THE COVID HANGOVER – DON’T WAIT UNTIL IT’S TOO LATE TO ACT

You’re probably fed up of hearing about Covid. I know I am. And yet, it’s a big mistake to ignore the longer-term effects of Covid on your leaders, your workforce and your organisation. 

At Meta we’re seeing more and more people in our network suffering from the effects of what we’ve termed the ‘Covid Hangover’. So, we wanted to use this month’s blog to talk about what you can do to help mitigate the longer-term effects of that ‘hangover’ on your people and your organisation. 

It’s important to state here that it’s not too late! However, we’d urge you to not wait much longer before you start investing time and yes, resources, to ensure that you, your team, your organisation and your people don’t end up suffering from one almighty ‘Covid Hangover’.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a real game changer in the world of work. Now, more than ever, we need our leaders and our staff to be performing at their best, to deliver organisational Covid recovery business plans, but, after 18 months of the pandemic (supporting their organisations), the simple fact is that most of us have run out of energy. We’re working such long hours, working harder than ever before (this is borne out of the data in research conducted on working hours since the pandemic began), and almost every person we have talked to in the Meta network over the last few months is tired (at best), running on empty (most of the time), exhausted (more times than not) and, in the worst cases, close to burnout. 

That’s a concern to us, because we genuinely care about you! We also know that, with a small amount of help, support and development, you can prevent the worst-case scenarios, and get you and your organisation into a good place – ready for the next chapter of working in a post-Covid world. 

Organisational resilience is a serious risk to every business right now, perhaps the greatest risk – and your organisational resilience (the ability to bounce back and recover post-Covid) is absolutely dependent on your people’s resilience (their ability to bounce back and recover themselves post-Covid). 

As you know, at Meta we love etymology (the root meanings of words, what they originally meant).

The word ‘ORGANISATION’ comes from the same root as ‘organic’ and ‘organism’, it means ‘a whole consisting of inter-dependent parts, a living system’. 

Your organisation (and on a smaller scale your team too) is a ‘living system’. Its success and ability to recover post-Covid is 100% dependent on your people (the ‘living’ part of your system). As it’s an interdependent system, if one area fails (or in the case of the team, more than one person is off longer term, or you experience staff turnover), then unless the rest of the system (or team) can adapt and pick up the work, the system comes crashing down. 

With very little (if any) spare capacity in organisations anymore, as we’ve streamlined our organisations down to the bare minimum of people needed to deliver what needs to be delivered, it is doubly difficult to maintain the balance in the living system that is your organisation. What once was done by ‘two’ is now done by ‘one’ – if that ‘one’ is missing, who picks up the work? 

Then throw in the mix of a hybrid working model, with some people working virtually and some in the office (rarely at the same time), and this means that more and more work pressures are not shared amongst the team (as they were), but rather fall on the individual.

So how on earth do we tackle this? 

Well first of all, we need to start acknowledging that we can’t work how we always used to. We’re working on average four hours longer a week than we did before the pandemic, and the truth is that, although we are working longer and harder than ever before, we’re still not getting everything done (at least not at the level we’d like to get it done). 

We’re working longer hours, and working harder – working through breaks, doing back-to-back (virtual) meetings, re-visiting our laptops and emails in the evenings, and yet, it’s still not enough. 

We need to be working in a smarter way. But what is smarter working? We’ve heard so much about it, but what does it mean in practice? 

Be very clear here, it doesn’t mean using more technology. Having more technology in our organisations has not lessened our workloads. If anything, it’s just led to an expectation that everything should be done, responded to, solved and completed, quicker and faster. It’s just made us go faster and try and do more. 

Smarter working is about understanding HOW WE WORK AT OUR BEST, as individuals, teams and yes, as organisations. It’s about understanding we’re not robots, we’re not machines, we’re humans and, as such, have to manage our performance and our workloads/tasks in a way that matches our natural peaks and dips in an average working day – and matches our own brain’s ability to perform. We need to understand HOW our brain works: how it stores, processes and performs at its best. Then you can instantly improve your own performance and productivity as an individual. 

Then there’s self-management – the bit where we make sure that we’re in the best state possible to do what needs to be done. When we’re flat, when we’re stressed, when we’ve not slept, when we’ve worked through lunch, we’re just not going to perform at our best and so our ability to do what needs to be done suffers. So does the quality of what we do, so does our ability to be creative, to come up with innovative ideas or innovative solutions. An organisation which delivers poor quality, struggles to be creative or innovative, is not an organisation that will thrive in the post- Covid world. 

We need self-management tools that help ensure we get a good night’s sleep, that we understand our own stressors and have ways of reducing the impact of stress on ourselves. We need to understand and work with our human being-ness – really maximise practical ways of improving our performance. 

Then there’s smarter working practices, proven techniques from academic, scientific and real-life smarter working experts, which help you to manage, prioritise, delegate, plan and organise your tasks and workloads so that you can be more efficient. You need to make sure that you’re assigning the most complex tasks to when you naturally perform at your best in the day, and the easier tasks to when you’re not. It’s about carving out the time to do the things that you don’t get time for, but you know are important – this is especially relevant for the leaders reading this. When was the last time you felt you had proper time to reflect, look to the future, think strategically and do more, rather than being reactive? 

We’re so busy, that we struggle to find the headspace or thinking time to look too far into the future, to plan our routes ahead. So, we end up firefighting, putting out fires that we probably could have foreseen and made sure didn’t get started up in the first place – if we’d had the time and space to think. It can feel, as a leader, that it’s nigh on impossible to get everything done, but having worked with many senior leaders and executives over the last five years, I can promise you that with some smarter working tools in your toolkit you’ll be amazed at what a difference it can make. 

But this is not just for leaders, there are so many smarter working tools that can help you, whatever level you work at in your organisation, and now we’re moving to a more self-managed way of working in the hybrid era, we can all benefit from a few smarter working tools in our toolkits and in our working practices. 

Then there’s the problem of capacity – as leaders we need to focus on how our people work going forwards. The likelihood is that, for the foreseeable future, we will not be getting any extra resources while we are in the recovery phase of the Covid journey. So, this means INVESTING in your people, up-skilling the organisation at every level (that you can) to help you through this challenging next phase. 

That future isn’t a long way away. You can start working towards it now – creating a new way of working that works for you and your organisation. The future of work is coming, and in order to make current structures work, there will be a need for a multi-skilled workforce – one that works cross-functionally and has a flexible structure that enables the movement of ‘floating resources’ that can help you maintain the living system (the organisation) and keep it working at a high level no matter what comes your way. 

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. First of all we need to take some preventative measures, to ensure that we don’t experience the worst effects of the ‘Covid Hangover’, as individuals, as leaders, and as organisations. 

The first thing you need to do?

STOP.

Yep, you heard me. You really need to stop and take time out. 

I was working this week (and last) with a senior leadership team in a large metropolitan council. They felt that, even though we were coming out of the Covid tunnel, they were still in ‘emergency mode’. They hadn’t stopped (quite literally in some cases) for 18 months straight. Meta had offered to do a free workshop with them around smarter working practices, and one of the most common pieces of feedback from the leaders was how good it was to stop and take time out for themselves and reconnect together as a leadership team.

It’s not just leadership teams, it’s all teams and all of us. We need to stop, create a little time (in your busy work diary) for reflection. Can you really carry on the way you are working? Or is what you’re doing, and HOW you’re working, unsustainable? Are you finding it really tough to do everything that needs to be done in normal working hours? Are you stressed? Overwhelmed? Run out? Is it affecting your work-life balance? Are you struggling with your sleep? Is it affecting your home life? 

If the answer is YES to any of the above – then please, please PLEASE don’t ignore your own intuition that says something needs to change. 

This is preventative medicine, it’s like taking a glass of water and a paracetamol BEFORE bed when you know you’ve overdone it a bit. It means that in the morning you’re likely to be OK, rather than struggling to function. 

Although I’m using a humorous metaphor here, let’s be clear, there’s nothing humorous about the risk to you as an individual, you as a leader, or to your business that the ‘Covid Hangover’ brings. There’s nothing funny about your leaders’ and staff’s mental and physical health being affected by what is to come – it will seriously affect your business’ ability to function. 

META – WE’RE HERE TO HELP SUPPORT YOU

OK so don’t stop reading, but this is where we do a bit of self-promotion. Why? Because we KNOW that we can help you! Be you an individual, a team leader, a CEO or organisational leader – we can genuinely help and that’s what we’re in business to do.

At Meta we’ve always been on a mission to change the way people work, and support leaders and organisations to do that. 

Most of you will know Meta as a business consultancy. You’d have come across us through a team, leadership or organisational development journey that we’ve done in your organisation, that you’ve been a part of.

What you probably DON’T KNOW about us is that, at Meta, we do a lot of research. We’ve been (for example) researching smarter working practices for over ten years now. We understood, earlier than most, that the way we were working wasn’t sustainable, that we needed to develop a new way of working – so have an extensive library of smarter working resources based on the research we have been using in the organisational work we have been delivering these past ten years. 

You probably also don’t know that, during the last 18 months, we have been working with frontline organisations and developing a programme we have called ‘Your Resilience Toolkit’ (see link to download information at the bottom of this blog) – a programme of workshops that brings together the very latest scientific research and simple-yet-practical tools (from our years of trying and testing out what really works in the busy workplace) that enable anyone who attends to re-build their resilience, combat stress, and work smarter not harder. 

We believe we have something really special here, and we’d really love to share it with you and your team or your organisation. We’ve had amazing feedback from the organisations where we have delivered this programme.

SO HOW CAN META HELP YOU? 

If you are an individual – If you’re reading this and you are struggling, or finding it challenging/overwhelming to do everything which needs to be done, or if you’re worn out, run out, exhausted – then PLEASE get in touch to talk to us about how we can help you develop your own personalised Resilience Toolkit to help you perform at your best (and mitigate the worst of your hangover side-effects!) You might have been on one Meta programme YEARS ago, but it doesn’t matter to us how long ago it was, or whether you’ve stayed in touch – if we can help, we will, so get in touch! 

If you are a team leader – It’s time to do something with your staff. Don’t delay, don’t put it off. Don’t leave it too late before you act. If you’re too busy, if there’s not enough time, then that’s a sure-fire sign that you really DO need to carve out a space to do something with your team. How about arranging a team away-day facilitated by Meta? We could share some of our Resilience Toolkit with you and your team and, together as a team, you can support each other to implement those tools back in the workplace. We’ve done lots of team away-days over the years and we’re really good at them. 

If you are an organisational leader – We invite you to have a conversation with us. It might be that you ask Di or Jo to coach or mentor you as a leader, or do something wider with your leadership team or organisation. It’s so easy, you just drop Jo an email and say “Jo, we’d like to talk about how we help get our organisation through this next stage of the Covid recovery.” Then we have a frank chat to talk through your options. We will always be honest with you, and make sure that what we propose is tailored just for you (and yes, works for your team/organisational budgets too!). We promise you that it will take less time and will cost WAY LESS than you think to do a really effective re-building organisational resilience programme. 

If you are a CEO/leadership team – During this crisis the biggest pressures have fallen on CEOs and their leadership teams. It can be lonely at the top, especially as most leadership teams have been working virtually. It might be that, as a CEO you arrange some coaching or mentoring with Meta, or it might be that you take time out as a leadership team and do some work to reflect and think about how you create the ‘what next’ in your organisational journey. Whatever it is, please do call on us, we’re here to help. We’ve been working with a number of CEOs and senior leadership teams with their Covid recovery plans since the beginning of 2021. We all need to turn the page on Covid: we need to learn what worked, what didn’t work, and create a new way of working. That’s not easy to do with everything else you need to get done. You need to take time out, away from the office, and have some quality facilitated sessions where you really work together as a team to envision and plan your transition strategy to your ‘new normal’ as an organisation. 

The transition out of Covid is an incredibly important period to your business, and we can help you to create an organisational strategy that works best for you and your organisation. 

IN CONCLUSION

We have deliberately made this month’s blog serious, and provocative, because we think this is something that we all need to be talking more about. We HOPE that it’s stimulated your thoughts and made you think a bit differently about your current working experiences. We also hope that you will now see Meta a bit differently and call on us whilst the worst of the ‘Covid Hangover’ is still preventable. We will do what we can to help and support you. 

That’s what Meta’s mission has always been, to support lovely people like you – so don’t delay, don’t wait until it’s too late, just get in touch. The help you need is only just an email or phone call away 

You can contact Jo direct: jo@metapositive.com

Or call: 07976 262352

In peace,

Jo & Di xxx

About Jo Clarkson

Jo Clarkson is the CEO of Meta and a frequent writer of the Meta-Org.com blog.
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