8 steps to address workplace stress when “reopening” during the pandemic

Businesswoman drinking coffee at work contemplative looking out the window of high rise skyscraper building during morning tea break. Workplace stress, mental health in the workplace.

"Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore." -- Judy Garland, The Wizard of Oz.

The world and workplace are reopening. And like Dorothy awaking from her vivid (not covid – couldn’t resist) dream, we’re beginning to realize that work and life aren’t exclusive of each other. If you ever thought you could “leave your work at the door” or “compartmentalize your life” this pandemic has certainly challenged those beliefs. Because, like this virus, anxiety knows no boundaries. Returning to “normal”? Not!  ... but not really. Things will be different, but not completely so. It’s more that now the “light” shines bright on the acts and actors of psychology, exposing shadows ever present, but now in vivid color. There’s going to be a lot more “color” now, in terms of people, their behavior and especially their feelings. And like a child waking from a bad dream, there’s going to be a need to comfort and reassure people at work, even if it’s in their home. Here, I provide a checklist of 8 steps to address workplace stress when “reopening” during the pandemic. (And they apply outside of work – whatever that is – too).

Getting down to work.

As restrictions originally imposed to mitigate the spread of CV-19 are relaxed, responsibility for one’s exposure to the virus increasingly falls to individuals – but especially on leaders of others. While organizations adopt their own policies in light of the pandemic such as those to enforce or support “social distancing” (a term I dislike), individuals will now primarily be responsible for their own “CV behavior” and may experience considerably more workplace stress.

Although stress isn't altogether bad, it almost always is when it reaches high levels. And like never before for most of us, we now live in a world of extraordinarily high stress -- especially in the workplace. Strong, confident, reassuring leadership will be paramount. Fortunately, research in psychology at work reveals practical steps leaders can take to manage varying levels of stress among employees.

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How psychology affects you

Psychways | Psychology affects you (and all animals)

We are social animals living in a psychological world.

This simple reality has enormous consequences for everyone, everywhere. Here I explain two really big ways regarding how psychology affects you.

Implications of being Social:

Human beings are not only social, but the MOST social of all animals. As such, and just like all social animals, we need to relate to others for two purposes:

{There is a third reason, but I am committed to maintaining a PG-13 rating for these posts.}

Sometimes the implications (i.e., how psychology affects you) of these social needs are clear. For example, teams – whether in the workplace or on the sports field – understand that the team members need to get along with each other in order to get ahead of (or beat) the competition.

But it isn’t always this clear or simple. Inevitably, even within a team, there is competition among members to establish rank or get ahead.

A lot of what I do in the workplace is to work with individuals and teams so that they better manage the sometimes difficult choice regarding when to agree, and get along, versus when to take action to get ahead. One bad call here can really set you back.

Implications of a Psychological World:

The second reality of our being and how psychology affects you, and everyone else, is that we live in a psychological world. Everything we know is the product of our psychological processes (i.e. sensation, perception, reasoning, emotion). The real interesting fact (at least to me), is that our psychological processes aren’t perfect. We don’t know exactly what the “real world” is like.

This isn’t a complicated metaphysical issue. The fact that our senses are imperfect can readily be illustrated by the fact that two or more people do not experience the same ‘thing’ the same way. Regardless of right or wrong, there’s something going on via our psychological processes that results in these differences like the one so publicly debated regarding the “beige dress, blue dress” photo. See for yourself.

For better or worse, our human perception system is not perfectly reliable. What we see may not be what we get, but it definitely is what we make of it.

This is another frequent reason I am asked to help out in work environments. No, not to sort out whether a dress is blue or beige, but to deal with the fact that differences in perception, attitude and ultimately behavior can cause real problems. How often do we hear another public figure explaining, “that isn’t what I meant”? One thing is said or done and many different interpretations arise. On a lighter note, sometimes individuals become so engrossed in debate that they actually wind up disagreeing in style/tone, but agreeing in content/fact. This is where the term, “violent agreement” gets its meaning.

Two x Two equals Anything:

The fact that we are social animals, driven by needs to be with and/or dominate others, combined with the fact that our perception systems are unreliable, results in a very complex world at work – or anywhere.

Just these two factors could keep me busy till I “hang my hat.” The potential results that arise from different, sometimes opposing social motives combined with imperfect processing systems are innumerable. I’ve shared just a couple examples here to illustrate the pervasive and extraordinary power of psychology at work.

This, and other posts in my blog (esp. What is bias?, How about a little science with that intuition?), are dedicated to exploring the real and powerful impact of psychology at work, and also at play (non work). The intent is to help readers become more aware of the ever-present, psychology-based issues in all of our worlds and to offer advise on how to handle them.

Psychways is owned and produced by Talentlift, LLC.

Psychology at Work: Who cares?

Psychology Tips for Work

We are social animals in a psychological world.

This is true — even if you know someone who is more than a little introverted, or think that psychology is only for crazy people. This simple fact is at the crux of just about all, if not everything, we do. From teamwork and individual advancement to differences in judgment, we all are influenced by both of these realities every day, every where.

Psychology.  As Descartes put it so clearly, Cogito ergo sum (translation: “I think, therefore I am”). We are a thinking being — and more. That’s why psychology types use the word “cognition” so much.  The point is if you’re reading this, ‘cogs’ are turning in your head and you’re using, and even beholden to, the ‘stuff’ of psychology.

Social Animals.  We all depend on, appreciate, or want to be with someone — even if it’s to start a fight. Absent people, you’re literally – and figuratively – casting a mere shadow of yourself. If you think you might be a vegetable, this post’s not for you.

Bottom line: Anyone who’s dealt with a few children will agree, people are animals. (And no, we don’t grow out of it).

Even if you agree that the first line of this post is true, you may still puff, “Who cares?”

You, especially, should.

The ability to manage these truths could be the difference between believing (deliberate use versus “being”) ‘wrong’ or ‘right,’ success or failure, and even life or death.

Continue reading “Psychology at Work: Who cares?”