Caring for Our Well-Being While Working in Times of Distress
A quick note: If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re an HR practitioner or a people-centric leader because, well, that’s who’s in my network. If so, please share this with people at your organization who can benefit from it. And remember that you’re an employee, too, so take care of yourself! We’re in it together.
My recent posts have focused on what leaders can do to connect with and support employees during times of distress. How about as employees ourselves? What can we do to care for our own well-being while working? The science on what helps people thrive at work points to three things you can try right now: reflect, connect, and prioritize.
Reflection doesn’t have to be a big deal. It can be as simple as taking two minutes to stare out the window. This step is important because it helps us make a mental list of the things that matter most right now.
If you have only two minutes, ask yourself these three questions about priorities, enablement, and growth, and jot down your answers:
- Where am I (not) spending time on the most impactful things right now?
- Do I have the relationships, support, and resources I need to be successful?
- What can I learn next?
Try making this a regular practice. Over time you’ll build up a reliable awareness of your current and upcoming needs at work. And when you take a couple of minutes to reflect, you set yourself up to connect and prioritize.
Social support helps people cope during challenging times; we’ve known this for decades. Specifically, we are physically and mentally healthier when we have a network of people to help with encouragement, resources, guidance, and a sense of belonging.
Take stock of your social-support needs. Just knowing what might be available to you can help you feel supported, and it’s this “perceived support” that gives your mental health the biggest boost. Of course you’re likely to find some gaps—places where you need to strengthen your network. Emotional support like encouragement, trust, empathy, and caring trumps our other needs during times of distress, so start there. Remember that asking for help gives others the opportunity to feel valuable, builds your connections, and stokes your own growth.
Also take stock of your support potential. What’s one thing you can do to help someone in your network feel and/or receive support? One interesting thing about giving support is that “invisible” acts (like doing the dishes without anyone else noticing) can give people a bigger boost than visible ones. So go ahead and be altruistic—it’s good for you, too.
One simple thing you can do is have regular, constructive conversations with your manager so that you know what’s most important to focus on, how you might work more effectively, and what support and resources might be available to you. The keys are scheduling these conversations to happen on a regular basis and structuring them with a simple agenda, centered on professional goals, business goals, and support needs. You don’t need to wait for your manager to do this for you. Just book the meeting!
When situations change, demands do, too. Many of us are now homeschooling and teleworking simultaneously—all while also throwing out the goals we set a few months ago to shift focus on responding to new business pressures. Let’s face it: Some things we thought we were going to do over the next few months are not going to get done.
Times of distress cause us to take a fresh look at priorities, and this is an excellent opportunity to be kind to others by de-prioritizing projects, activities, and processes that are non-urgent and non-essential. It’s also an opportunity to be kind to ourselves in the same regard. Use whatever prioritization model works for you, as long as it involves prioritizing one thing at a time. Personally, I like Jeff Weiner’s FCS model. And then you can manage your schedule accordingly. I use Brad Smith’s 100-point system.
How are you and your colleagues caring for your well-being during this challenging time? What are emerging as your greatest needs? I’d love to hear how you’re doing and what you’re learning. Feel free to let me know here.
Looking for more resources? Check out two valuable toolkits: Manager Toolkit for COVID-19 and How to Survey Employees During COVID-19 and What to Ask.