Pandemic Fatigue

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, author Merete Wedell Wedellsborg was discussing with leaders and managers within an organization on how they and their teams were navigating the second wave of the pandemic and responding to the breaking news that a vaccine might be on the horizon.

What was discovered is that there was widespread feelings of lack of energy and determination. Within the organization, stress incidents were on the rise, people’s emotional reactions were becoming more polarized, and there were more team defections. It goes by different names, such as the “pandemic fatigue,” “mental fog,” “work/life blur,” “extended vacuum,” and an “endless wait,” but the point is many organizations are experiencing it. The question is how are leaders to supposed to lead when both they and their teams are mentally and physically exhausted? Wedellsborg answers those questions in the article and we’ve summarized them below!

Leading During the Second Wave

Wedellsborg explains that leading through the second wave of the pandemic requires resilience. At this point, resilience relies on psychological stamina, perseverance, endurance, and even defiance against the randomness, gloom, and burden of the pandemic. There are three key steps to cultivate resilience in both you and your team members.

1.) Understand Urgency vs. Importance: During a crisis, many of us become short-sighted and push aside all tasks that are not urgent, thinking everything else can be taken care of after the crisis. However, Wedellsborg states that, “In military units, boredom and waiting time are perceived as more stressful than actual combat.” So, avoiding important tasks that may not be urgent right now can actually have negative effects on your whole organization. Ask yourself, “How do we turn the short-term momentum into long-term advantages?” Creating a sense of purpose and outlining a plan of small steps you can take every day to address both urgent and important tasks is a necessity.

2.) Balance Compassion and Containment: In order to act, you and your employees must be motivated to act. Something that requires both compassion and containment. The pandemic has created depression, loneliness, and anxiety. This means leaders need to be serious about mental health and address it with compassion. However, too much caring and compassion can drive people into a learned helplessness trap so you must balance it with containment. Containment is described by IMD professor Anand Narasimhan as the ability to observe and absorb what is going on around you, but to provide a sense of stability and empowerment.

3.) Energize everyone, everyday: As we enter what we all hope is the last stretch, the greatest challenge for leaders is to sustain energy in themselves and in their teams. Energy is not a given and must be generated and channeled internally. How you choose to energize your team doesn’t really matter but being committed to doing something to energize everyone everyday matters immensely. Examples include sharing success stories, setting up competitions, dividing long projects into sprints, and communicating.

For more information, visit Harvard Business Review!

 

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