The pandemic hit workplaces suddenly. It abruptly changed the way we work. The Government-mandated strict and drastic social distancing measures that displaced employees. It disrupted how we work, where we work, and how we connect.
When fear overtakes optimism, we all suffer.
Cases and fatalities grew daily. So did our fear. Every day our lives became more and more ambiguous. Our fate controlled by a deadly and unknown force.
Our lives became limited everything from travel, going to restaurants, public transportation.
It has created economic hardship for many. Many people lost their jobs. If they were left behind, they are left to pick up the pieces, doing more work with fewer resources.
Uncertainty pervaded our lives, and it will be hard to shake. When people go back to work after the pandemic, will it be business as usual? It's hard to imagine.
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People coming back to work will feel unsettled and concerned. In such a short period, so much has changed. So much that has happened, and it created fear and resentment.
HOW TO GO BACK TO WORK & LIFT MORALE
With so much uncertainty and fear swirling around us, we need to recognize people's fears, joys, and resistance. Pushing emotion under the carpet will cause it to bubble up and promote resentment. Anger and fear will come out in inconsistent ways.
MANY WORKPLACES ARE A HOTBED FOR REPRESSED EMOTION
Trouble is before the pandemic most workplaces don't have a way to deal with emotions. Many workplace cultures stuff emotion away and try to hide it. It's not healthy.
On the job, emotions like joy, passion, and enthusiasm are celebrated. Feelings like fear and anger are condoned but not widely appreciated. We are confused about our feelings, and they complicate our relationships. They bubble up in inconsistent ways. It muddies morale.
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EMOTIONAL RESILIENCE TOOLS
We need to equip employees with new resilience tools to help them survive and thrive in this new now. Repressing emotion is not the answer. Studies show that when you cut off one feeling, you cut them all off. If you cut off fear, you cut off joy. If you cut off anger, you cut off purpose.
Emotion is an actual state that manifests in a variety of measurable ways, including behavior, facial expression, heart rate, blood pressure, and stress hormone levels. Emotion is how our brains interpret feelings using our culture, expectations, and our words. We have more control over our emotions than we think we do.
Mark Epstein, in his 2018 book, Advice Not Given, also reveals that labeling emotions change our experience with them. It gives us control.
This will be a defining moment for most workplaces. It's challenging and stressful, but if we can learn to embrace the adversity, we can grow stronger. Work cultures can transform into struggles. It's the most appropriate way to evolve.
It usually takes outside struggle to push us to change. It's our emotions that will show us the way. Now is the time to reassess how we connect at work. It's time to look at how compassionate, nurturing, and caring we are. We have to have a hard look at morale. Lift the veil on fear, anger, and resentment, and we can transform it into passion, purpose, and joy.
FOCUS ON SELF CARE. UNDERSTAND THE STRESS RESPONSE
Self-care will become critical. Teams need to be taught to pay attention to racing heart rates, dilated pupils, and constricted feelings in the chest. We aren't meant to live like this in a sustained way. A basic understanding of our stress response can help people understand the invisible forces behind fear. Rediscovering our bodies' innate fight, flight, or freeze response will give us awareness and control. Everyone is in an unusual situation with limited resources.
Our brain is addicted to cortisol. It's A stress hormone released with any resistance or stress in our world. It perpetuates panic and fear. Cortisol left in us too long will damage our bodies and weaken our resolve.
The physiological symptoms we experience with stress are real, but the meaning we have attached to it may not be. If we can transform the meaning stress has, we can change how it impacts us on a more significant level at work—it about workplace culture.
How you cope with stress will affect your wellbeing.
- Poor communication from leadership
- Managing higher workloads
- Unexpressed feelings like guilt or fear
- Lack of resources and tools ( like technology) to do the job
- Uncertainty about the future
Promote social connectedness and plan routine day to day activities that promote self-care. The more control people have over a stressful situation, the better they cope with it.
A WORKPLACE CULTURE OF KINDNESS
An essential part of a workplace culture coming back from COVID is kindness. It's touchy-feely. Sometimes irritating because it's not directly linked to progress. Kindness seems like a good idea, but it's not apparent how to accomplish it. Do we reprimand people when they're mean? Is this kind? How do we mandate kindness?
It's not so much forcing people to be nice but modeling it.
Wrapped up in fear, is constricting, kindness is the opposite. It's open and engaging. It's the simplest way to understand it. It feels good to be kind. It doesn't feel good to be mean.
Some people would argue that being mean feels good, and these people belong in jail. Just kidding. Some workplaces take pride in a competitive cut-throat culture. Generally, pitting people against each other doesn't bring out the best in everyone but idolizes only a few.
Here's the hitch. It's tough to be kind to others if you're not kind to yourself. If you don't listen to yourself, it's hard to hear others.
Bouncing back after the pandemic, workplaces will have to climb out of fear and anxiety. A shared resilience will need to emerge for morale to return to a more reasonable level. We can draw strength from working together in a kind and resilient way. It can transform workplace culture.
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