By | Dave Ulrich | Speaker, Author, Professor, Thought Partner on HR, Leadership, and Organization
The statistics about emotional health and well-being are daunting.
In July 2020, adults polled reported difficulty sleeping (36 percent), eating (32 percent), increased alcohol consumption or substance use (12 percent), and worsening chronic conditions (12 percent) due to worry and stress over the coronavirus (KFF Health Tracking Poll).
American Psychology Association reported:
- Those with anxiety pre-pandemic ranged between 7.4 to 8.6 percent of the population, while post-pandemic ranged 28.2 to 37.2 percent.
- Those with depression pre-pandemic ranged between 5.9 to 7.5 percent of the population, while post-pandemic was 20.2 to 31.1 percent.
As many as three million people in Britain are believed to be suffering from “post-pandemic stress disorder” (Mark Rayner, senior psychologist in Britain).
In January 2021, 47 percent of employees reported that their stress was higher than anything they’d previously experienced in their careers, and only 37 percent of the total sample agreed that their organization understood what they needed in their personal lives and for their families ( Gartner, Harvard Business Review, March / April 2022).
Loneliness affected 46 percent of the pre-pandemic population! This social isolation has only increased during the pandemic, affecting mental health.
No wonder mental health and emotional well-being are being seen as critical emerging challenges to today’s workforce.
HR professionals, as frontline caregivers, are not immune, with over 40 percent reporting burnout and emotional malaise. How can HR professionals (or any leader) care for themselves so that they can do their work of caring for others?
When I coach or teach business and HR leaders to practice self-care, I start with a simple framework and then suggest specific actions to reduce demands and / or increase resources. Let me use this post to illustrate this coaching process.
Simple Mental Health Framework
I often start coaching with a simple demand / resource framework and diagnostic. Demands represent increased stresses, and resources represent ways to cope with stresses. The goal is to balance demands and resources to maintain equilibrium or well-being. When demands exceed resources, as is common with the challenges today (top left of the chart in figure 1), people experience burnout, emotional malaise, or lack of well-being. When resources exceed demands (bottom right), people experience boredom, apathy, and ennui.
In my coaching, I like to start with listing individuals’ demands: What are the increased demands you are facing on the job or in your personal life? Then we can diagnose solutions by identifying their resources: What resources do you have to cope with those demands? Finally, I like to ask people to put an “X” on the figure 1 chart where they feel they are now. This framework and diagnostic offers a simple language and logic for taking care of oneself: reduce demands and increase resources.
Emotional deficits often occur when demands exceed resources. Some demands are inescapable and have to be managed, but some can be reduced with three tips.
1. Manage expectations.
In today’s business context, you are likely being asked to do more than you have ever done, attending to multiple tasks both inside and outside your comfort zone. Recognize that some (many) of these tasks simply have to be done, but they don’t all have to be done at once or at a world-class level. Satisfice means not everything worth doing is worth doing well; in fact, some things are so important to do they are worth doing poorly at first. Set realistic expectations about what you want most. Define your indicators of success and focus on and excel at those priorities. What are your priorities that will shape your identity and define your success?
2. Get rid of silly work and processes.
How much time do you spend on paperwork, filling out forms, attending meetings, creating processes, promoting policies, or doing reports that do not create value? These bureaucratic mechanisms could be removed, done more efficiently (often with technology), done less often, or done by someone else, all of which reduces demands. This work is sometimes alluring because it can be done relatively quickly and get checked off your to-do list, but it may be keeping you from other more important tasks. What can you do to remove bureaucratic work?
3. Face difficult challenges head-on.
The longer you wait to deal with a difficult challenge (conversation with someone, broken process, etc.), the more difficult it will likely be to repair it. By dealing directly with challenges, they become less demanding even if not fully resolved at once. What is a difficult challenge and how can I make progress now?
Reducing demands alone will not likely be sufficient to stay in balance and take care of yourself. Doing so is like cost-cutting only to improve profitability when profitability also requires revenue growth. Likewise, well-being also requires increasing resources.
4. Manage your body and space.
How are your habits around safety, nutrition, exercise, sleep, meditation, physical space, finances, and daily chores? These basics are often the first to go when stress ratchets up, yet fatigue compromises decision making, undermines confidence and leads to burnout. What physical routines do you most need to add or improve now as a foundation for stamina and positive mood?
5. Surround yourself with friends and relationships who care about you more than your work.
When you experience high demands, turn to your friendship circle. Practice patience, forgiveness, apologies, compassion, listening, and appreciation, and help each other get back on track when you slip. What relationships can help you that you want to strengthen, and what skills would help you do so?
6. Engage in your source of renewal.
Emotional renewal is personal and may include a host of energizing activities (hobbies, nature, music, shopping, reading, time-outs from technology, exercise, meals, travel, prayer, meditation, service, etc.). Take care of yourself by taking time to reenergize in ways that work for you. What can I do today that helps me renew?
7. Learn and then learn some more.
See new demands as opportunities to learn. When things work, figure out why and replicate it: and when things inevitably don’t work, learn to discover how you could respond better in the future. What can I learn from the experiences I have?
8. Determine and live the values that give you meaning.
In an uncertain world of high demands, recognize the values that give you certainty and live those values going forward. Being certain about your values, goals, identity, and sense of purpose helps you care for yourself in any circumstance. What are my core values that remain constant regardless of circumstance? How do I live them day by day?
A primary role of business and HR leaders is caregiving: in order to fulfill that role, business and HR leaders need to begin by creating personal well-being by caring for themselves.
Which of the eight ideas works best for you and / or what would you add?
Republished with permission and originally published at Dave Ulrich’s LinkedIn