Overcoming Pandemic Fatigue: Focusing on Energizing Teams
At our last weekly team meeting, we were discussing the topic of ‘Encouragement’. Vivian Angelo, our Principal Consultant, shared a real-life story that happened in 2014 during a half marathon. There was the halfway point where Vivian felt like giving up. Right at that moment, he heard a school band playing the song “We shall overcome”. Vivan took us to that exact moment – the volcano of emotions to give up or hold on. He chose to hold on and complete the marathon.
It seemed like we are all endlessly paused in this exact moment with the pandemic. It’s the same volcano of emotions of holding on to the ‘endless wait’ versus giving up because holding on seems difficult.
This is especially clear in the results of the ‘The YouGov-Mint-CPR Millennial Survey’. Conducted in Oct-Nov 2020 and covering nearly 10,000 respondents spread across 203 cities, results revealed that the work-from-homers are feeling more anxious today than before the pandemic began. Similar emotions were shown by those who have returned to the office, either full-time or on a rotation basis.
Many of those working from home are feeling more anxious today than they were before the pandemic began –YouGov-Mint-CPR Millennial survey
In some ways, this pandemic fatigue resembles Vivian’s half marathon moment. It poses a larger challenge for leaders – how to energize not just themselves but also their teams.
John Maxwell said it best in his book the ’21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership’. One of the laws – ‘The law of victory’ states that victorious leaders find a way for the team to win. Maxwell writes, “Every leadership station is different. Every crisis has its own challenges. But I think that victorious leaders have one thing in common: they share an unwillingness to accept defeat. The alternative to winning is totally unacceptable to them. As a result, they figure out what must be done to achieve victory.”
Here are three aspects leaders could focus on to balance fatigue, energize teams, and power on.
Aspect 1: Understanding
Remote working has made it challenging for teams to identify what each one is going through. A conscious effort needs to be made for teams to recognize the unique challenges faced. As I write this, a colleague’s child locked themselves in the bedroom. Every day the challenges of remote working change, especially for those who have children and elderly parents to look after.
Moodbeam, a UK health tech brand, launched a wearable technology to indicate your boss your emotional state.
Moodbeam co-founder Christina Colmer McHugh has this to say about the purpose of the product: “Businesses are trying to get on top of staying connected with staff working from home. Here they can ask 500 members: ‘You ok?’ without picking up the phone.”
You may not need to go so far to identify your team’s emotional state, and yet, there has to be a conscious effort towards understanding your team:
- Heart moments in one-on-one meetings: Depending on the size of your team, you could take the time to connect with your team members periodically. The focus has to be a mix of both personal and professional aspects. Having a set of back pocket questions can help leaders to make this time meaningful as you meet with your team member. Take this time to identify what is going well and what is not going well to provide the needed support.
- Challenge-based team discussions: Periodically, you could arrange discussions on the team members’ challenges. Make a note of the challenges and encourage the team to discuss ways to address them as well. Provide a safe space to discuss doubts or discomfort that they may be going through. For the team to be open, the leader needs to share his/her own fears or challenges, promoting openness in the team. The effectiveness of this strategy, however, depends on the psychological safety level within the team.
- Quick polls or surveys: Today, there are many tools available to create short polls or surveys to identify your team’s challenges. Here are a few suggestive questions, that the team members can rate on a scale of 1-5 (1 represents ‘strongly disagree’ and 5 represents ‘strongly agree’)
- I am able to motivate myself every morning before I start work
- I am able to work with my team effectively
- I am able to prioritize important activities at work and get on with them
- I usually recognize when I am stressed
- I am able to adapt well to changing situations at work
- I am able to balance my professional and personal life
Take action to address the challenges that come up in your effort in understanding the team.
Aspect 2: Connection
A majority of the YouGov-Mint-CPR Millennial Survey (55%) respondents said that working without colleagues around them was unsatisfactory. It is vital to plan and arrange informal times with your team periodically.
During Breakthrough’s virtual team engagement sessions, we have heard the session’s participants tell us: ‘It is so wonderful to see the faces of my team members’, ‘It is great to see the team smiling’.
You could set up an internal team to arrange informal activities periodically or ask external facilitators to conduct engagement sessions for your team. You could also rotate the responsibility by giving opportunities to different team members to connect. Let not the efforts become mundane, pull-off something surprising for the team occasionally.
Aspect 3: Motivation strategies
The needs of teams and leadership vary at times, and it is vital to pay attention to what could energize teams. One of our technology clients identified such a need, and we delivered a virtual team engagement session for their teams and a virtual leadership accelerator program for their managers. The teams needed a space to connect, and we provided theme-based virtual team building sessions. Doing fun activities in small groups virtually offered team members a chance to talk to each other in an informal setting.
The managers needed a space to discuss the challenges they faced in managing virtual teams, and we designed a program to address them. Each challenge was simulated through virtual experiences, and the managers were able to arrive at solutions together. Likewise, your teams’ challenges could vary, and it is crucial to address the stressors and amplify what motivates them to energize your teams.
In conclusion, Vivian chose to hold on and completed the marathon. ‘We shall overcome’ is a great song to power us on, and we all need that band singing that song for us at different points. Let’s do the same for the people we lead. Indeed we shall overcome when we stick closer to each other, challenge each other to be the best, and strive to energize our workspaces we belong to.
Written by Blessy Esther, Consultant