If you answered, ‘yes’ to more than one of the aforementioned questions, you may well be suffering from what I call the ‘slug effect’. Let me explain.
Pre-Covid life saw many of us working to have a life, a life that included: time with family and friends in person wherever they were; holidays to destinations other than our own backyards – intra/interstate or international; change was occurring at quite a pace, largely brought on by technological advances along with societal movements and opportunities for growth. We were fairly well equipped to relate to lives as they were back then.
Then Covid-19 hits, in Australia for the majority, it shook our lives up from the end of March 2020 and the severest impacts lasted well over 18 months. Initially we watched and listened to the media and our politicians continually keep us up to date with the trail of illness, death and indeed destruction that Covid-19 wrought. Some of us worked, some of us didn’t, the term ‘work-life balance’ became virtually obsolete.
Lockdowns, stand downs, work from home, videoconferencing (shortened to ZOOM or Teams meetings), mandatory masks, QR codes, Pfizer and AstraZeneca, the ‘new normal’ all became part of our vocabulary in a very short space of time.
Everyone had to become agile-minded to be able to cope with the constant changes that Covid-19 forced upon us. Workwise, those in leadership and management roles were at the forefront of this; those in Covid-19 frontline industries even more so. It wasn’t a case of research, engagement, planning, development implementation and review – it was a case of act now | regroup later to address the ever-changing situations that have come with Covid.
Work or outside of work (i.e., any other facet of our lives), things were reduced to forced choice situations – adapt quickly to the changing circumstances or don’t. At the height of the pandemic there was little time to process or digest information. Things appeared to be right or wrong, black or white – very little area if any for grey.
Now, in November 2021 we seem to be coming to terms with Covid-19. From governments, to organisations, to companies and communities to households we are now better informed, we know more about what we are dealing with and how to approach the challenges Covid-19 presents. We have more time to process and digest information. There is more structure around decision making and implementation of associated actions and responsibilities.
Yet the strain of the past 18 months has taken its toll. We’re exhausted. The mental, emotional, and physical toll of Covid-19 has left us drained. The brain is a formidable muscle and for the course of Covid-19 it has run a number of marathons to say the least!
Somehow, we haven’t yet found our North Star for the ‘new normal’, and this is leaving us with too many questions about where to from here? These are slowly being answered. Think of the workplace for example – remote workers/working from home are now far more accepted with solid supporting policies, there are now vaccination policies for many organisations, workers are planning holidays or requesting leave to see family and friends, meaningful dialogue is taking place in a large number of organisations big and small around diversity and inclusion.
Yet for many – especially those as mentioned in leadership and management roles – the mindset has to be switched quickly from a ‘let’s get through this’ drive to ‘regroup and refocus’ and thrive mindset.
There are still unique challenges that Covid-19 is throwing up and these must be dealt with all whilst regrouping workforces to focus on recovering from the impact of Covid-19 (mental, physical, emotional, financial, organisational) and providing direction on what the future of an organisation’s work, workplace and importantly workforce will look like. In essence leaders and managers of today have to deal with the lag results of Covid-19 whilst implementing lead measures for a future post Covid-19, all whilst coming off the adrenaline rush that the initial impact of the pandemic of our lifetime created.
No wonder we’re exhausted!
No longer spinning frantically on the pre Covid-19 hamster wheel of work, many have slowed down their pace mentally and as well as physically whilst still having to remain on the wheel of work. Added to this, in previous times, many of us would be less willing to share how we’re faring mentally and physically (in any given environment), but now we’re willing to be a little more vulnerable, more willing to tell others how we’re feeling, more open to seeking and receiving support. So, we may be feeling like we’re operating at a snail’s pace, but without that protective shell to crawl into – we are now experiencing the ‘Slug Effect’.
Definition of the ‘Slug Effect’
No to low energy, no to low motivation – whilst having to face constant changes and challenges. The adrenaline rush of the initial onslaught of Covid-19 has passed. Now, despite these constant changes and challenges, it feels like Groundhog Day. Fatigue is taking hold – emotionally, mentally, and physically. The protective shell of the past has been lifted. Remain attentive as burn out is nigh.
Here are some tips to help:
· #1 don’t be too hard on yourself, many of us are feeling the same way, suffering the same effects.
· Things are cyclical, this time will pass.
· Physical activity is great – even the smallest activity can be slowly built on.
· Be open to sharing how you are faring, be receptive to learning how others are doing, how are they managing?
· Ask yourself are there specific areas of my work | my workspace | my organisation that are more energising to me than others? Try and define what they are, can any aspects of these areas be translated across to other areas? Record your responses and talk through with your manager.
· Ask yourself are there specific areas of my work | my workspace | my organisation that are draining for me? Try and define what they are. Consider ways that you may be able to improve on these. A great way to do this is to do a 3 Option method. Option 1: you have unlimited resources to approach and resolve the issue(s); Option 2: you have limited resources to approach and resolve the issue(s); Option 3: you no resources, only yourself to approach and resolve the issue(s). Record your responses and talk through with your manager. Noting: resources can be: monetary, people, systems, hardware or software, etc.
· Reach out for support and guidance – whether it be your manager or mentor, colleague, family member, friend, doctor, or a support organisation such as Lifeline or Beyond Blue or your EAP if you access.
· Plan a get-away for the near future. Whether it is a short or long holiday or even a weekend away, make the time off work count by not spending it at home. If you can afford to travel outside your town/city and are ok/comfortable to do so, then great. If your budget is tight, you can still maximise your time away from work by doing things locally that you haven’t done before. The more you can do outside and away from your home the better. Changes of scenery of more than 3 hours duration are optimum, especially if spent outdoors or seeing/experiencing new things.
Leaders | Managers
All of the above are applicable for you as an individual, here are a few additional tips given the extra responsibilities of your role:
· When it comes to sharing with the team you are managing – it’s ok to share if there is context and the timing is right.
For example, if you are having a particularly sluggish day and you are sensing the team, or an individual team member is wanting more from you – reassure them X or Y will happen or be achieved but let them know you’re pace or energy levels at this time aren’t optimum. It’s not a good idea to ‘overshare’ or talk over a team member when they are sharing with you.
· Encourage mini-physical breaks with your team, where you all get involved. For example: a 15-minute power walk (around a room or building), to team ping-pong challenges (if you have a table great! otherwise you could improvise), following a YouTube tutorial on stretches at work, or get your team to come up with ideas. Noting: any of these example activities can have your remote workers dial in to join.
· Ensure your lines of communication (upward, lateral, external and with your team) are open.
· Eyes peeled, ears open for indications of a team member’s energy or motivation levels dropping -let them know you’re there to support them and prepare a ‘3 Option’ scenario just in case. For example: Option 1: nothing major, easily remedied | Option 2: matter of potential concern – yet hopeful of straightforward turnaround, conversation plan created and list of support mechanisms at the ready, time for discussion chosen wisely, etc. | Option 3: serious concern – team member may be at burnout or exit point, everything at a more accelerated pace – list of support mechanisms or contacted earlier for advice, conversation plan created, time and space chosen wisely (this is true of all but especially with Option 3).
· Review workflows with your team’s input within your area of responsibilities – i.e., for all work areas/roles/team members (including self). There could be improvements or adjustments to be made based on how processes changed or didn’t change during Covid maximum time. This is especially so for hybrid or remote roles. You need to have your whole team’s input – this can be quite the undertaking, yet the benefits far outweigh the negatives. Be sure to capture inter-departmental or inter-divisional processes and share results with internal stakeholders.
· Review leave data for you and your team. Use that data to determine who is overdue for leave, who is due for leave and compare with who needs leave. Work on a plan to cover leave and use the 3 Option method to plan for those discussions around leave that you believe may be difficult. You can even use the 3 Option method on yourself if you are procrastinating about taking leave. Noting: 1. watch for excess of leave build-up.
Here are a few suggestions if you are looking for further information:
Organisations | Support
· Beyond Blue: https://coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au/
· Unmind: https: https://unmind.com/
· AHRI – Australian HR Institute: https://www.ahri.com.au
· AICD - Australian Institute of Company Directors: https://aicd.companydirectors.com.au/resources/covid-19
· 7 strategies to improve your employees’ health and wellbeing: https://hbr.org/2021/10/7-strategies-to-improve-your-employees-health-and-well-being
· How managers can support worker mental health: https://www.comcare.gov.au/safe-healthy-work/mentally-healthy-workplaces/how-managers-can-support-worker-mental-health-and-wellbeing
· How to lead when managing competing priorities: https://www.managers.org.uk/knowledge-and-insights/article/how-to-lead-when-managing-competing-priorities/
· Covid-19 Impact on Culture Report - AHRI: https://www.ahri.com.au/resources/ahri-research/covid-19-s-impact-on-culture-report/
· The Four Greatest Coaching Conversations: Change Mindsets, Shift Attitudes, and Achieve Extraordinary Results | Jerry Connor and Karim Hirani | ISBN-10 1529391067
· Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones | James Clear | ISBN-10 0735211299
· The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life | Mark Manson | ISBN-10 0062457713
· Employee Experience: Develop a Happy, Productive and Supported Workforce for Exceptional Individual and Business Performance | Ben Whitter | ISBN-10 0749491728
· Simple exercises you can do at your desk |E!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJuVkOhD4_0
· How to fix head posture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6C-wfV27bzI
· 15 Minute Low Impact Cardio Workout: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyCBKQtgYoA
· 5 things to make your mornings better: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PyhXlHDkNI
· Note: there are lots of great videos on YouTube and TikTok – from physical activities to music and relaxation to leadership, management and more.
· The 5AM Miracle Podcast with Jeff Sanders
· The Mindset Mentor
· Feel Better, Live More with Dr Rangan Chatterjee
· All in the Mind
· The Calmer You Podcast
• Feeling ‘meh’, flat or beige?
• Plodding along, getting by, not as productive or energised as you believe you could be?
• Finding things seem to be taking longer, or you seem to be doing more for less output, has your sense of time at work shifted in the past 18 months?