Post-COVID-19 decompression — do we get it?

By Phillip Cooke

Here we are again, another lockdown and all its attendant stresses; this time it’s underpinned by an even more scary level of contagion and hospitalisations. On the back of a ‘thin’ Christmas, that for many was a limited chance to socialise and really let off steam at the end of another hard-working year.

For millions, the working day means isolation in a small room, with the ‘constant companion’ of the laptop and wall-to-wall meetings. For many of those there is the added burden of trying to work whilst home-educating children, or at least trying to keep them occupied. And what about those still on a seemingly never-ending, and anxiety-ridden, furlough? Add to this the normal pressures of work: meeting deadlines and targets, managing people from afar, doing the normal ‘do’. As you read this you will identify with at least one of these situations and may be wondering where the pressure release valve is in your life.

For those whose work cannot be done at home — essential workers, construction site personnel and supermarket people — the pressures are even greater. They are literally in the front line, with the voracious, unseen and undiscriminating enemy being the biology of COVID-19. How are they, and their worried families back home, feeling and thinking, and what is this doing to their wellbeing?

This is a challenge, one that calls for leaders to be constantly vigilant and caring with all their direct reports. How are they doing; what pressures, beyond work issues, are they under? Never has the need for managers and leaders to simply ask “how are you doing?”, and then to really listen, been greater. For those front-line operatives who just keep going, how well is the organisation giving them chance to decompress, take time out to chill and regain a sense of perspective, as well as topping up their physical and emotional batteries? We could learn from the military on this one: it is standard procedure for troops at the end of operational tours to be given R&R, decompression time, before returning to their families and then the workplace.

COVID-19 has placed most people in a warzone since the arrival of the new variant and they are getting on with it. But how well are they really coping? Only the best social leadership practice will know and give everyone the chance to maximise a true sense of wellbeing.