With extreme pressure on physical and mental health, leaders need to tap into their own emotional intelligence to make sure their teams come out of the pandemic stronger.
BY LESLIE HAMMER AND LINDSEY ALLEY–THE CONVERSATION
In these uncertain and highly stressful times, there is heightened reliance on managers and supervisors to maintain the well-being, health, and safety of their workforce.
During the COVID-19 crisis, leaders are performing their typical roles under the additional stress of workforce instability and escalated safety and health risks, while also managing their own mounting work-life challenges and staying informed about rapidly changing policies.
And, with an increased prevalence of mental health issues experienced by workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, supervisors and managers have been called upon to recognize when their employees may need additional psychological help as well.
It feels like a lot because it is.
Employers will not be able to lead effectively if they are also struggling. On an airplane, passengers are told to put on their oxygen masks before helping others with theirs. The same is true here.
As scholars of health, with more than 30 years specializing in supervisor support behaviors, we created an online training on supervisor support strategies to help staff during a pandemic.
We believe that, in order to model self-care and support staff, leaders have to continue taking care of their own needs.
LEADERSHIP IN A PANDEMIC
Extreme stress can affect the way we act. Typically cool-headed employees may suddenly seem frazzled. Teams formerly consistent in meeting deadlines and turning in high-quality work may become less predictable.
This is not a time for the “tough love” approach to management to get a team functioning well again.
Knowing about the most up-to-date wellness resources available to you and your workers. Remind people of these resources regularly in meetings and consider posting information about wellness resources in your virtual workspaces, employee websites, and other shared spaces.
Defining your own boundaries and preferences regarding work hours, response times, and disclosure around family obligations. Then, projecting consistency in your ability to adhere to these boundaries.
Using paid time off and sick leave when needed, and encouraging your staff to do the same, or helping your staff to find state and national level resources to assist with leave.
PROMOTE WORK-LIFE BALANCE
Additional ways supervisors can support employees’ work-life balance and reduce undue burden include identifying projects with flexible deadlines, helping prioritize the most important tasks, removing irrelevant tasks, and discouraging newly remote employees from feeling like they need to be “on the clock” constantly.
Research shows that employees with home-based caretaking responsibilities (e.g., children, aging parents) also perform better and maintain higher levels of well-being when work-family issues are factored into policies and protocols.
When communicating with staff during this time, it is critically important to lead with empathy, strive for flexibility, and model ways to prioritize health and well-being.