Since the pandemic, life has changed dramatically. So how do we emerge with empathy from the endless lockdowns? What will be the new norm, and what can you do to take control?
I recently read an article by Adam Grant around “languishing”. Published in the New York Times, it really resonated. I wasn’t burnt out. I wasn’t depressed. I just felt somewhat joyless and directionless due to the uncertainty and the changes forced upon me.
Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.
The Emotional Long Haul
Many people are struggling with the emotional long-haul of the pandemic for different reasons. In my case, it’s the lack of choice with a new set of rules that dramatically restricted my options. I understand that they’re needed, and I want to take responsibility and do my part. Nevertheless, I feel like I’ve been languishing, and I need to know that I can – and will – bounce back.
Chatting to friends and colleagues, I’ve found that others miss certainty. To plan for that face-to-face encounter with family, friends, work colleagues or your special communities and know that event will happen gives us a greater sense of calm. In addition, many people have lost their social confidence because of hibernation and reduced day-to-day interactions.
The Impact of Screen Time
On top of all that, many of us now spend long stretches of time in online meetings. In a recent webinar, Misha Byrne, Partner at NeuroPower Group, highlighted that the prolonged time on zoom and other virtual platforms reduces the blood flow to the part of the brain that plays to our empathy. Spending all day without physically moving to the next meeting, grabbing a coffee and chatting to colleagues means we aren’t giving our brains a chance to rebalance the blood flow. And in the virtual world, if we can’t read our colleagues’ body language, we don’t really know what they are thinking and how engaged they are. It’s anxiety-provoking, and as a result, the body is in that learned fight or flight status. It’s draining!
There is much psychological and neuroscientific research that goes far deeper than my raw interpretation. However, understanding that we have minimised our empathetic feelings, lost our sense of confidence and calmness and are trapped in a fight or flight mode helps me comprehend the lethargy that many of us are currently feeling.
Don’t beat yourself up if you are one of many who are feeling this way. Your only choice is to approach the next chapter with an open and empathetic mindset.
For all of us, there will be lessons learned from the challenges of the past 18 months. There will be those activities that we will embrace and those that we can’t wait to ditch. As a result, our future will likely be a hybrid of the past and present, forming our own “new normal”.
And for leaders, it’s now more important than ever to listen, connect and care about your people if you are to transition together and shape what success looks like in a brighter and different future.
Where do you start?
Have conversations to find out what people need most, right now, individually and collectively. Try asking specific questions to stimulate conversation that would likely not happen on its own.
Built around the 6 pillars of collaboration, the Leadership @ Work Conversation Cards are an easy to follow tool you can implement in the workplace to spark discussions.