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Leading your employees out of a toxic pandemic

Updated: Feb 7, 2022

Is anyone enjoying their job right now?

We all get the Sunday night blues sometimes, but the conversations I’ve been having recently, reflect something much bigger…maybe the impact of working through a global pandemic and significant social change for the past two years?

I’ve been writing an article on toxic culture resulting in reputational crisis for Influence magazine (no spoilers) and it’s got me thinking about how leaders are interacting with a workforce that is experiencing varying degrees of burnout and mental health issues.

The latest estimates from the Labour Force Survey show that in 2020/21 stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 50% of all work-related ill-health cases and CIPD stats show that 60% of employers have reported an increase in common mental health conditions over the last year.

While many HR departments are launching into action, we know that leaders set the culture of an organization (whether they’re aware of it or not). So surely they have even more potential to influence employees to look after their wellbeing and speak up if they need support? While the CPD found that 61% believed that wellbeing is on senior leaders’ agendas…that figure hasn’t changed since 2019 and only 44% have a wellbeing strategy that supports their wider organization strategy.

When the pandemic first hit we all went into crisis mode, we flexed, we adapted. It wasn’t easy, but I don’t think I was on my own when I celebrated humanity’s resilience…two years on and the adrenaline’s worn off. We’re all continuing to experience the losses that Covid has caused (whether directly or the result of missed / avoided doctor’s appointments), the constant uncertainty with new variants. Add to that the challenges that life throws at companies and their employees on a regular basis. The need for rest, reset and support is crucial to maintain a healthy and productive workforce. The Great Resignation is merely a symptom of a global population scanning for more sustainable options.

So, leaders: what questions are you asking about the wellbeing of your teams? Are you listening? What can you do to showcase behaviours that support your own and other’s mental health and wellbeing? Do you need some training or a coach? I’m part-way through a six week course on Positive Intelligence and its application for leadership in the current landscape is striking.

Business schools: to what extent are you building skills like emotional intelligence, listening, coaching into your MBAs? How do we expect the next generation of leaders to evolve if we don't learn from this time?

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