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As Britain starts to emerge from the pandemic, its business leaders are facing a new challenge – one that has already become evident to CEOs who have carried out their internal scanning processes and detected hugely worrying levels of employee fatigue within their organisations.

Whilst a recent Consumer Sentiment Survey from Price Waterhouse Cooper[i] gives us insight into a macro-environment displaying evidence of a potential major uplift in the economy, driven largely by a new and hitherto unknown optimism amongst over 65s in particular, the truth is that many organisations are not currently equipped to ride this wave and ‘bounce back’, in the way we might normally expect after a recession.

The pandemic has drained us all, both psychologically and emotionally. Concerns about employee video conferencing fatigue have already been shown by organisations such as HSBC and Citigroup, who have both introduced Zoom-free Fridays.[ii]  What is more telling, however, is that Citigroup’s new chief executive, Jane Fraser, has scheduled a company-wide holiday for the end of May, talking of the “need for a reset.”  In a memo, she is said to have stated of how the “blurring of lines between home and work and the relentlessness of the pandemic working day have taken a toll on our well-being.”

This is an inspiring example of what leaders now need to do.   Listening to employees and picking up on symptoms of fatigue, burnout and mental health strains is vital.  Managing the energy of a workforce has never been more imperative.  Leaders must recharge themselves and then reboot their organisations, following what McKinsey has described as an “epidemic of stress”, not just caused by Covid-19 but also by automation, technical innovation, business model disruption and societal inequality.

Showing empathy and compassion for employee wellbeing will become the defining trait of strong leadership and of those seeking to equip organisations for enhanced productivity.  As far back as 2014, we were told the future of organisations was ‘teal’ and soulful, with Frederic Laloux advocating that leaders view an organisation as a living entity, with its own energy and driven by self-management and human collaboration.[iii]  In other management theories, the human element has similarly grown in stature and importance to the success of modern businesses.  But if an organisation’s human core is burnt out, how can it move forward?

Focusing on boosting the energy of employees is the first step for organisations to take, as we enter what is hopefully a strong post-pandemic economic era.  Wellbeing is a proven cornerstone of profitability and productivity.  Those organisations which invest in the wellbeing and energy of their people achieve profits that are four times higher than those that do no and they also experience 20%, or higher, gains in productivity.[iv]

To succeed, we at Space2BE believe CEOs and leaders must firstly learn the art of what McKinsey talks of as Bounded Optimism – leading with positivity that has a strong thread of reality running through it, in true Stockdale Paradox style.  They must focus on not what has occurred, but what is to come, communicating how the organisation will be a better one because of what it has been through.

Our Space2BE team also advocates that leaders upskill in adaptability and resilience, having firstly ensured they are mentally and physically equipped to do so, by taking sufficient time out to work on their own wellbeing and energy levels.   Recharging in ‘retreat’ style, even if at home and not in a remote shepherd’s hut, may be essential for many.   We predict that leadership mindfulness will be a powerful force going forwards.

Creating the same additional time for employees to be out of the business – on a paid basis where possible – will also be imperative.  Intentionally communicating the need for employees to recharge is vital and showing that the organisation cares about wellbeing is likely to become a major factor in talent retention.

Some leaders are already reimagining their workplace, stripping out meaningless tasks that have no value but which drain energy, having carried out internal, micro-environment audits that are driven by wellbeing concerns and the desire to build back better.

They are also instituting means to ‘listen’ to employees more effectively, introducing various strategies that increase the opportunities for the detection of mental health issues.  They are hard-wiring wellbeing into their organisational day.  They are showing leadership vulnerability, so as to demonstrate to employees that it is perfectly normal to not feel OK.  They are openly demonstrating that talking about feelings and stress really matters and should be an integral part of teamplay in the years ahead.  Devising psychologically safe workplaces is likely to be the best strategy for businesses wishing to realise ambitious plans.

Any organisation striving for success should now recognise that its human capital is its most vital resource and that wellbeing is the anecdote to the energy drain.

Having carried out our own external audit, to analyse the new challenges for organisations, we have combined course elements and developed new approaches to our positivity and wellbeing-focused training and consultancy.  With these, the Space2BE team is confident that we can help create a new generation leaders, who have learned how to empathise, whilst exuding all-important intentional positivity within a bounded optimism framework.  These new solutions are already demonstrating their relevance and value.

If you require similar assistance with recharging energy within your organisation and leadership teams, please get in touch with us, by calling 0208 720 6991.