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Categories: Career, COVID-19, Leadership

Traversing the COVID-19 “Anniversary Effect”

It has now been over a year since Covid-19 first invaded our collective consciousness, changing the way we live and work.  In the time since a state of emergency was first declared last March, we have experienced grief, loss and moments of resilience. Now, pandemic exhaustion prevails, and many leaders and their teams are feeling a dip.

The “anniversary effect” is how psychologists refer to this reaction to the turning of the calendar, and you may be feeling the impact. Have you found yourself in a bad mood lately? Feeling more negative or apathetic?  In all likelihood, your co-workers and teammates are experiencing the same things.

It has been a long slog already, and there are still so many unanswered questions one year later. How can you traverse the COVID-19 anniversary effect, face the uncertainties, and help your team members do the same?

Acknowledge the Uncertainties

In addition to the anniversary effect, many organizations are facing a lot of uncertainty. There are still a lot of questions about what work will look like in the “new, new normal.”  Can WFM be a sustainable way to do business?  Will companies adopt a hybrid work model?

Currently many organizations are continuing to have employees work from home or go to the office on a rotating schedule.  And the future appears to be all over the map.  Some financial services companies including Goldman Sachs have said that they will order everyone back to the office as soon as it’s safe to do so.  Many tech companies have said that they will have a flexible work from home policy on a permanent basis.  And other companies such as consulting firms are staying mum about their long-term plans.

How much travel will people need to do to execute their job roles? Will travel return to the way it was in 2019? Will we stick with a video conference-based way of doing business?

Most of the leaders I work with traveled a great deal before the pandemic.  While they acknowledge that some travel will enhance their ability to lead and improve their organization’s productivity, they equally believe that they don’t need to travel as much as they did before.  Finding the right balance will be a key job for organizational leadership.

Counterbalance the COVID-19 Anniversary Effect

Given the continuing uncertainty, the pandemic fatigue that is permeating organizations, and the one-year anniversary of the initial quarantines, it is a good time for leaders to do these key things:

  • Show compassion to your team and yourself. At the beginning of the pandemic last spring, leaders were consciously asking team members how they were doing and what they needed in order to be successful. At a year in, some of those questions now go unasked. While our minds and bodies struggle to cope with the anniversary effect, this is an ideal time to check back in on morale, mental health, and the overall well-being of the teams you lead. And if you find yourself personally feeling a dip, remember to show compassion to yourself. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support from your family, friends or peers.
  • Mark the anniversary. Although the pandemic has affected each person differently, this has been a collective experience. It makes sense to acknowledge the one-year mark and to let people know that you, as a leader, are aware of the challenges the past twelve months have brought. A recent trend on Twitter helped people process #TheMoment they knew things were going to be different and reflect on where we are one year later. Take the time to reflect on the impact of the COVID-19 anniversary effect and discuss as a group.
  • Acknowledge accomplishments – big and small. This is a great time to ask people to consider the accomplishment of simply making it through this last year. Have them look at the qualities and traits they developed or leveraged over the last year that helped them cope, survive and perhaps even thrive in these difficult circumstances. Those qualities and traits will continue to serve them well as things normalize over the coming months.
  • Share helpful resources. If you come across a podcast, blog, book, or other media that has helped you feel more optimistic, be sure to share with your team. Novateur offers several live, interactive online presentations that can help your team thrive. Topics such as Building Leadership Resiliency presented by Debby Stone and Time Management Strategies for the Busy Professional presented by EJ Stern could help revitalize your organization and restore a positive mental attitude. Click here to learn more about Novateur’s online workshops.

With vaccines more widely available and COVID case numbers on the decline, it appears that we have reached a pivot point in this pandemic. However, before we simply look ahead to what is going to happen next, let’s pause. Acknowledge that while uncertainty remains, we have come through a lot in this last year.

To read more of Debby’s thoughts on leadership, please visit DebbyStone.com.
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