Mathilde Collin’s San Francisco home base was closed at the start of the pandemic last March. But, it was just the beginning of stress for her.
Collin, the co-founder, and CEO of the email app Front did not know how her company, the 180 employees across it, and she would survive this situation. At the same time, she was three months pregnant with her first child, and her attention diverted to her well-being.
Some CEOs may strive to hide their emotions and suffer in silence to pose as brave leaders. However, Collin had something else in mind. She booked a hypnosis session, uninstalled Twitter from her phone, and made a virtual appointment with her therapist. She made sure that her employees knew what she was going through.
Collin believes that being emotionally vulnerable in the presence of your employees is crucial for a successful business leader. Even when society advises you to take a different path, Collin says that empathetic team building can only occur when there is vulnerability amongst the employees. Setting such an environment will lead to better business outcomes.
The articles devoted to employee struggles during COVID-19 are ample in amount. However, the suffering and stress faced by company leaders have been kept far away from the limelight.
A study conducted by Verizon Media and the mental health group Made of Millions gives new light on the pandemic’s emotional impact on management. Over the last year, 66 percent of employers asked indicated they felt burnout, and 76 percent said they felt overwhelmed managing their workers.
While the majority (86%) agreed that depression and sorrow have become more common in the workplace, nearly a third (28%) admitted having mental health concerns themselves. Only 58% of managers said their mental health was “good,” and less than half of those who run a small business (49%) said the same.
The upper-class management was taken aback as they couldn’t help their employees in the global pandemic. During one of the most challenging periods in modern history, bosses struggled to balance their well-being with maintaining the well-being of their employees and keeping the company on course.
The Co-founder and executive director of Made of Millions, Aaron Harvey, said that managers are unaware of the language that can help them empathize with their staff more efficiently. There is an extensive need for groundwork between the bosses and the employees to maintain a healthy environment that promotes mental peace.
As the pandemic fades and businesses resume some routine, the leaders were keen to share their personal experiences and their road maps for managers dealing with stress.
Claire Jones, SVP of operations for the global programmatic ad agency MiQ in Canada, urges CEOs to take frequent pauses from looking at a screen, ideally by going outside, where they can conduct business conversations while walking. She also recommended using a notepad or a mobile app to keep track of one’s moods throughout the day.
Mindfulness is top of mind for Richard Black, president and general manager of Superfly, a live entertainment and brand experience company, which includes self-care and compassion, deep-breathing exercises, guided meditation, and, as Collin and Jones recommend, time away from those all-consuming screens. Black has also made it mandatory for his employees, including his leadership team, to take breaks throughout the day. “Authentic leadership is about practicing what you preach,” he said.
Julie Koepsell, President of Horizontal Digital’s North American digital division, feels that self-awareness is the first step toward managers’ self-care.