Maintaining resilience while working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented challenge for everyone. Just as doctors and medical professionals have been working tirelessly to make a vaccine, psychologists have been working hard to make sure that we all stay sane and mentally healthy. That is why OutLeadersip member firm, RBC Capital Markets hosted psychologist Rob Archer and RBC’s very own, Christopher Louney and Megan Schippmann on a discussion on how to maintain resilience while working from home.
Chris and Megan start it up by expressing their struggles about working from home. Chris explains that learning how to be a leader during a crisis all the while through a computer screen was a huge challenge. Megan explains that she had a very close knit team and not being able to work with everyone face to face was also another challenge. The isolation and the battle between trying to be physically alone but mentally connected plagued both Chris and Megan.
Stages of Crisis:
To help work-from-homers understand their brains psychological response to the pandemic, Rob broke down the “stages of crisis” we experienced and are still experiencing.
Stage 1: Humans will go through a pattern of psychological responses.
Active stress: high emotions, high adrenaline. People become highly focused and get a lot done. The negative is that this adrenaline makes sleep more difficult.
Stage 2: Chronic stress : fatigue, more mistakes are made. Mood in this stage starts to dip, sometimes depression symptoms arise.
Usually during stage two a thing called “post traumatic growth” happens. People become stronger because they survived the crisis. People also are able to reevaluate and reconnect to their values during this time.
Rob breaks down the three main needs in each state:
- Clarity ( hard to think clearly under stress)
- Control ( high stress but gives people a sense of control, people become more proactive)
- Compassion ( self compassion, people can be hard on themselves)
- Honesty ( we need to be honest with ourselves and others about what is and what isn’t working)
- Humanity ( Being in isolation is hard, it is important to tune into your own human needs. Leaders need to make sure they express their own humanity to their team)
- Hope (incredibly powerful. We can deal with high levels of stress if we have hope. Due to being so powerful it is important for us and especially leaders to not create false hope. Realistic hope at the right time can help promote post traumatic growth.
— Rob Archer (@RobACareerPsych) June 25, 2020
Tools and Techniques:
Chris opens up about how he is combating isolation and the trauma caused by the pandemic. He explains that his days started to blend together so he made sure to throughout the day keep track of the time and ask himself the question, “what time is it? What should I be doing right now?” This allowed him to easily separate his work hours from his non-work hours which helped manage his stress levels as well as his battle with isolation.
Following Chris’s input, Rob explains some tools and techniques physically and emotionally that he recommends to stay resilient while working from home.
- Create conditions to think clearly.
- Reduce the time horizon. (focus on one thing at a time)
- Control the controllables (label what you can and cant control and only focus on factors that you are able to control)
- Keep a routine (give yourself time to recover)
- Identity your own work psychology (prepare for the day, work in short bursts during your peak productivity hours, give yourself time to recover, have a warm down routine)
- Be compassionate towards others: (practice assuming positive intent, give words for thanks and affirmation, when stressed give your brain a break ie. draft and walk away from that email)
- Self compassion: (Focus on self care. Remember that your difficult emotions means that that point of contention matters to you)
- Give advice to yourself as you would another person. (We are usually more compassionate to others than ourselves)
- Ask yourself questions (what is it that you need to do today to be at your best? What are you struggling with and what do you need to attend to? Where are the opportunities and growth post COVID-19? What personal strengths are being revealed by this situation? In 12 months what will you feel most proud of when thinking back on this time?