We are now faced with the possibility of returning to the outside world of work. This will be a big emotional shift after a year of locking in our homes. As we return to work, we need to take our mental health and our colleagues very seriously in order to be able to “build better.” Many warn of a mental health crisis looming in the workplace (the Mental Health Center model suggests that up to 20% of the population will need new or more mental health support. Other estimates in younger cohorts suggest that 40% may suffer from excessive stress or real an expert on how our brain responds to change will make it easier to manage mental health in the new work world.
Read on to find out what’s going on and how to help. COVID 19 had an impact on the brain and nervous system of each of us.
This invisible danger will literally change our minds. One of the primary tasks of our brain is protection from threats. Another major driver of our brain is to keep us close to other people, especially those we care about. The virus has brought these two things into direct conflict and it really upsets our nervous system.
Many will desperately enter the office and reconnect with colleagues and friends. Others will be genuinely afraid to do just that. So we are bound to experience a really mixed bag of reactions as we venture out again. I predict that many people will be surprised by their own reactions, because we will not yet know (we have never been in this situation before) how our own brains will react when we get back there.
Here are two basic basics of the brain that can help you: first, expect the unexpected, our brain is wired to react emotionally three times faster than we can understand the reaction – feelings always happen first. Second, it has been proven that the tried and tested brain model below helps yourself and your co-workers go back and find new ways to progress:
Connect: Take the time to really hear how people feel. Some will be in the room, some will not. Don’t allow a two-tier workforce to develop (those who return physically and those who won’t / can’t) Two-tier is dangerous and risks reducing both welfare and productivity.
Compassion: Basically, just be kind. It’s easy to end up judging other people because they go back to work differently than you do. Treat everyone with compassion and look for ways to help people. If ‘anyone can reach him’ and co-workers can create a supportive community, people will feel safer faster. All mental health problems will also be resolved quickly. Sometimes friends and colleagues may notice difficulties first. Remember, when you find it difficult, they seek help.
Curiosity: We don’t have a plan to go back to work – so we’ll create this one together. This is actually quite exciting. Really involve everyone’s views in how to create new ways of working. There will be a really great idea and maybe with the least expected places. Gene Z will have a completely different view from the older generations.
Control: Let everyone really have time to tell them what they think about the future path. Give each person control over sharing their thoughts. Involving all your brains in the business in creating advanced results will keep your business current. Work patterns are changing. Stay modern.
Mental health issues. A brain that feels safe, seen, and connected is much more productive than one that does not feel. Whether you love them or hate them for their recent interview, Meghan and Harry have rightly talked so openly about mental health issues. Mental health is a normal everyday part of the human being. Jobs after COVID can help all of our brains ‘build better’.
Kate Lanz is a neuropsychologist, counselor, and author of “All Brains at Work” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020). She was the first wife of the CEO of Diage.