STRESS. Stress is such an interesting and complex topic. As leaders and HR Professionals, I believe that the topic of stress will be important to us all in 2021. This pandemic has changed the way we work. The CDC has even recognized that COVID has brought about lots of fear and anxiety in people. To top that off with the ever-changing adaptations companies are making to get the job done, it is important that we recognize how this is affecting each of our employees differently.
Why is this important?
The reason that this is such an important topic to business leaders is because chronic stress directly affects the brain and can have long-term and short-term effects on our employees. In an article published by the Harvard Medical School called Protect Your Brain from Stress, they identify chronic stress as being something that actually re-wires the brain, and in the long-term, stress is shown to lead to a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. But for us as leaders, the short-term effects may be even more important. Symptoms of stress can show up in our employees in ways such as disorganization, memory loss, being unproductive, and poor decision making.
What we can do as leaders?
One important thing we can do as leaders is acknowledge the stress our employees are feeling and be better listeners when they share the things that concern them. I recently started listening to a new podcast by Liesel Mertes called Handle w/ Care: Empathy in the Workplace. Liesel is a workplace empathy consultant, and her podcast provides some insight on how we can be most effective when we come in contact with others who have had to deal with tragedy and stressors in their life. Liesel’s podcast has helped to open my eyes on the different ways people deal with life stressors. I think what drew me to Liesel’s podcast is that during my working career, there have been several times when life issues stressed me out. Like most families, stressors were common. Our family was made up of two parents who worked full-time and three young children each going in a different direction. Whatever was going on, I tried my best to not talk about that the chaos in my life to my manager for fear that I would be seen as weak, that it would be held against me, or even worse, that I would be judged because what seemed like a big deal to me was trivial to someone else.
As leaders, we need to be better than this.This is more important now than ever. This means you may have to express more empathy to your employees or work harder at finding ways to reduce their stress by accommodating the adjustments they are making in our new normal.