How ready are we for the post covid workplace?

Investing in people has never been more important.
Are Leaders being trained effectively to operate in this hybrid world of work?
Does stigma still exist in your company?

In the blink of an eye — Covid seems to be a thing of the past!
Restrictions lifted, testing removed, international travel resumed — but many people have echoed my sense of a pandemic hangover.

Transitioning to lockdown, WFH and social isolation was surprisingly easy for most — so why would transitioning back to “normal” life not be so easy?

In late February I hosted my first in person event for almost 3 years. The focus was on workplace wellbeing and creating inclusive, supportive cultures across remote teams. I was delighted to be joined by Geoff Mcdonald, who is a leading mental health activist and speaker.

My aim was to pilot a new format for a networking event, shifting from the stuffy, often awkward, typical “what’s your name, role and company”, to creating a safe environment, and connecting people on a more human level.

ReBoot is a social enterprise that uses nature-based programmes to bring people together, to harness the restorative power of nature, and to build confidence, and build bonds through activities that stretch people outside of their comfort zone. We opted for a ReBoot lite on this occasion — namely a walk and talk in the Surrey Hills. Due to the storms a gentle stroll became more of an adventure walk as we had to shimmy over fallen trees and branches!

We often promote the benefits of dislocated expectations, and this occasion required strangers to support each other as they were presented with various unexpected obstacles.

Moving into the venue we started with “why are you here?”
This presented the opportunity for people to tell their personal story, often including periods of stress, burnout, depression or trauma — and their road to recovery.

Story telling is such a powerful leveller, it brings strangers together and encourages empathy. It is also a skill that many have never been taught. Within compassionate leadership, I wonder — should story telling feature more in leadership development?

A few key snippets from the day:

Geoff has coined an excellent acronym — to try to weave into everyday life:


Connect (with others)
Active (-ideally get outside, but move more)
Nice (be nice to someone!)
Discover (actively try to discover or learn something new — be curious)
Observe (stop, listen, declutter the mind and simply ‘be’)

Life is busy, but you can’t pour from an empty cup — so put your wellbeing first in order to look after and energise others. Half an hour for yourself can make a huge difference.

Leaders are role models and must prioritise their health and wellbeing in order to effectively place it as a priority for their people. Leaders who do not prioritise their own wellbeing are highly unlikely to make their teams’ wellbeing a priority.

We can all break stigma around mental health by sharing our stories of hardship and struggle. By sharing these stories, we send lifeboats out which people who are suffering can hold onto and find hope / solace. It sends a powerful message that it is OK to not be OK.

Compassionate leadership has never been more important, especially as we adapt to the ‘new normal’ and remote/hybrid working.

What are the key ingredients needed for Boards to place employee’s health and wellbeing as a strategic priority?

  1. Acknowledging the link between health & wellbeing and energy & performance. Leaders and managers especially need energy to inspire and motivate their teams.
  2. Holding a clear duty of care for their people. Trends post Covid suggest people are increasingly selecting employer based on their culture, flexibility & support systems.
  3. Accepting the importance of employer brand in light of talent acquisition and retention.

One huge positive to come from the pandemic is a raised awareness of the often invisible struggles that people are going through.

Mental health is no different to physical health — it can be more delibitating and yet harder to diagnose.

Creating an environment where it is OK to not be OK, to smash the stigma, and to offer appropriate support when needed — is a giant step in the right direction.

Let’s not lose the momentum and let the dialogue fade into the background.

We all have the opportunity to lead by example.

Let’s stamp out toxic behaviour and raise the bar in terms of psychological safety — enabling people to bring their full selves to the workplace.

Amy Edmondson has given a superb TED Talk on #psychologicalsafety:

There are some superb courses available eg Mental Health First Aid:

I plan to continue the conversation and run programmes weaved into the ReBoot proposition and involving Argon International’s Change Network. If you would like to participate — please do drop me a line.