Everyone has felt anxiety or fear when trying something new or unfamiliar for the first time. Stepping outside of your comfort zone is scary, discouraging many people from embracing new opportunities or facing their fears. However, it’s these moments of unease that push us to grow and reach our full potential – if we’re willing to persevere and wade in the pool of discomfort.

Let’s be honest: There’s comfort in routines and predictable workflows. But navigating life on cruise control lacks the richness and reward gained from accomplishing difficult goals. It’s the challenges and setbacks along the way that create a profound sense of achievement. It makes the journey worth it.

In the current business climate, employees are being bombarded by challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From transitioning to a remote work environment to ensuring compliance with safety guidelines, displaced employees are struggling to navigate their new realities. They’re anxious, stressed and uncomfortable in the unknown. As a first-time mother to a six-month-old baby during the pandemic, adapting to the rapid changes has been difficult to say the least. Juggling remote work and family life – among other responsibilities – has been a humbling experience as a mother, wife, leader and peer.

Prior to the pandemic, it was easier to separate work and home life, especially for those accustomed to working in an office. This crisis has blended both worlds – with video conferencing tools inviting clients, customers and colleagues into our homes, and pets and family members making impromptu appearances on screen. Through all the disruption, the pandemic has challenged people to apply new ways of thinking and working. When your dining room becomes your new office and your baby becomes your new co-worker – creativity, resilience and empathy emerge from the chaos.

Change fuels innovation, and ingenuity is going to help organizations evolve in times of disruption. Learning and development (L&D) professionals play a pivotal role in helping employees adjust to business changes and excel in the current climate.

Here are a few ways L&D can help employees embrace change during times of disruption:

  • Integrate mindfulness into day-to-day work life: Uncertainty creates anxiety and stress, making it difficult to think clearly and concentrate. Mindfulness can help alleviate these issues. Mindfulness is defined as “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.” By teaching mindfulness practices like meditation and being present in the moment, employees can become more adaptable to change, increase their problem-solving skills and demonstrate more empathy toward others.
  • Promote a perspective of empathy: Empathy is not about being nice, compassionate or sympathetic; it’s about understanding and sharing someone else’s feelings. It’s about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes to allow yourself to see things from their perspective. In moments of change and disruption, empathy can help employees better understand others, leading to an increase in communication, productivity and morale.
  • Encourage clear, transparent communication: Open communication is necessary during times of disruption. When employees remain in the dark, more harm is done than good. By maintaining ongoing communication and outlining how this change is going to impact employees, leaders can garner support from employees. When people feel valued and respected, they will inevitably work harder for your bottom line.
  • Connect in meaningful and fun ways: Creating ways for employees to connect during times of disruption can improve motivation and engagement. Informal activities – like a happy hour event or a team building exercise – can strengthen employee morale and connect colleagues on a more meaningful level.

Disruption and change can create overwhelming anxiety and stress for employees. By leaning into the discomfort, we can step outside our comfort zone and embrace new opportunities that will push us forward.