We interviewed a group of senior L&D and HR professionals from leading European organisations to uncover some of the top challenges they’ve faced supporting their teams the past 18 months, and how they’ve addressed them. They share their top pieces of advice with us.

You may have read the recent New York times articles that resurrected a term that has been around for 20 years or more – ‘languishing’.  It’s a mental state that lies somewhere between the sense that we’re flourishing, and a sense of despair and depression – someone characterised it as the ‘blah’ feeling that so many people describe they’re experiencing since COVID started.  “I’m not depressed – but I’m far from feeling happy or fulfilled”.

LANGUISHING….MANY ARE SAYING THAT THIS IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES BUSINESSES WILL FACE AS WE EMERGE FROM THE PANDEMIC

To uncover what’s really going on in the workplace, we invited a group of experienced HR & LD specialists from leading global organisations for a Think Tank discussion on ‘How can we best support our teams from Languishing to Flourishing…’

As the people primarily responsible for leading their organisations through the pandemic and most importantly supporting wellbeing, we asked industry experts…

“What is your TOP best piece of advice for supporting team members as we hopefully move out of the pandemic?” Here’s what they said…

1. Listen to your people

Prioritise listening to your teams, it’s is critical for engagement and success – even more so during the pandemic. What do they need? What are they struggling with? There’s also a big difference between passive and active listening. You can’t begin to help people until you first try to understand their problems and concerns. Be attentive, ask open-ended and probing questions, don’t interrupt, seek clarification and make a plan to act on the feedback if necessary. Make sure your teams are communicated with well and are aware of any and all options for improving their resilience either through training programs, wellness initiatives or the company EAP.

2. Educate on and develop emotional intelligence behaviours

Emotional intelligence is key to getting through this. We’ve seen a big difference in people between those who have struggled more and those who have had the EI and resilience to better cope. In order to be emotionally intelligent, you have to be authentic and vulnerable – which is crucial, particularly for those in leadership positions or responsible for influencing others. Organisations are experiencing a massive shift in their cultures right now. At the moment, it’s tactical – we’re responding to immediate needs, but essentially the end goal; what we want to achieve is a culture that embodies emotional intelligence and resilience.

‘In order to be emotionally intelligent, you have to be empathetic and vulnerable’ – Lisa Essuman, PaddyPower Betfair

3.  Help teams become more aware of their emotions and mindset

It’s important to educate teams and guide them to a better mindset that will enable them to be more resilient to the problems facing them in their new normal.

 “We released a ‘burnout strategy,’ helping people to recognise burnout and talk about it openly. We made sure to include questions on burnout in our quarterly surveys so we could take a temperature check on how people were feeling. We actively spoke about and promoted our EAP program. We invited guests in to speak on these topics and hosted a read-along so teams can learn habits to better cope.”

Stephanie Brady, Retail in Motion.

Educating teams on the science of what’s happening in their body and brain when they feel stressed can be so helpful to individuals. It’s all about creating awareness for what we were experiencing at that time, acknowledging everyone is different and providing a wide range of support.

4. Health ‘challenges’ & adapting media formats

Consider starting a step or activity challenge – for example: who can get the most steps in today? Or just encourage people to step away from work and get 30 minutes of fresh air can really benefit their mental wellbeing. Invite your team to have their next meeting while taking a walk outside if possible. Try to adapt some of the work people have so that it can be done away from the desk. For example, if there is a webinar or announcement video you want people to watch, give them an audio file instead, that they can listen to while on a walk or exercising. This will help with encouraging people to ensure they are getting some time away from the computer screen, which will hugely benefit mental health.

5. Take feedback seriously and deliver on your strategy

Treat people as humans. It’s simple. Focus on developing a strategy that ensures people you’re dealing with their concerns. Listen to how the strategies and activities you’re rolling out are impacting people individually.

Having a plan to help people is essential, but it’s equally important to realise that the same plan isn’t necessarily going to work for everyone. Listening to people is one of the best ways to ensure you are supporting them the way they need to be. However, don’t just listen to be ‘seen’ listening, but make sure you and your colleagues are taking the feedback seriously and implement change where possible.

6. Adopt a coaching mentality/ provide managers with learning on coaching

To truly understand people better and the difficulties that are affecting them, use coaching questions. This can lead to more powerful and better quality conversations.

Stephanie Brady, Head of HR for Retail in Motion, is also a professional coach and says that “even a simple coaching question like ‘What is stopping you from taking the support that we are offering you?’, can really help you start peeling the onion appropriately and getting in the appropriate help when you see what is stopping them from getting help.”

7. Lead from the top

It all starts with our leaders. When leaders are more open and vulnerable with their teams, it makes people feel more understood. After all, you’re probably more likely to talk to someone or listen to their advice if you know they are experiencing the same thing. Demonstrate authenticity and openness with staff. Showing employees that you too are facing these new challenges can help them feel heard and like they’re not facing these problems alone.

“I’m so proud of our team. Our leaders were vulnerable and human and it made such a huge difference,” – Stephanie Brady.

8. Resource up?

While the pandemic has unfortunately caused the need for redundancies for a lot of businesses, recognising that certain areas can’t be understaffed is essential. Retail in Motion didn’t touch the HR department when making these changes. This is a real example of knowing what your people need. HR departments are responsible for a lot of the support that we require now, and the people working in these departments can’t support our people properly if they themselves are burned out.

After all, as Stephanie says; “you can’t pour from an empty cup.”

 9. Be flexible

The reality is, a lot of companies may decide to stick to remote working, and a lot of people are calling for hybrid working to become the new normal. Now that we know it’s possible to get the work done at home, a lot of people want to have the option to continue to do so. Listening to what your team want, and being as flexible as possible, will help relieve some of the stress they may feel around the idea of returning to work.

Have you tried any of the above ideas with your team? What has your organisation done really well in supporting teams the past year?

If you would like to learn more about how you can develop your team’s resilience, check out the Genos resilience training program.

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