Returning to the Workplace: Leader Version

Posted Aug 4, 2021

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Summary

Two mental health experts offer advice to help you and your employees adapt to changes at work and at home.


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Welcome to another episode of our wellness podcast. I'm Mark DeFee and with me, is KC Schroder. We're both licensed therapists who focus on workplace mental health.

We're also pretty good friends so we're gonna have a little bit of fun. Maybe tell some stories but most importantly, we're gonna give you some great information to help you develop both personally and professionally. Does that sound good? All right! Let's dive in!

So, Mark, here's a stat that every company and every leader should be paying attention to. Twenty-nine per cent of working professionals say they would quit their jobs if they could not continue working remotely. Almost 30 % of the workforce is saying, “you make me go back into an actual office or an actual building, I quit”.

Yeah, yeah. That's an incredible stat. You're right. People need to be paying attention to it because the return to work that's happening right now and the future of work is evolving quickly. And, it's taking on so many different components to it. It's not that people just want to be lazy and not shower in the morning or something like that. [Laughs] They've created a life now in this new structure of working from home that is going to change. And they've done that during a period where there was so much trauma in our world that they found a way to cope with in this new environment. And now, they're being asked to change all over again. So, you know, KC, you and I are working on this content for a training that leading to repair and it really is that that trauma is real and it needs to be paid attention to. Because as leaders it's going to becoming onto your team. It's going to becoming into your workplace and it can have a real impact. But so, can you in terms of helping someone through that trauma?

And I think it's important to realize that this trauma isn't because we are in the middle of a pandemic. It doesn't have everything to do with Covid. There's been so much since March of 2020. There's been so much that has happened since these folks have left the office. We've had a political like landscape that we've really never had before in our country. It's so divided. The storming of the capital things like that and then, social injustice issues that have really caused a lot of racial trauma. Not to mention the fact that there's more wild flyers come popping up. There's more severe weather. I live on the coast more hurricanes than I remember ever happening. And, this is all in a very short period of time. So, the trauma that these folks are feeling is multifaceted.

Yeah, for sure. And some of the ways you're gonna see it play it out and in the workplace. Or see it play out in the workplace are typical symptoms of trauma. So, those episodes of anxiety that dread… There's an embellishment of your body's reaction to the stress and it can increase. It can bloom, unfortunately. And those episodes of anxiety can get worse and worse. We're also talking about hyper arousal, that feeling restless, that nervousness, that incapability to unwind and obviously, that brings exhaustion over time. And we're paying special attention to dangers or threats. And so, we're always on high alert. It impacts our confidence level. The trauma can influence how we see ourselves and our ability to take on challenges. So, there's a lot too trauma.

Yeah. I mean, sleep issues. Trauma like can really affect your rest issues. Maybe there are a lot of folks that aren't sleeping well or sleeping too much. Obviously, there's a connection between trauma and sadness. And trauma and self-destructive emotions that kind of lead to kind of self-sabotaging behavior. And these are all things that really can show up in work performance or in the workplace.

Yeah, yeah. Even like alcohol and substance use…

Right, exactly…that could increase and you're needing to pay attention to all of it.

Right. So, I think we're kind of unfortunately right now throwing a lot of like darkness your way. [Laughs].

Yeah. You're right, you're right.

This is turning into a bleak conversation but there are practical things that leaders can do almost every day to really address this trauma and help their employees through it. So, that everybody can progress and not just stand still.

Yeah, yeah. And KC, I know you've heard this term a lot recently but the future of work… So many companies are looking at what the future of work looks like. Do they bring everybody back? Is it a hybrid model? Are there varying days that people come in the office? But there's this acceptance out there that things need to change. Companies know that and so that's why they're stopping to think through their future of work and for leaders. There are some real impacts. Leaders are gonna need to be more open. And they're going to need to hear more of the thoughts and the emotions of all their employees. It doesn't mean that you need to agree with them. It doesn't mean that you need to solve their problem. But just hearing it and creating a space like that to express it can go a long way. Because some people don't have any outlet for that. And so, there is that importance of being able to feel comfortable and maybe even at times being vulnerable about what you're experiencing. If it's not going to isolate people or something but being able to express “this is what I'm going through, too”. So, that's the first thing. The second thing is give power back whenever possible. Whether it's small things like how people can situate the workspace or in break rooms or how you're going to have meetings in conference rooms. Whenever they can have a say in things that's important to give that to them. Change is scary and control is important to be able to say that my world isn't just out of control. And I’m being forced to do this. I do have some say. So, that's the second thing.

Yes, the little things, right? Even like the littlest control whether it's picking where you're having your meeting if it's in the break room or whatever. That little piece of control can really help somebody feel like things are a little more contained.

Yeah, and they're being involved in the decision-making process.

Absolutely.

A decision made that's being forced to do and then, real quick the last one. As leaders, you yourself need to be prepared for more change. The change is always constant. It is very true in the future of work will be evolving. We don't know what's going to happen next. I talk to my accounts about the term of the “next normal” because the “new normal” could change at any time And you're going to be asked to handle new responsibilities as the workplace evolves and how you respond to that change will impact how you lead your team. So it's important to have that introspection and be prepared that what's coming now could change again. And that you're just gonna need to be able to adjust to it because you need to show up the right way for the people counting on you. 

Yeah, that's such a good point and unfortunately, I think you and I could probably talk about this for 10 more minutes… 20 more minutes… another hour…[laughs] But we do have to wrap up. So, my final thought is this. I think whether it's because of change or because of trauma, negative feelings in the workplace, feeling spent, feeling burnt out, feeling sad. Those are all contagious. And you as a leader, are in a very very unique role to model behavior that can get you into the light and out of the dark. So, promoting a culture of wellness, promoting a culture of acceptance, promoting a culture where you listen to each other is important now. It's been important for the past year. But it's going to be even more important moving forward. That's all the time we have today. Thanks so much. Take care and be well.

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