For the past few months, we have found ourselves working in uncertain and unprecedented times. These events have forced many leaders to rethink aspects of the business and some to pivot their entire offerings. It is also important to accompany this process with policies that safeguard the well-being of both leaders and employees. Leaders are often quick to put in place measures to safeguard others without taking ample time to look after their own well-being.
To fulfill their key role, leaders need to take care of themselves both physically and mentally. Here is why they should do so and how they can create a culture that prioritizes well-being, even when employees cannot be together physically.
Setting the Example
If employees see leaders taking care of themselves, they are more likely to follow suit. Providing employees with resilience techniques and strategies to protect their well-being is key, particularly now, as many are suffering with increased personal pressures or may be adjusting to working from home. However, these policies begin to lose some of their impetus if leaders do not also follow them — for example, if they regularly send work-related messages outside of work hours.
It is not enough for leaders to tell employees how they can take care of their well-being; they should also clearly demonstrate how they are doing so themselves. This behavior gives employees role models they can emulate.
In times of crisis, people naturally look to their leaders for support, within their government, personal relationships or workplace. Leaders are likely in that role because they are the most well-equipped person to deliver that support, but it should not be at the expense of their own well-being, nor should this responsibility rest solely on their shoulders.
It is easy to slip into unhealthy patterns, particularly when working from home, such as trying to be available all hours of the day or increasing working hours in a bid to pick up the workload of others. While it may support employees in the short term, it creates some longer-term negative patterns. Boundaries are important for leaders, too, and they should adhere to them as much as possible. If leaders take care of their own well-being, they will be in the position to support and guide others.
2 Steps Leaders Can Take
Prioritize Mind and Body
When our movements are restricted or we are working from home, it is easy to spend each day inside the same four walls, which can be detrimental to our overall well-being. Mental and physical health are linked with many of the mood-boosting hormones raised when we exercise.
It is easy for leaders, in particular, to feel like they should be constantly working, but a lack of “off” time could place them firmly on the road to burnout. It doesn’t have to be intense exercise; it could be a short stroll in nature or with family — whatever boosts their resilience tank.
In the workplace, leaders could promote whole body wellness by introducing a lunch-time yoga session via a streaming platform or creating a friendly monthly steps challenge. These types of initiatives would not only promote wellness but would also help bring colleagues together who are not able to meet in person.
Encouraging staff to share their challenges and resources they have found helpful is another way leaders can promote well-being in the workplace. In challenging times, leaders sometimes feel like they have to have all the answers, which is not good for their well-being. In fact, their team is a great sounding board for solutions. They can also consult a mentor they admire or a friend outside of the workplace who could provide an objective viewpoint.
Similarly, leaders should encourage people to share the resources that they have found to boost their resilience. For example, books, podcasts and online courses can provide some great strategies. The sharing of both challenges and helpful resources creates a collaborative working culture that is supportive of everyone’s well-being, even when employees cannot be together.
During a pandemic, protecting the well-being of everyone in the workplace is paramount. Leaders should promote well-being and resilience strategies that encourage employees to share their challenges, pool their resources, and look after body and mind. But, first and foremost, leaders must role-model these behaviors themselves.