One step forward, two steps back. A rollercoaster. Peaks and troughs.
There are a hundred and one ways to describe the global pandemic. It has affected us each differently however, there is one aspect of all our lives it has had a significant impact on.
You guessed it: Our mental health, especially from a professional perspective. Covid-19 has placed an unprecedented amount of stress on the workforce, with Australians across various industries more exhausted, anxious, and unmotivated than ever before. Over 2.6 million people are hurting even more, having lost more than $300 a week now that the JobKeeper scheme has come to an end.
While mental health ramifications peaked shortly after the outbreak in March 2020 (research from the Australian National University found almost 1 in 2 Australians were more stressed because of the crisis last June), the Federal Government will continue its investment to extend its health response and suppression strategy until the end of this year because whether we like it or not, we’re not out of the woods yet.
As we face more of the same in 2021, there’s an onus on business leaders to sustain business momentum and keep team morale high. It’s a trying time for leaders to not only raise the spirits of their teams but to maintain and strengthen their own. However, this is a challenge that can’t be ignored and must be taken head on. Here are a few of my top tips.
Having a growth mindset
Focus on opportunities that can grow the business, rather than just keep the lights on. For example, look at products and/or solutions that your existing customers can adapt to help increase efficiencies.
From an employee standpoint, prioritise training opportunities to upskill staff so they are armed with the tools and knowledge on how to adapt to rapidly changing conditions. This is more a need than a want, as all companies – in some respect – have had to adjust their business model. Therefore, leaders need to make sure that their employees have the skills that correspond with this.
Also do not forget to seek ideas from your employees, customers and partners, and use these insights to inform your business growth strategy. After all, these are the ones on the frontline.
Focus on productivity, not time
If there’s one thing Covid-19 taught us, it’s that flexible working is here to stay. A recent survey from the Property Council of Australia found that while there’s been a steady increase in workers returning to the office, the main barrier to achieving full occupancy is that employees prefer greater flexibility.
But businesses must go one step further than providing flexible working options and support employee productivity as best as possible. Should you cut down on the number of internal meetings during the week? Is a buddy system needed to better onboard new recruits? What incentives can you provide to celebrate great work?
Lead by character, not control
Focus on harnessing the power you have as a leader through character, as opposed to control. With limited facetime opportunities, this has become all the more important. Lean into your values and make your personal ideals and standards known. These inform your leadership style and the more your team can understand you as a person, the better chance you’ll have at cultivating relationships in the workplace.
Keep it simple
Think about when communication has been the most effective. More often than not, it’s all about keeping it simple.
Sounding smart might boost one’s ego and provide a good impression, but it does very little for driving clarity and understanding with people. As leaders, we work with many different types of people – in some cases over time zones, cultures and languages, like me – and it is critical to get your messaging clear.
To truly embrace 2021 and ensure it will be big and bold, we must not dwell or reflect too much on last year. As poet T.S Eliot once said, “For last year's words belong to last year's language. And next year's words await another voice.” It is time to move on, reset and activate the power and possibilities that 2021 holds and business leaders must lead the charge.