing of Your Teams
"Your first and foremost job as a leader is to take charge of your own energy and then help orchestrate the energy of those around you” Peter Drucker
In these uncertain, worrying and challenging times, it is more important than ever to look after your own wellbeing and to do all your can as a a leader and an organisation to look after the wellbeing of your teams.
Next Steps Consulting understand the pressures that you will be under as leaders and have put together the following guidance to help you navigate through the next few weeks to support your own wellbeing and the wellbeing of your teams.
Looking after your Own Wellbeing as Leaders
The below suggestions may seem obvious but it is more important now than ever before to look after your own health and wellbeing to allow you to be focus on your role as a leader through these challenging times.
Look after your own mental health - being a leader can be incredibly lonely and the additional pressure during the current climate can have a negative impact on your mental health. Recognise the early warning signs that show your mental health may be suffering and put in place things that can help. This could be reaching out for professional help, talking through and opening up to friends, family or fellow leaders, using a coach if you have one who can act as a voice of reason and looking after your physical health which will in turn support your mental health.
Rest - make sure you are getting enough rest and sleep, as leaders it will feel currently as though you need to be working every hour of the day to get on top of business continuity plans, realigning priorities and re-budgeting and forecasting. However you need to ensure you are taking some time away from work else you will become less and less productive. Set boundaries for when you can finish working and spend time with those closest to you where possible.
Keep active - whilst some opportunities to be physically active will be restricted, think about taking a walk a lunchtime if you can or do some home workouts, there are lots of free workouts on You Tube that you can do - make it even more fun by getting your family involved in a daily workout.
Self Care - take some time for yourself every day to do something that you enjoy, that makes you happy or that gives your mind, body and soul some attention. Some ideas for self care can be reading a book, doing some arts and craft, having a bath, check in with a friend or family member, write down things you are grateful for and practising meditation or mindfulness.
Unplug - being connected 24/7 can be over whelming and can certainly cause anxiety and uncertainly at this currently point of time with constant messaging and news relating to the challenges the country and world is facing. Unplug yourself even for a small amount of time every day and don’t use any electronic items for at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep.
Eat well and stay hydrated - this goes without saying, having a healthy diet boosts our immune system, supports our mental health and makes us feel more energetic. Likewise keep drinking lots of water which also supports our immune system, flushes out unwanted toxins and aids the lymphatic system.
Don’t forget to make use of all the wellbeing programmes and initiatives that are available through your organisation which are there to support everyone.
Key Areas of Consideration as Leaders
Communication - this will be absolutely key during these times to update teams and to outline the steps that the organisation is taking to keep everyone safe which should be the primary concern at this point in time. Everyone needs guidance during this period so ensure you are speaking with your teams as often as possible. Think about different ways of communicating, can you do a short video for example instead of sending an email, this will make people feel more connected to the leadership team.
Regular contact with colleagues - as well as communications with your teams, don’t forget to also keep in regular contact with fellow leaders and colleagues. This will ensure you can share concerns and learnings as well as acting as a support network and this will also ensure that as a senior team you are aligned on all areas relating to the organisation. Don’t forget to check in on a personal level with colleagues as well, everyone is going through their own challenges currently.
Be human and flexible - no one has had to lead under these circumstances and guidance is changing every day. However you can be human, show your vulnerability, listen to the worries and concerns of your team and be as flexible as possible during this time to allow employees to be able to manage other areas of their life alongside work.
Don’t make promises - these times are ambiguous and are changing on a daily basis, don’t make commitments that you may not be able to honour.
Be a role model - more so than ever ensure you live and breathe the values of your organisation and model the behaviour that you want your managers and other leaders to adopt.
Self reflection - as a leader you are unlikely to get everything right first time around, ask for feedback from peers, colleagues and those in your team and take some time for self reflection on how you can adapt to be an even better leader during these times and for the future.
Support your line managers - line managers will be under a lot of additional pressure at this time and will be experience a completely new way of managing if their teams are working from home. Consider what training and support can be given to managers for managing a remote workforce, building resilience, working under pressure and supporting employee mental health.
Prepare for difficult conversations - there will be many difficult conversations that need to be had which will be even more difficult remotely, this may be relating to performance issues or individuals that have been affected by the current situation. Plan how you will have these conversations and give support and guidance to managers on how to have difficult conversations.
Gratitude - your teams are essential in getting through these difficult times, regular thank yous of those within your teams for their hard work, for taking on extra work and for supporting others will go a long way.
Networking - no one knows what the next day has in store at the moment and every day will throw up different challenges, speak to those within your network, ask for their help and support and how they are approaching things. Look at what webinars are taking place on relevant topics, join groups on LinkedIn and ask for guidance from others, identify local business networks who may be providing resources and support.
There is a wealth of free resources to refer to for guidance, these include Acas, CIPD, NHS and Public Health England, ensure you take guidance from reputable sources.
Looking after the Wellbeing of your Teams
Communicate with your teams regularly and find out from your teams their preferences for communications and use these not your preferences. Collectively determine what times are best for everyone to be involved in team meeting based on other commitments and flexible working. Use video conferencing where possible for team meetings which is much more engaging than just using email. Consider having a team weekly coffee catch up where you don’t discuss work but just check in on everyone on a personal level. If there were other initiatives you did as a team before, think about how you can still incorporate this into the week.
Treat everyone as an individual, check in with everyone from your team as often as you can and give everyone an equal amount of time, make sure you don’t exclude individuals as this will only enhance feelings of isolation at this current point in time.
Have individual discussions with team members about flexibility, for working parents the closure of schools is going to cause disruption and many will not have support structures in place due to social distancing. Be creative and empathetic through these conversations and support flexible working patterns wherever this might be possible.
Be clear on performance outputs and expectations, more so than ever now individuals will need to know what their priorities are and what is expected from them and make sure to focus on outputs not time at a computer.
Regularly communicate the wellbeing support that you have as an organisation to all team members, this could be details of employee assistance programmes or counselling services, intranet sites with guidance and information or contact details of occupational health.
Be proactive in supporting a positive mental health culture, there is a wealth of free resources that can be passed onto teams through Mind, Mental Health First Aid England, Mental Health at Work and the Mental Health Foundation.
Think about what wellbeing campaigns you can still run remotely and how you can still engage the team in thinking about their wellbeing. Get creative by asking for suggestions from team members on how they are supporting their wellbeing, get people to suggest new recipes they are trying, have a virtual step challenge, share online fitness classes and wellbeing podcasts and articles.
For those that are not able to work remotely, look at where extra control measure can be put in place to safeguard employees, re-look at risk assessments and talk to them about what else you can do to support them.
Don’t forget those that may be off on long term sick unrelated to Covid-19, these individuals still need to be communicated with and supported and updated with how their return to work may look based on your organisational working practises at this point in time.
Trust your teams who will be working from home and spend time building this trust through regular communications.
Increase consultation with team re decisions and get regular feedback from your teams including how they are finding remote working, if your teams feel they are being listened and involved in decisions they will be more engaged.
Try to build some fun into these challenging times and use this as an opportunity to get to know your teams a bit better for example ask to meet partners, children, pets at the start of videos calls, get the team to share their tips for how to entertain children, games they may be playing or books that people are reading.
Say thank you - these are difficult times and by ensuring your teams feel valued and cared for you will get the best out of your teams, say a big thank you at the end of every week and see how else you may be able to recognise those that are embracing new ways of working.
Finally everyone will have different worries and concerns at this current point in time and will adapt differently to the current pressures, more than ever show your teams that you care, listen to them and offer support wherever possible.
Gemma Carter-Morris, Director of Wellbeing, Next Steps Consulting