It’s okay not to be okay - how empathy can strengthen a team

People Activation - 3 mins

It would be easy to feel, almost a year on from the start of mass remote working, that we should be ‘used to this’ by now.

While we're most likely better prepared for working from home than we were this time last year, the uncertainty around when things will get back to normal and the close proximity of personal and professional lives continues to be a challenge for many people.

Many will even be enjoying the new routine, working from home, the lack of commute, being in your own space, but that doesn’t mean that everyone feels comfortable with the current working situation. Or even, that every day will be a good one.

We’ve been taking some inspiration from Manchester-based wellbeing cafe and mental health advocates, Feel Good Club who give realistic tips and advice on taking care of your mental health.

Feel Good CLub

They say that we need to move away from this idea of needing to be okay 100% of the time - ‘chin up, forget about it, move on, it’s not that bad’. This kind of toxic positivity can make individuals feel as though they don’t have a right to feel anxious, sad, nervous or exhausted at times by the current situation.

When we’re face to face with others in an office environment, it can be easier to open up to say ‘I don’t feel great today’ or ‘I’m absolutely knackered, the kids kept me up all night’. But when we’re all working separately, those small conversations can fall through the cracks.

Even pre-Covid, oftentimes people would be reluctant to tell others if they were struggling in an attempt to keep up appearances, to stay professional and hold things together.

Opening the lines of communication and giving people an opportunity to speak honestly and say how they are feeling can boost empathy within a team and therefore strengthen camaraderie.

At People Activation, we like to start our Monday team meetings with an exercise to check in with each other. Before we get into the tasks and the plan for the week, there’s a list of different emotions on the screen. Everyone chooses one and explains why they’re feeling that way.

emotions graphic calls

It could be ‘I’m feeling nervous about this task’, or ‘I feel quite distracted by this thing at home’. This doesn’t mean that you have to share intimate or personal details about your life but it does allow people to understand where everyone is at that week and to appreciate some of the things they may be dealing with.

So, when a colleague forgets what day it is, or seems to take longer than usual to get something done, this understanding that they may be struggling with things outside of a professional context allows us to put ourselves in their shoes and give them a break. And, while you’re at it, remember to go easy on yourself too - you’re doing your best and that’s good enough.