Crisis Management

Thoughts on the Corona Situation and Work

 

Stefan Falk has summarized some of the key talking points across some 50+ coaching sessions on the Coronavirus topic, and more specifically on how to keep the people in the client organizations mentally healthy and productive in this demanding situation.

 

  1. The nature of the mental challenge for people

 

Isolation

Since most people will work from home and not move around as usual due to the risk of being infected, and because many of our natural places for socializing (restaurants, events, gyms, etc.) are unavailable, the risk to experience unhealthy levels of anxiety among people is potentially big due to the following anxiety drivers:

– People will consciously and subconsciously sense that they have lost their freedom(s) and are restricted

– People risk be less physically active

– People will potentially be exposed to less sensory stimuli which can lead to sensory deprivation; mild forms of sensory deprivation leads to irritation, frustration, and unhealthy rumination. Severe forms can lead to aggressiveness and violence.

 

Fear

There are real and perceived threats in this situation that can drive fear and anxiety.

One threat is obviously the virus itself (the risks that I will be infected and the risks that my friends and loved ones will be infected). Another equally obvious and potential threat is job and financial security.

Uncertainty

Right now the areas and levels of uncertainty for what will happen are high, for example:

– Even if I follow the guidelines from the authorities, is there a risk that I or my loved ones can be infected anyway?

– How deadly is the virus?

– How will this situation affect my company and my job?

– What will happen to my life savings?

– Are authorities really on top of the situation?

– How long will this crisis last?

As we all know, the human mind cannot deal with uncertainties – it needs to know. In the absence of robust answers to these and other perceived uncertainties, the mind creates its own answers, which most often tend to be imbalanced and geared toward worst-case scenario-answers.

 

  1. How to deal with the situation

 

Secure a high level of healthy activity

Few things strengthen our mental well-being as good work since it both keeps our mind focused and away from ruminating about our situation as well as gives us a sense of accomplishment (which makes us feel strong and in control). Also, we experience high levels of well-being when we apply our mental energy to problem-solving. People should therefore try to strive to:

  • Make sure to spend time to plan their days to secure a good level and flow of their work activities. In terms of boosting mental energy and well-being, it is good if they also think in terms of the desired results they want from their work activities.
  • Make sure to engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day – this could be broken down into 3 x 10 minutes; just 10 minutes of physical exercise, e.g., a brisk walk, gives us extra energy that lasts about 90 minutes.
  • Make sure to create a balance between routine and variety. It is good if people try to make each day different in terms of what they do or how they do things. It could be simple things like changing their morning routine, for example, what they do and in what order they do things. Variety can be an antidote to boredom and mild forms of sensory deprivation.

In addition to this, people should consider to rate each day on a scale 1-10 and then explain their rating with a sentence or two. This will help them strengthen their self-awareness as well as their sense of being in charge and in control.

 

Make sure leaders stay close to their people

For leaders, this situation could actually be an opportunity to get to know their people even better, since the main focus for a leader in this situation should be to make sure that their people stay sane, active and focused on the right things. And since telepathy is a “skill” most leaders don’t master, talking to their people should be the approach. And here the key is the frequency of these talks. Therefore, leaders could consider to:

  • Have brief daily check-ins in the morning or brief daily check-outs at end of the day, or both depending on the needs of their people.
  • In these check-ins and/or check-outs the leader, in general, should do less of the talking and instead ask questions and listen, for example, a) how does/did your day look? b) what are/were the most exciting results or insights you are looking for/achieved? c) what is the most interesting problem you will work on/worked on today?
  • Have a weekly team meeting where the team just share how they feel and what their most exciting results, insights and/or experiences have been the past week.

 

Identify and pursue “new” opportunities

There are a couple of opportunities that come to mind in this situation:

 

Improve people’s skills to have effective and efficient meetings

Having truly effective meetings is a common challenge for people even when those meetings happen face-to-face.

This challenge is even bigger when it comes to virtual meetings. There are a few things to consider in order to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of both virtual as well as face-to-face meetings:

  • There should be a tangible goal defined for the meeting, that is, what tangible results should the meeting lead to?
  • Each agenda topic should be defined in terms of how much time to spend on it and what concrete results should be achieved.
  • After discussing each topic, the next steps should be defined as well as what the tangible goal is with each next step.
  • The meeting material needs to be very clear, brief, and easy to understand, and circulated before the meeting.
  • Each participant needs to commit to reading the material before the meeting.
  • If a participant struggles to understand any of the meeting materials, he or she should try to reach out to the person responsible for the material before the meeting to get clarification. This is important in order to avoid having a meeting where people spend time understanding what they talk about or what they should talk about.

A good idea for leaders is to continuously ask their people what they learn about having virtual meetings, for example, what works well, what works less well, why, and what to do to fix it.

 

Go deeper, do things ahead of time, and/or explore new topics/issues

For some people, the situation we face could mean that they get some extra time due to less/no travel, fewer or shorter meetings, and/or that some priorities are pushed into the (uncertain) future. This then offers a couple of opportunities for them to consider:

  • Go deeper on the problems they currently work on than they usually do or solve issues that they usually have not had time to address, for example, an analysis that they do regularly that is very complicated to do and could be made easier.
  • Do things ahead of time, for example, things that they know they should do regardless of how long this crisis will last or how it will play out
  • Explore new areas or topics potentially important for their work, for example, spending time learning more about a new or current topic relevant to their work and that will also build their expertise