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How to lead in the time of COVID-19

It’s a stressful time for all New Zealanders. Your team may need extra mental health support during this time. Let them know you are here for them, and that support is available.

Positive and effective leadership is about acting decisively, showing empathy, awareness and compassion, and providing honest and regular communication.

In an uncertain, fast-moving situation such as COVID-19 this means being there for your team. It’s important that workplaces are proactive in supporting employees with their mental health right now.

You can still be a connected leader

If you’re concerned someone in your team isn’t coping, then check in on them. Be aware that even employees who are normally very resilient could be struggling with their mental health for the first time. Others may be struggling more than usual right now.

Some tips for keeping up connections when remote working include:

  • Communicate clearly, authentically and often. Check in regularly with your team members, both to see how they are feeling, as well as what they are working on.
  • Encourage a good work-life balance. Ensure your team know it’s important to work set hours, take regular breaks away from their desk and prioritise self-care. Role model this, too.
  • Remind staff of support mechanisms available. These include counselling via Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) and the “1737 Need to Talk?” service, financial support options, policies around leave and support through unions.
  • Be kind. Everyone needs extra understanding at this time. Thank team members for their work and encourage them to be supportive of colleagues, too.

Working remotely?

Encourage those working from home to set up a productive working environment. Working Well at Home offers good guidance about how to set up a safe and effective home office

Make sure everyone knows how to use any necessary digital technologies and that they have the right equipment.

Think about your teams’ workload. Consider reasonable adjustments that could be made to help anyone who is struggling. This might include changing work hours or providing flexible working.

Self-care for managers is important too

COVID-19 is a new situation for everyone. Managing staff or running your own business during the COVID-19 pandemic is challenging. You don’t need to be super-human and, when circumstances are ever-evolving, it’s never a sign of weakness when you don’t know everything.

In the end it is best to be authentic and honest with your staff – assure them you’ll provide more information when you have it.  Remember to ask for help and support – from other managers, friends, colleagues, mentors – when you need it.

There are good suggestions on how to keep up your wellbeing and stay connected during COVID-19 on depression.org.nz. Remember that it’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed or uncertain during this time.

As a workplace leader, it’s important to support your own mental wellbeing, too.

Follow our tips on ways you can protect your mental health.

Business.govt.nz explains how to spot warning signs in yourself.

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