“Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break” (William Shakespeare)

The world in which we live is hurting currently – not only are there tensions between factions, conflict between other groups and even nations; not only are there real concerns about global warming, pollution of the planet and climate change; not only are there reports of devastating flooding, hurricanes and other natural disasters; not only is there the battle of containing and conquering the corona virus pandemic that is threatening the lives and livelihoods of so many, but there is also the growing concern about the impact of these problems on the mental health and emotional wellness of so many. All the above and many more issues have resulted in the displacement of people and the disruption of life as it used to be lived. People need to talk through their hurts and pain, but this only seems to be occurring sporadically at best. Most are left to fend for themselves and make the most out of what they have left.

Businesses and other organisations have a responsibility to care for those who work for them or who are affiliated to them. Leaders need to offer times of meaningful engagement around issues of well-being and health to offer hope and enhance resilience. Alinda, Nortje, Founder and CEO of Free To Grow, notes the following: “Employee well-being and employee engagement are both critical to individual and organisational performance. These two are closely interlinked, like two trees intertwined. When one is damaged, the other also suffers”.

Just taking the corona virus as an example of an issue that causes intense anxiety, psychologists have described it as an emotional tsunami – the huge impact that prolonged anxiety, fatigue and uncertainty caused by COVID-19 have on employee well-being. In fact, the latest research on the well-being of adults worldwide includes the following findings:

  • Up to 37% of adults show signs of psychological distress
  • Up to 45% of adults feel adverse effects on mental health
  • 25% of USA adult citizens reported feeling a lot of sadness the previous day
  • Up to 70% of adults feel that this period is the most stressful of their careers
  • 25% of young adults recently considered taking their own lives

Sources: World Economic Forum, Gallup, Centres of Disease Control

It is inevitable that this negative impact on employee well-being ripples through to and impedes individual work performance, motivation and engagement. The impact of this is enormous when organisations are already under huge pressure to recover from the economic pressure of 2020 and need to tap into the talent and contribution of all their people. Leaders should thus:

  1. Provide forums to debrief hurt – give employees the opportunity to talk through the pain that they are feeling and allow them to express their fears. This display of care enables employees to face hurt and take the first steps towards healing.
  2. Encourage involvement and participation – working together on projects, being part of decision-making and idea generation and being given responsibility for certain tasks give employees a sense of belonging and stimulates ownership.
  3. Provide professional help for those struggling with anxiety or depression – a professional has the expertise and experience to help employees tackle the very specific thoughts, feelings and challenges in their lives. They are able to provide staff with specific tools that they can use to change their thinking processes and find hope once more.
  4. Listen frequently – being truly present on the shop floor (not emotionally distant) gives employees a sense that their leader is alongside them during tough times. Don’t only hear what is said, but listen for what is not being said.
  5. Be a source of hope for others – even though you might be struggling, you have the power to bring hope to other people by giving of your time and energy to their needs. This might mean helping out in their respective communities or performing acts of kindness and generosity to them.

Hope is so needed for those who are hurting … and there are many that are in pain. The challenges that they face may seem insurmountable and their respective lives may seem drained of colour and vibrancy. This is indeed the moment for those in leadership positions to express care and extend hope to all employees.

Free To Grow offers the workshop, Staying Strong, as a tool to build employees’ emotional fitness – resilience, optimism, ownership and flexibility – enabling them to persevere through tough times. When employees acquire the mindset and skills to break through instead of break down, they can direct their focus and energy towards meeting the needs of their organisation and the demands of their work. Experiencing “Staying Strong” together also creates a much-needed opportunity for connection and deeper conversations in teams. For more information, contact me on jonathan@ftgsa.co.za or view on https://freetogrow.com/covid-19-offerings/staying-strong/

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