Part II: “We’re In This Together: Mental Health In The Workplace”

Carolyn Maue and Alyson Lyon, The Maue Center

Alyson Lyon, my Maue Center colleague and President of Higher View Coaching, and I recently presented a webinar to FPRA Volusia/Flagler Chapter on “Leading Through Covid-19” as part of their wonderful and informative series. This is Part II of our exploration of the current state of mental health in the workplace and the important steps that organizations and teams can take  Part I can be found here:  https://mauecenter.com/blog/

Alyson: Carolyn, science has shown us that when people feel like they belong to something, like an organization or a team, they have a different experience, whether it’s related to the pandemic or other causes of stress. What role can leaders and their teams play in helping people feel a sense of belonging?

Carolyn:  Teams are the center of where things happen, the engine that drives work getting done and people collaborating to make that happen.  Leaders can inspire their teams to raise the bar and say, “Okay, we will do everything we can to promote health and wellness together as a team.”  There’s a tremendous amount of power in that. We know that when team members are at their best and functioning well, productivity is higher, there’s a greater economic contribution, and absenteeism decreases. Leaders can be deliberate about building team cohesion by acknowledging the team’s accomplishments, encouraging team members to recognize and use strengths in one another,  and problem-solving in focused ways that help people’s esteem go up. Making sure long and short-term goals are clear and understood and reinforcing them through effective team meetings, like team huddles and strategic discussions, are really important. Providing cross-training to team members is also energizing and can help them feel connected to larger goals while learning and increasing their skills.

One of the participants in our webinar conveyed the importance of being  supported by team members:

“it’s been easier for some people to keep going to the office and keep that sense of normalcy. But ever since the pandemic hit, I have worked totally at home with a toddler, so I don’t get a break.  I don’t get a coffee break, I don’t get a lunch break,  I don’t get just a few minutes to chat with a co-worker about something because I’m working,  I have a child, and I’m doing both at the same time. When my team members reach out to me and make me feel included it means so much.”

Alyson: It is important to intentionally build resilience, whether you are helping someone else do that or working on it yourself.  When we can bounce back and recover from something like this pandemic and move forward, we take strength with us to develop coping skills for use during future times of stress and crisis. Carolyn, what did you find in your research of best practices of teams during the pandemic?

Carolyn: We discovered that teams play a major role in keeping mental health and wellness at the forefront by: 1)  providing opportunities for ongoing discussions for ways to stay healthy, like exercise routine apps, healthy recipe exchanges, and suggestions for meditation practices, 2) integrating humor into the work-week, with times for informal gatherings that include stories and jokes, 3) encouraging acts of kindness, like giving compliments and sending thank you notes, 4) virtual socializing and opt-in meetings, where team members can spend time together informally over lunch, happy hour or other designated times during the week, and 5) celebrating special events, like birthdays or special holidays.  Celebration is so important!

Alyson: Carolyn, we know that organizations should build a resilient workplace culture to meet the evolving challenges we face in the future. Since there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, what strategies can organizations use to support people with mental health challenges and diminished well-being?

Carolyn: Organizations can proactively provide ongoing resilience programs and cultivate well-being through wellness strategies. The impact can be meaningful and significant when organizations design a multi-faceted approach addressing mental health, physical health, and support to sustain a steady state of readiness. Together, resilience and well-being provide a buffer that influences positive change through proactive practices, skills, and behaviors.

Wellness strategies promote a better work-life balance. They include mental, social, emotional, and physical support, assuring that employee health benefits provide mental health services and one-on-one individualized support to increase the likelihood of lasting change. Coaching, mentoring, and Employee Assistance Programs all provide support and development.    The Great Places to Work website (https://www.greatplacetowork.com/) has some great ideas, like Employee Resource Groups, which foster cooperation and shared interest.

Leaders can help build resilience in teams and individuals by conveying  that they value one another’s contributions and care about one another’s well-being.

Here’s a wonderful story from a webinar participant:

I had a co-worker when I was working at a theme park, and I thought she was really great. I think about the way she interacted with me personally. Often, she would ask me, “How are you? ” I was the manager on the team, so I would immediately say, “No, how are you.? “And she would stop and say, “I want to know how you really are. Are you okay? I really want to know how you are doing.” I want to emulate that moving forward.

Finally, leaders have the opportunity to role model self-care and resilience for others by adopting these practices for themselves. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a great time to pay attention to this issue and implement some new strategies! For more information: www.mauecenter.com.

 

Part I: “We’re In This Together: Mental Health In The Workplace”

Carolyn Maue and Alyson Lyon

The Maue Center

Alyson Lyon, my Maue Center colleague and President of Higher View Coaching, and I recently presented a webinar to FPRA Volusia/Flagler Chapter on “Leading Through Covid 19” as part of their wonderful and informative series. Together we explored the current state of mental health in the workplace right now and identified action steps leaders could take.

Carolyn: Alyson, why now? What is important about helping organizations stay healthy and addressing mental health in the workplace right now?

Alyson: At a time like this, the organization’s role is to meet people where they are. It might seem like we are all going through the same “storm,” but we are in different boats, and everyone’s circumstances are different.  People need us to remind them that we’re all in this together. As COVID-19 was spreading worldwide, no one could predict the rate of infection, the number of lives we would lose, the impact on the economy, or the long-range detrimental effect on our mental health and well-being.  While we focused on mitigating the spread of the virus, starting with the lockdown and social distancing, another epidemic was taking hold: an epidemic of mental health challenges and declining well-being.

Carolyn: What are some of the conditions in the workplace right now regarding mental health that you think are most important?

Alyson: With US adults reporting their highest stress levels and burnout since the beginning of the pandemic, it is essential to raise the red flag to make mental health and well-being a priority. COVID-19 is having an extraordinary impact on people. Current research shows 88% of people with depressive symptoms (3 times higher than pre-pandemic) and 89% report a decline in workplace well-being. We know that mental health impacts the level of productivity, level of interest or engagement, the ability to concentrate, and the ability to communicate effectively with co-workers. In general, leaders are not equipped with the resources or knowledge of how to handle employee mental health challenges and declining well-being at this magnitude.

Carolyn: What role does burnout play in mental health in the workplace?

Alyson: Recently, the Harvard Business Review published a series of articles on burnout based on the research of Jennifer Moss, Christina Maslach, Susan Jackson, and Michael Leiter. (please see link below. Their research revealed that burnout is a global problem, intensifying overwhelmed and exhausted workers’ mental health challenges. Long before the pandemic, workers were already experiencing high burnout levels caused by several issues, i.e., unsustainable workload, perceived lack of control, and insufficient rewards for effort. In 2019, the World Health Organization included burnout in its International Classification of Diseases, describing it as ” a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from workplace stress that not been successfully managed.” They described it as a problem that needs resolving at the organizational level, beginning with acknowledging that people cannot keep working at unsustainable levels.

At the onset of the pandemic, burnout was fueled by increased workloads, people feeling overextended and general feelings of unfairness or perceived loss of control.  By the fall of 2020, 89% of their respondents reported their work-life was getting worse, and 62% of respondents who were struggling to manage their workloads experience burnout “often” or “extremely often.”

Carolyn: I’d like you to describe resilience and why is it important in relation to mental health and burnout. But first, I have a story!  One of my clients had Covid19, and it swept through her family. Everyone came out of it okay, but by the time she returned to work a month later, two of her staff had left their roles: one due to a serious depression, and the other left to take a less stressful job. It was like a tsunami for her; she could barely keep her head above water. And she continued to be so concerned about her staff and their well-being, even when she herself was not well. I was able to help her step back and concentrate on how she could build her own resilience through self- care, support her team members in doing the same, and having conversations with them about how they could counter-balance the stress with activities that both replenished their energy and prepared them for the ongoing stress.

Alyson:  Resilience is our capacity to overcome, recover and adapt to challenging situations. It is the quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever.  Becoming more resilient not only helps us get through difficult circumstances it also empowers us to grow and improve our life along the way.   Resilience is a source of great hope for many people. When we seek out and offer empathetic support to others by staying connected, we remind people we are all in this together. Like your client who had Covid 19, her resilience was necessary to stay the course, and with a collective resilience, she and her team continue to move forward.

Our capacity for resilience increases through self-care, staying connected to others, learning from the past, and seeking professional help when we have difficulty making progress. With proper amounts of sleep, nutrition, and regular exercise, we strengthen our body to adapt to stress and protect us from mental health symptoms like depression, anxiety, and the stress related to unsustainable workloads and hardship. Resilience lowers burnout.

Carolyn: This is a lot for leaders to manage in addition to the challenges of getting work done and adapting to the new realities of the pandemic. What are some things individual leaders can do right now?

Alyson: One of the challenges with mental health issues in a workplace is sometimes when we see that people are struggling, we just don’t know what to do. A leader’s support makes a difference. Leaders can really be effective by staying connected with co-workers, providing a sense of inclusion, psychological safety, and normalizing what is going on. Leaders can extend empathetic support and keep checking in with people by asking them how they are, how working from home is going, and just providing an opportunity to talk. Finally, leaders will make a difference by role modeling resilience and self-care.

Carolyn: Creating time for people, taking the time to be kind and sensitive, and asking people how they’re doing are so important. In Part II we’ll discuss the steps leaders can take with teams and in organizations to reduce the negative effects of mental health and burn-out, so stay tuned. Here is the link to the HBR articles:

Read article here.

 

The Three Big Things Your Team Needs From You This Year

A theme I am hearing now in my work with leaders is the challenge of leading as we enter the second year of the pandemic – how to keep teams motivated, how to plan for the future, and how to keep people engaged. My colleague Scott Eblin has generously gathered some great wisdom from experts on what your team needs from you right now. I hope you find this helpful!

Read more here

Happy Holidays from The Maue Center

Happy Holidays! It seems somewhat surreal to use that phrase, given everything we are experiencing as a nation and a world. And yet, as we have learned in the past year, multiple realities can be true at the same time. Just as in this photo, taken on a windy September morning, storm clouds hover, yet the sun is glistening on the water, and blue is peaking through on the horizon.

This year, we have experienced the grief and tragedy of sickness, death, and loss, we have watched our country divided and harsh realities of racial disparities be evidenced before our very eyes. Simultaneously, we have witnessed the heroic efforts of our healthcare professionals, first responders, and essential workers.  We have been part of companies, organizations and families that turned on a dime, ramping up technology to stay connected and efficiently continue to deliver services. We have seen the generosity of spirit every day in people caring for one another.

Perhaps you, like I, have had the opportunity to be appreciative of a different pace, providing a bit more time for reading and reflection. I find myself steeped in gratitude– for my health and that of those that I love, for the professions and jobs we could continue during this crisis, for the amazing leaders I watch as they take their teams into uncharted waters, with courage and conviction to keep going forward.

Thank you for your courage, resilience and spirit to keep growing during these challenging times. We wish you a season of peace, reflection and gratitude.

Carolyn Maue and the consultants of The Maue Center

How to Get Ten Hours of Your Week Back

I don’t know about you but when I saw the title of this article by my colleague Scott Eblin, I thought, “Who doesn’t need this????” He tells an all-too-familiar story of a busy executive who is trying to balance day after day of online meetings with family responsibilities. Scott then suggests a great technique for managing her scheduling and reclaiming some time for herself. I hope everybody does this so we all get 10 more hours a week! Enjoy!

Read more here.

The Importance of Strengths

In this week’s episode of the Graceful Confidence podcast, my colleague Lauren Debick, and I discussed how uncovering and using our strengths can help us become more confident, more efficient, and more effective in both the workplace and in our personal lives.  We had a wonderful, lively discussion, and Lauren’s insightful questions kept the conversation moving as we covered the importance of strengths, tools to assess them, the relationship of strengths to confidence, and the impact and opportunities for change as a result of the pandemic. Enjoy!

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Leadership Tips for Communicating in a Crisis: Part II

Grant Heston with Admiral Al Harms (U.S. Navy, Retired), one of Grant’s best mentors and friends.

Welcome to the second of a two-part series in Communicating in a Crisis, with my friend and colleague Grant Heston, the Vice President for Communications and Marketing at Florida Southern College. We are sharing ideas to help you in your leadership during this challenging time.

Carolyn Maue: Grant, tell us a time of when you led through a crisis and how you communicated. What worked? What would you do differently?

Grant Heston: Years ago, the NCAA announced an investigation into the University of Central Florida’s athletics programs. During several months, I developed multiple possible responses and communications, including the dismissal of top athletics leadership.

When the report arrived, it was as bad as we feared. UCF immediately launched its plan and removed athletics leadership, suspended others and reorganized organizational responsibilities and reporting relationships in athletics.

The plan included a detailed timeline, starting at 8 a.m., when affected employees were notified about dismissals and suspensions. The next steps included deactivating email accounts, university credit cards, key access to facilities and securing cars owned by UCF that were used by dismissed employees.

That level of detail allowed us to ensure employees (those leaving and staying) heard the news directly from UCF leadership, rather than through rumors or media. Nothing slipped through the cracks.

When we shared the news with the university community and the public, UCF took full responsibility for what took place and apologized for its actions. Our messaging focused on creating a “Culture of Compliance” in athletics to address what went wrong. We repeatedly used that phrase.

We received national and local kudos for our decisive, well-managed response, which stood in contrast to how other institutions fumbled responding to the NCAA. Our preparation, bold and timely communications also helped UCF quickly hire outstanding new athletics leadership.

We paid close attention to our messages to employees and athletics donors, two key constituencies. But looking back, we could have devoted more time to those groups. This was a tremendous shock to the system, and if doing this again I would build in more outreach and messaging to those groups.

CM: How does a leader be sure that they are reaching different audiences, with different needs, beliefs, etc.?

 GH: The best advice is to meet them where they are.

For instance, at Florida Southern College, we know that on social media, Instagram followers are mostly students, Facebook are parents and Twitter is a mix.

That allows you to tailor messages for those specific audiences. We’re past the one-size-fits-all approach.

As a leader, you also need to 1) ensure your communications teams purposefully seek out stories and feedback from diverse groups and 2) recruit and retain diverse communications employees who help you see multiple perspectives and reach different audiences.

CM: This is an incredibly important time to build new ways of assuring that you as a leader are reaching all of your constituents, and meeting their needs. The awareness that has increased as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement gives us all an opportunity to invite different voices to the table to help us do that.

CM: Grant, what is your “Secret Sauce?” What makes your leadership, and your communication, different and special?

GM: Your question assumes that I have “different and special” leadership and communications skills!

CM: Which I know you do!

In a crisis, I seek out the best, most diverse perspectives I can find. Because I’ve been blessed to have caring mentors and super smart, creative colleagues, I’d be foolish not to listen to them closely. I then combine their advice with my own instincts and develop a plan. Then we execute the plan to the best of our ability. I work hard to be a calm, level-headed voice during a crisis. Being angry, anxious and generally difficult doesn’t do anything to help solve the problem. It makes things worse.

Every leader also needs someone to tell it like it is and ask the hard questions. I’ve done that for multiple university and college presidents. “You don’t pay me to tell you it’s sunny outside when it’s pouring rain,” I’ve said many times.

I highly recommend the book The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath. It applies to crisis management, but also how an institutional culture of transparency, empathy and customer service builds trust and brand loyalty. It’s an eye-opening read.

CM: This last question is one that is close to my heart, and a value that you and I share: What is the role of fun, humor or irreverence during a crisis?

GH: Great question! Humor is essential for leaders and their teams in surviving a crisis.

During a stressful time at UCF, we were preparing for a critically important public meeting. We were working late the night before and the team was clearly tired and anxious. At one point, someone said we needed an inspiring speech. Without thinking, I jumped up on a table and gave a dramatic, over-the-top recreation of one of Hollywood’s most unintentionally cheesy movie speeches. It was ridiculous and embarrassing, but it worked to break the tension and get us through the night and next day.

Years later, people still mention it to me as a leadership moment they remember. I’m just thankful there’s no video …

 CM: I am sure there are many of us who are grateful there is no video of some of our past experiences! We need to remember to keep turning off the camera! Grant, thanks so much for your words of advice and for sharing your wisdom, insights and tips!