Leading Through the Taxing Impacts of COVID-19 and Compassion Fatigue

During this COVID-19 crisis, leaders are navigating mounting amounts of both typical and new atypical roles under the tremendous pressure and stress of workforce instability, escalated safety concerns, emotional exhaustion, and health risks while also experiencing their own work-life challenges. It is critical for leaders at all levels in the organization to practice and model self-care while supporting and responding to employees’ mental health and psychological safety needs. It is difficult to access and harness Emotional Intelligence leadership practices when you are struggling and not attending to your own stress and health, and this will likely be seen, felt, and modeled.

What is Compassion Fatigue?

Compassion fatigue can be an occupational hazard of any professional whose role is to have consistent, if not constant, empathy and use one’s emotions to support and understand the needs, pain points, struggles, and concerns of patients, clients, and employees. When compassion fatigue sets in, it can make it difficult to feel empathy for others resulting from a state of burnout, which is associated with too much work and not enough self-care or support resources. Burnout can result in depression, anxiety, physical and emotional exhaustion, disengagement, being easily triggered, and increased interpersonal conflicts. Additional symptoms include insomnia, constant busy mind, hypervigilance, and/or feelings of having nothing left to give.

Tips to bolster empathy under pressure:

  • Recognize the impacts of chronic stress. Individuals and teams formerly consistent in meeting deadlines and turning in high-quality work may become less predictable.
  • Neuroscience shows that the brain’s creativity centers are negatively impacted by stress and anxiety, making it increasingly difficult to generate innovative thinking.
  • For most people, during times of heightened and ongoing change, challenges, and pressure, social support and genuine empathy are essential to mitigate the damaging impacts of stress and adjust work-life expectations.

Tips to generate improved physical/emotional health for leaders and employees:

  • Be a role model on how to integrate work-life obligations and engage in self-care.
  • Stay up-to-date on safety and public health COVID-19 responses.
  • Know updated wellness available resources and remind people of these resources.
  • Establish practices and policies that not only encourage but reward self-care. Often self-care is stated but what is rewarded is work output, not wellbeing.
  • Demonstrate healthy work-life balance and time-off boundaries and encourage employees to create their own.
  • Increase access to and support working with Health and Professional Coaches and wellbeing practitioners for employees during work hours.

How leaders lead during this ongoing time of difficulty, constant adjustments, and tremendous change while keeping business flourishing and employees thriving is a testament to the time. Invent and reinvent ways to increase empathy and wellbeing by starting with yourself. Call Employers Council; we’re happy to help.