Leaders should always check in their teams, but now there is more reason than ever, as numerous studies from the World Health Organization and government health agencies worldwide point to a rise in mental health issues during the pandemic.
Most of us could not wait to turn the page on 2020 and begin a New Year with all eyes focused on returning to normal as soon as possible. And there is reason for much hope — the onset of vaccine distribution is a very promising development. Nonetheless, the fact is we are still many months away from having most of the population vaccinated. This translates into an even greater potential for additional pandemic-related stress and worry.
In addition to many of the population struggling with fear and uncertainty related to their own health or the health of a loved one, there are also major concerns related to employment and finances. The social isolation that comes from public health measures such as quarantining and physical distancing also remain a constant concern for both adults and children.
Even in situations where employment is secure, the pace of change in the workplace is “off the charts” and many leaders and team members are feeling the pressure to perform, to keep up, and to continue to adapt without missing a beat.
With this in mind, I encourage all leaders to ramp up their “Check In” activity as it relates to their team and their team’s mental health. What do I mean? Checking In is the process of connecting one-on-one with each team member to see how they are really doing. This amounts to more than a quick “how’s it going” but rather a sequence of questions that probe into a team member’s operating state. It is also really important to this process that you ensure you have enough time to dedicate to each call because sometimes this step unearths an important conversation that may take longer than you anticipated.
Your conversation could go something like this:
“I’d like to take a few minutes with you today to check in and see how you are doing both personally and professionally.
How are you dealing with everything that is on your plate? How are things going at home for you?
How are you handling the changes we have been experiencing/leading?
Is there anything you are struggling with or overly concerned about?
What are you doing to support yourself through this?
How is your team holding up? Do you have any concerns?
Do you have all the resources you need? Do you need more support from me/is there anything that I can be doing better to assist you?
You are very important to the team and I appreciate everything you are doing. Know you can come to me with anything at anytime, we all need to support each other to get through this.”
If you or another colleague suspects someone on the team is exhibiting signs of mental stress, then you will want to have a plan to get them the support that they need. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you speak to them:
- Make sure you are prepared
- Choose the right time and setting
- Start the conversation in an open way
- Be specific about what has made you feel concerned
- Let them know that you are listening
- Listen without judgement
- Direct them to a mental health professional/immediate support as needed
Besides the mental health benefits of checking in, there are many other advantages of this practice. It can strengthen your personal relationships with your team; build greater trust; reinforce company values; and solidify commitment to shared company purpose. In addition to check-ins with your team, there are other ways you can support your team in challenging times. Encourage them to take mini breaks in their day and do something that inspires them; support company programs for physical fitness; create a community and continue to have social/fun events to keep relationships strong.
The benefits of staying in tune and staying in touch are overwhelming. Recommit to this practice – you won’t be sorry. Reach out to me if this is an area you would like to explore further.