Leadership and Empathy Go Hand-in-Hand, Especially During COVID-19

by | May 21, 2020 | Crisis Marketing

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. At the same time they are managing their own mounting work-life challenges and staying informed about rapidly changing policies and procedures.

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.

Leaders will not be able to lead effectively if they are also struggling. On an airplane, flight attendants tell passengers to put on their oxygen masks before helping others with theirs. The same is true here.

At Sticky Branding, we believe that in order to model self-care and support staff, leaders have to continue taking care of their own needs.

Be Extra Supportive During a Pandemic

Extreme stress can affect the way we act. Typically level-headed employees may suddenly seem frazzled, anxious and distracted. Teams formerly consistent in meeting deadlines and turning in high-quality work may be less predictable as the crisis carries on.

This is not a time for the “tough love” approach from management to get a team functioning well again.

For most employees, social support and understanding are key ingredients to helping alleviate stress and adjust work-life expectations.

It is important for supervisors and managers to model self-care while supporting and responding to their employees’ mental health needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This can be done using emotional support.

Make Your Employees Mental Health a Top Priority

Emotional support involves letting employees know that they are being cared for and that they should feel comfortable discussing work- and non-work related challenges.

A boss should convey that they are sensitive to the impacts the COVID-19 pandemic is having on employees’ lives and work. Emotional support techniques include:

  1. Provide comfort and monitoring for signs of struggle such as distress, social withdrawal and poor performance, and knowing when to refer an employee to professionals.
  2. For those without others in the house during physical distancing ordinances, offer check-ins and encourage them to virtually connect with colleagues, friends and family.
  3. Reinforce to your employees that you are sympathetic and that you’ll maintain an open-door policy – virtually – for them to talk through issues when needed.
  4. Recognize that some employees may have families and loved ones who are requiring additional attention, so openly ask employees how they are managing both work and non-work.

Be a Role Model

Role modeling requires leaders to display how to integrate work-life obligations and engage in self-care during a crisis.

Simply put, leaders should be setting an example for their teams. Effective role modeling behaviors include:

  1. Make sure you stay up-to-date on safety and public health COVID-19 responses relevant to your team.
  2. Use paid time off and sick leave when needed, and encourage your staff to do the same. Or help your staff to find aid resources to assist with leave.
  3. Define your own boundaries and preferences regarding work hours, response times and disclosure around family obligations. Then project consistency in your ability to adhere to these boundaries.

Encourage Work-Life Balance

Additional ways leaders can support employees’ work-life balance and reduce undue burden include:

  • Identifying projects with flexible deadlines
  • Helping them to prioritize the most important tasks
  • Removing irrelevant tasks
  • Discouraging newly remote employees from feeling like they need to be “on the clock” constantly

It’s clear that employees with home-based responsibilities (e.g., children, aging parents) also perform better and maintain higher levels of well-being when work-family issues are factored into business values.

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.

How are you handling this time? As the economy begins to open up again, empathy and flexibility will continue to be important during the transition and into the “new normal.” And remember to give yourself a break too.

In a Crisis, Strategy Is Everything

Do you need a strategy to overcome the coronavirus? Let’s talk. Give us a call at 416.479.4403 or check out our Crisis Marketing services. Sticky Branding works with business owners and their teams to rapidly shift their business strategies, value propositions, and marketing strategies to develop new customers and sources of revenue.

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Jeremy Miller

Top 30 Brand Guru

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