The Social Heart of Work

Work is Social

We are social. Work is social. A screen can’t fully replace the social heart of work. Even the best webinar platform just won’t do it. I have a suspicion that most leaders and professionals thrive when we connect in-person with other people. Not all, but most. The workplace is just one of the places that happens. Having this social component of the daily routine removed or significantly altered affects people in very basic ways. People need people.

People as a Job Resource

Overload and burnout is most likely to be found in working environments with high job demands and low job resources. It’s interesting to speculate on the possible implications of this.

    • High job demand: Even if you work and lead from home, you still have to deliver. High job demand, the need to “make it happen,” doesn’t diminish.
    • Low job resource: If connection with people, and being in proximity to people actually plays some part (whatever that amount) for many of us in performing at our best, then regular in-person interaction with people is actually a job resource that Covid has diminished.

In other words, from the perspective of performance, are there may be a whole lot of leaders, managers and professionals working in a Covid-precipitated, “high job demand, low job resource” home-work environment.

Perhaps you’ve never thought about it before, but your work colleagues are an essential “job resource” that contribute to making your life rich, interesting and challenging. They contribute to some necessary “spark” you need in work to rise up the the challenges and deliver your best.

V.U.C.A. Plus D

We’ve heard a lot about V.U.C.A. lately – how Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity are contributing to stress. I’ve always felt this was insufficient to explain one key part of what’s happening. I would add a “D,” hence V.U.C.A.D. – The ‘D’ is for Disconnectedness. People are feeling disconnected from one another. They long for “real” relationships. Covid has only served to remove some leaders and professionals another degree or two away from that connectedness they need to contribute to the balanced, full sense of life lived well.

As the Mayo Clinic notes, “Ignored or unaddressed job burnout can have significant consequences.” They list “excessive stress, fatigue, negative spillover into personal relationships or home life, anxiety, and vulnerability to illnesses.” and say these, “can significantly effect your physical health through extended unmanaged stress.” Mayo Clinic – Job Burnout: How to spot it and take action

“The pandemic is a recipe for depression and anxiety,” Dr. Ingrid Söchting, director of the University of British Columbia Psychology Clinic, told HuffPost Canada. “What we’re seeing is many of our common protective buffers against stress — like social interactions and human connection — have suddenly been removed, and people are surprised that they’re beginning to struggle because they may not have previously thought they were prone to depression or anxiety.” ScienceDirect – Chronic job burnout and daily functioning: A theoretical analysis

Some Strategies to Consider

1. Accept what you cannot change. For some, working and leading from home (or from a screen) works fine. For others, maybe for you, not so much. If you find your attitude toward doing this is to resist, complain, or even be borderline angry … change your attitude.

That might be hard to hear, but sometimes just a shift in our mindset toward something can make all the difference in how we deal with it. Moving toward the new reality, however temporary, versus trying to fight it will help. The former consumes a lot of emotional energy that if put toward embracing “what is” and making the best of it, could boost your engagement, energy, productivity and sense of well-being.

2. Change what you can. A response to Covid has meant changes you never anticipated, and didn’t ask for. This IS the situation for now. In light of that, what is within your control to adjust? You could:

      • Interact with colleagues in new ways.
      • Purposefully add a little more personal component to online meetings. Caring about someone else and their family can really boost your own sense of connectedness.
      • Take some time to meet (even if it is online) one-to-one with individual colleagues just to catch up. You may discover common interests and new dimensions to this individual you had not known about in the day to day hustle of work.
      • Follow covid guidelines (please!) but connect on some frequent basis. Talk in-person to a neighbor, a colleague, and of course family.

3. Do something good. What CAN you do that will contribute to the well-being of people in your neighborhood, your community or your region? Do something positive that gets your focus off yourself and positively on to helping others. You will find that it gives you an immense lift. Having a purpose and caring about others opens up conversations, fresh relationships and a sense of purpose and real contribution.

What’s the bottom line of what I’m saying? Be creative. Be intentional. Do seek to add that personal dimension back into your work, even if it is from home. Or find it in service to others in ways that work within the current pandemic reality. When you gain the sense that some deeper need of interaction on a personal level has been fulfilled, you’ll know you’re on the right track.   

Get Support if You Need It

Ask for help or support if you are struggling. This is a sign of strength, not weakness. Recognize when YOU need help to rise and meet the challenges of today’s pandemic environment.

As the world evolves in this new pandemic age, leaders must also follow suit. Covid is not going away immediately, and you may need to learn new ways of coping, handling the stresses of current circumstances, and overcoming the strain that being on the edge can bring to everyone’s life.

A Resource

Please feel free to download a copy of Balance, Not Burnout a very basic, free Ebook to help you with your journey.