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Navigating the pandemic and beyond: why leaders shouldn't brave it alone

Written by Jonathan Richards on Friday, 02 July 2021. Posted in Leadership, People

In times of crisis, we turn to our leaders for guidance – their actions and mood set the tone for the rest of the company. But who do the leaders turn to when business as usual ceases to be… business as usual?

Navigating the pandemic and beyond: why leaders shouldn't brave it alone

In times of crisis, we turn to our leaders for guidance – their actions and mood set the tone for the rest of the company. But who do the leaders turn to when business as usual ceases to be… business as usual?

Leading a team effectively is not an easy task. However, with additional pressures of debating redundancies, payroll reductions, furloughs and keeping a pulse on the financial health of the company during the pandemic, it’s understandable that stress on this level can harm overall wellbeing. Conditions of extreme uncertainty aren't conducive to positivity.

With huge decisions resting on their shoulders, and the expectation to have all the answers, support in the workplace shouldn’t stop at the executive level. Bosses must have access to guidance and support networks in order to preserve their mental fortitude.

In a recent survey we conducted, 68% of SME business leaders say they have witnessed an increase in mental health issues reported since the pandemic began – an unsurprising but concerning figure all the same. The long-term impacts are as yet unknown, however it is important that all members of the team, including leaders themselves, are well supported as we move forward.

Mental health concerns

The pandemic has undoubtedly fuelled a mental health crisis which continues to impact mental and physical wellbeing of staff. As a result, employers are under pressure to introduce adequate safeguarding measures which is easier said than done when teams are dispersed. Certain members of staff will slip under the radar, either intentionally or unintentionally, and these individuals include management.

UK charities have observed that the lifting of lockdown restrictions and the subsequent return to workplaces could trigger heightened levels of stress and anxiety for many, so there is increased urgency for mental health support as we move past the turbulent working conditions of the past year. As a leader, it is just as important to observe how these changes are impacting your management style, if at all, and have a network of peers to reach out to for advice. 

Leaders must recognise that they need support; they’re not infallible. Putting measures and support mechanisms in place during the good times is essential as it helps leaders to be prepared for the bad times. 

Seeking counsel

It can get lonely at the top. This is why going outside your organisation and joining forums, workshops and other communities can provide some fresh insight on situations which you may not have considered before. Organisations like Vistage are very helpful support networks. We learn by doing, and experience leads to wisdom, which you must remember in your moments of doubt. To make the best decisions for the business and its people, bosses should be sharing their experiences with peers, using them as a sounding board for concerns and/or new ideas.

The business world is known for its versatility and ability to adapt to all situations, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t moments of strain and pressure on people, which can have some serious consequences. Our recent survey revealed the majority (77%) of SME decisionmakers would invest in additional mental health measures if government support was available, so there is clearly appetite among leaders to ask for help if it was available to them, which is positive.

Strength in honesty

A variety of formal and informal approaches are available to those who want a sounding board. Group peer sessions are great, but it’s also worth searching for one-to-one coaching and mentorship schemes. Having a variety of perspectives will help inform business decisions and importantly, give insight and alleviate some of the burden bosses feel when the responsibility feels too much.

As ever, honesty and trust are the qualities teams must foster within their culture for staff of all levels to feel they can cope when things get tough. Achieving this kind of culture authentically means bosses must lead by example and be prepared to expose what has been traditionally perceived as weakness. We are all human after all. For businesses to succeed, they must treat their people well and recognise that the only way to get back up after a fall is to be honest and work towards a solution together.

About the Author

Jonathan Richards

Jonathan Richards

Jonathan Richards is the CEO and founder of breatheHR, the HR-software developer. Given his expertise about both personnel questions and topics concerning entrepreneurship, he’s a frequent contributor to our stories - whether they’re about the latest budget, sexism or the gender pay gap.

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