As we move through the COVID-19 pandemic, companies and their employees face disruption on a massive scale. The virtual shutdown and halting restart of the economy has left almost 43 million workers unemployed and forced companies to reevaluate how they operate, with questions such as:
- When can people safely return to the office?
- How will wearing masks and maintaining social distancing affect how teams interact?
- What is the essential role of this company in the post-pandemic world?
Uncertainty about what the future holds runs rampant, creating a dynamically shifting environment that requires leaders and their teams to reevaluate how they operate and adapt with creativity, energy and agility.
Companies, teams and employees were already dealing with massive disruption and change before the pandemic. Now, they face the challenge of learning to live with and embrace chronic, ongoing change.
Unfortunately, most human beings don’t feel comfortable living with prolonged ambiguity and unpredictability. One study found that uncertainty is even more stressful than knowing something bad is definitely going to happen.
Times like these require everyone to cultivate and practice greater levels of resilience and self-care. This means doubling down on your resilience rituals, committing at a deeper level to show up for yourself (mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually), and fully embracing the unique opportunities in front of you.
Resilience is often defined as the ability to rebound from setbacks, but it is more: Resilience is about recovery. Exhaustion and burnout come from a lack of recovery. Research looking at the highest-performing athletes and businesspeople finds that the common denominator in their success is their commitment to recovery.
We can build recovery and resilience in four areas: mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. We can define “spiritually” broadly as being aligned with your values and beliefs. People who live in alignment with their deeply held values and beliefs are more resilient than people who live at odds with those values and beliefs.
Resilience rituals are things you can do each day to promote recovery and resilience consistently, so you don’t burn out. It might be exercise, connecting with loved ones, reading, time for the creative exploration of new ideas or practicing mindfulness. What is important is that you practice it consistently.
Resilience is something you build before you need it. Think about marathon runners: They don’t wait until they are in the race to train. Instead, they consciously and consistently train in advance so that they can perform at their best under maximum stress.
Today, companies and individuals are in a state of extreme challenge. But the upending of former routines also presents many opportunities, including the chance to reexamine your relationship with uncertainty, change and stress. Here are six steps to help companies build resilience, renewal, and teamwork as they regroup and move forward:
1. Support Each Other
During times of extreme stress and change, it is more important than ever for people to feel valued and supported. If you are a leader who wants your company to be able to survive, adapt and thrive, everyone you work with has to know that you have his or her back — including your team members, partners, employees, outsourced workforce, clients and customers.
Every company has either a “got your back” culture or a “watch your back” culture. When people have each other’s backs, it builds resilience. Without this feeling of support, people are constantly on the defensive, which can paralyze their creativity, energy and ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances.
2. Embrace Real Feedback
Encourage people to ask and answer questions such as: What’s working for me? What’s not working for me? What could be done differently? Feedback, including feedback on how teams are being managed, is important on reentry. When people are given an open invitation to be transparent, and they feel emotionally safe to express themselves and their honest feedback freely, it builds trust.
3. Build Resilience Rituals Into Your Culture
The management team should establish support systems to help employees build resilience and integrate those structures into company culture. They could include encouraging employees to practice mindfulness and take breaks as well as offering organized training programs. These tools should be tangible, be meaningful and show people what the organization stands for.
4. Reevaluate Everything
There should be no sacred cows. What worked in February may have stopped working in March. Every procedure, standard, value or battle cry of the past should be up for some form of reevaluation.
5. Acknowledge and Support Employees Suffering Loss and Grief
Many people have been traumatized by this pandemic. You don’t have to look far to find people who have lost friends and family members. They need kindness, patience and understanding as organizations reform bonds and redefine what success means and what performance looks like.
6. Create Ways to Celebrate Together
Whether your team works remotely or you have returned to an office, look for ways to celebrate and recognize your successes, large and small. It might be as simple as taking some time at the beginning of a conference call to name an achievement or express gratitude for the ways team members have supported each other. Doing these things regularly can build camaraderie and a sense of well-being.
Everyone has been changed in some way by the pandemic, and everyone needs resilience to survive and thrive in a state of constant change. Resilience is a hard skill that will help people deal individually and collectively with the challenges they face now and down the road.