Managing the stress of COVID-19: 6 tips for business leaders
The last few months have been a trying time for many businesses, and although some countries are beginning to relax their lockdown and quarantine measures, it's still far from certain what the future will look like. For leaders, who bear the responsibility of keeping the business afloat and the livelihoods of hundreds or thousands of employees secure, the stress is undoubtedly through the roof.
Over the recent weeks, People Matters asked senior business leaders from a variety of industries how they have been keeping themselves stable and centered amid the uncertainty. Here are six of the more popular and effective stress management methods used by people at the top.
1. Trust in the people around you, and delegate work appropriately.
You don't have to do everything by yourself: your team is there for a reason.
"We have adopted a decentralised approach by empowering the business continuity team to accomplish what we have agreed at the leadership level, and this has relieved us considerably to focus on more strategic issues." - Craig Ellis, CEO, MSIG Singapore
2. Keep firm boundaries between your working life and your home life.
Many of the people we spoke to have said that working from home makes this particularly difficult because there is no physical space and time gap between the office and the home. Nevertheless, establish the line. If you're off the clock, keep yourself there—genuine emergencies aside, of course. This has the knock-on effect of taking some stress off your team as well, as they won't feel so much pressure to deliver and respond outside working hours.
"I am enjoying lunches and dinners with my family, which was a rare luxury previously due to my busy schedule. I’m really happy about this and it helps me stay focused throughout the day." - Vaibhav Dabhade, Founder & CEO, Anchanto
3. Use the time you have saved on travelling and commuting to get more sleep.
It can be all too tempting to plough those hours straight back into work, but right now, being able to mentally unwind and stay physically sound is more important. There is no telling how long the crisis will last, and it's better to find a pace that can be maintained.
4. Keep a physical fitness routine—for both physical and mental health.
Gyms may be closed and restrictions placed on leaving one's home, but there are always ways to get some physical activity in.
5. Take up quiet, mindful activities like reading.
It helps your brain shift out of the day's fire-fighting mode and into a zone of deeper thought and relaxation. What's more, it can spark helpful insights into problems you are currently grappling with.
"Engaging in calming activities such as reading has been really useful for relieving stress...In challenging times like this, where resilience is needed, I would recommend one of the best books ever written, “Meditations”, by a Roman Emperor and Philosopher, Marcus Aurelius." - Bruno Guilloton, Head of AXA IM Asia Pacific
Conversely. don't try to relax by engaging in competitive activities. While the tension and the urge to win may feel comfortably familiar, it can put additional strain on your mental and emotional reserves—which is the last thing you need during this COVID-19 period.
6. Most importantly, talk to people.
When you find yourself up against a wall, or if the problems you face begin to pile up, or if you simply feel the need to voice your thoughts, it helps to talk it out. If you have trouble finding someone to hear you out, try reaching out to your peers through professional networks.
"One of the things that we found has been most appreciated by our clients during these weeks of COVID-19 is actually connecting them to each other so that they can share ideas and experiences. They find it useful because the other person is not judging them or looking for someone to implement what they say. They are just looking for a sounding board." - Nick Chia, Singapore Country Manager, Russell Reynolds Associates