Last week, the announcement of a COVID-19 vaccine was incredibly welcome. They’re words we’ve been waiting a long time to hear, and it carries with it the hope that the pandemic will end. But before it gets here, we have many challenges to face.
Lockdowns all around the UK and Europe. Surging cases in the US. The solution hasn’t changed — we still need more social distancing, but sheer fatigue is setting in and getting to the end of the tunnel can seem like a daunting task.
During this tumultuous year, I’ve asked employees from client organizations, “How have you felt at work this week?” Their responses have enabled me and my team to track the impact of COVID-19 on the employee experience. We turned their responses into data points to chart their progress.
I’ve dubbed this journey ‘The Resilience Curve’ as it shows how people have bounced back from the shock of the first wave of COVID. Now, as we face second and third waves, I’ve updated the graph to reflect how people have been feeling the last few months. I also want to share a few thoughts on how we can focus on how companies can continue to build resilience.
A look at the resilience curve
A quick reminder: this is data from my Friday Pulse clients — people who have actively taken an active interest in the wellbeing of their people. The numbers reflected here are likely better than what is actually going on in the marketplace.
The last few months have been disruptive and, more recently, things have been slightly trending downwards again. It’s not surprising why — there have been new waves of furloughs and redundancies. Some feel anxiety that the holidays at the end of the year may be spent in isolation. Add to that the discomfort of a political season and the news COVID-19 cases rising, and we’ve got an easy case for decreasing happiness scores.
At the beginning of the year, the pre-COVID average was 69.6 across all clients. In the months since the initial wave of lockdown, that number has dropped to 66.4. There is pressure entering the system that needs to be addressed. When I see this graph, I can see the sheer weariness and resignation of people in it. The drop off at the end is a collective act of holding our breath, as if to say, “Here we go again.”
We’ve been here before and we know how to survive lockdown
The thing is, lockdown 2.0 shouldn’t be as severe as the first lockdown we experienced earlier this year. We know how to handle this because we’ve been here before.
The first step is to acknowledge our negativity bias and begin building on the positive. Negativity bias is our tendency to lean towards outcomes that are negative rather than those that are neutral or positive. This shows itself in how outcomes influence our behaviour as well — positive outcomes have less influence than a negative one.
It’s quite easy to get drawn into negative narratives about our lives — especially right now. We don’t have to look too far into politics for an example of this. Our feelings about a candidate or a news headline can make our days feel awful. However, the reality is that these political events have minimal impact on our daily lives. It won’t affect the taste of your coffee unless you let it.
In that light, if we want to carry whatever momentum we had in innovation or creativity, we need to acknowledge the stresses but focus on the positives. This means making a consistent, deliberate effort to identify the good things going on in your business and build on them.
Sure, things may look bleak right now, but we’ve been here before. This second round of lockdown shouldn’t be as rough as the first one because we’ve learned a few things. Here’s a summary:
You know how to accentuate the positive
Focusing on the positive doesn’t only mean looking at life through rose-coloured glasses or lying to ourselves. What it means is you celebrate the wins — no matter how big or small — that your team has. If you’re already a Friday Pulse user, take advantage of our people platform to spread some positivity around. Our tool helps people focus on things that are going well in the workplace, as well as express gratitude for each other.
That said, there’s a possibility that some are feeling COVID guilt — the feeling that you’re somehow getting on well while others are struggling. Or maybe it’s the guilt of spending too much time working and not enough time with family. That’s normal too. There’s always going to be someone better off than you, and someone not doing as well as you. Try and let go of it and forgive yourself.
Thrive through measuring and monitoring team culture
The key to surviving during lockdown is to check in with your teams — in an empathetic, not overbearing way. Some of your people may be facing new challenges this time around, so it’s important to be understanding and give them space and time they need. You can also monitor wellness levels with the weekly Friday Pulse survey to do it in a less intrusive way. Above all, explicitly check in with your team.
Create a place of psychological safety
Psychological safety is a critical component to having a workplace that fosters positive emotions and supports its employees. We must express compassionate curiosity to understand different views and exercise professional empathy to ask better questions and show empathy and vulnerability to help our colleagues.
Surviving lockdown 2.0
Undoubtedly, there are a lot of raw emotions right now that threaten to spill over into the workplace. That’s okay. If we didn’t feel these things, then we wouldn’t be human. But it’s also important to remember the things we can control. We can watch out for each other. We can check in on our teams and see how people are coping. We can be a friend to those that need a listening ear.
Our Friday Pulse people platform makes it easy to see how teams and leaders are faring during lockdown. We’re continuing to offer free access to companies and teams (50-1,000 employees) for 12 weeks. We are also soon launching a new “start-up” version of our platform that will suit smaller teams. For more information on how we can help and support your organization through the pandemic, please reach out today.