Many agency leaders may feel like the rug has been pulled out from under them this past year. 2021 may have started strong with a positive sense of direction, but leaders are now facing a great deal uncertainty as lockdown eases, furlough ends, and the world of work is transformed. Unsurprisingly, these changes can create an enormous amount of stress, particularly for those who have started their own business and invested lots of time and energy in it.
As we move forward and look to reopen offices and adapt to a hybrid model that combines remote and office-based working, it’s vital that leaders take the steps needed to protect their mental wellbeing.
Putting your head down and working harder is a common reaction to stress from leaders, but this response is not sustainable nor healthy. It’s important to have access to a safe support network during times of strain, whether that means a professional coach, a fellow founder or even just a trusted friend.
Employees will often turn to their peers if they are feeling stressed, but leaders don’t always have this option. That‘s not to say that leaders should hide their stress from the team. Sharing your struggles with your employees, as much as you feel comfortable doing so, can help to destigmatise mental health discussions and encourage others to open up too. As a leader, you naturally set the example, so it’s important to create a culture where everyone feels comfortable to share their feelings.
Breaks and boundaries
When you’re at the top, it can be hard to take a step back and to let go, even if it’s just for lunch. But taking regular, meaningful breaks can be a good way to create some boundaries between your work and home life. These breaks might involve spending a bit of time in nature or exercise, for example, and should ideally be screen-free.
Even if you have no place to go, regular holidays can provide you with time away from work, easing your stress and giving you some clarity on situations. Stress often comes from uncertainty, so taking a short break from work can help you return to the agency with a fresh perspective and a new sense of purpose.
Prepare for transition, not a return to normality
Even as offices continue to reopen, we’re unlikely to see a complete return to normal. Instead, we’ll face another transitional stage as we enter the new world of hybrid working.
Undoubtedly, this will be a stressful time, so agency leaders may have some sleepless nights considering how to balance remote and office-based working. It will be especially important to make sure that everyone feels valued, has the same opportunities, and can collaborate easily.
The key to managing this process is having the right mindset and setting clear expectations with your people. Start by communicating with your team about what you expect from them, and exactly when and where they need to be. If something is a priority to you as a leader, be clear on that too, and share these feelings with your team.
A two-way dialogue will be essential though. As you transition to a new way of working, be open to suggestions from your team and encourage them to share solutions alongside any problems they raise. You never know, someone on your team may have the answer to the problem that has you pulling your hair out - so always share your priorities for the agency and ask for the team’s input on the next phase too.
Written by Aliya Vigor-Robertson, co-founder of agency JourneyHR
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