How to help your team overcome survival mode post-pandemic


poster step out of survival mode

Since lockdowns started in March 2020, many people grew to become specialists at surviving: hoarding meals and Clorox wipes; ordering an extra of takeout to keep at bay the burnout of caregiving; and overspending simply to really feel one thing. It’s secure to say that the majority workers’ lizard brains have been on excessive alert for the previous yr and a half.

Now, as we start our descent right into a post-pandemic world, this mindset isn’t so simply switched off. However as organizational psychologist and management keynote speaker, Nick Tasler, says, this type of survival response was meant to be a dash, not a marathon. “It’s designed to get us out of instant hazard, but it surely isn’t a tempo we are able to preserve for lengthy durations,” he says, noting that this heightened sense of consciousness and always-on alertness can simply morph right into a critical case of burnout. 

At an organizational stage, an extreme give attention to the brief time period generally is a critical impediment to development, Tasler says, and may lead to stagnant considering and missed alternatives. “Each of these points are the issues that many leaders have just lately began viewing as one thing like a post-pandemic hangover.”


Whereas going again to “regular” might be a gradual course of, leaders who’re beginning to orchestrate the return of their workforces can nonetheless do loads towards mitigating these results. Listed here are 4 methods for serving to groups let go of a survival mentality:

1. Name out the problem and redirect 

To place it merely: Survival conduct usually speaks to worries concerning the unknowable. And for a lot of workers—a return to the office sparks new emotions of insecurity. That’s why calling out the problem is without doubt one of the greatest methods to make groups really feel extra relaxed. 

“Leaders usually underestimate how highly effective their phrases will be,” says Tasler. As a substitute of merely assuming that workers simply “know” it’s okay to transfer out of survival mode, he explains that it’s extremely useful to hear their leaders explicitly give them permission to as soon as once more take into consideration thriving within the long-term as a substitute of merely surviving within the short-term.

 Tasler suggests taking a beat to congratulate groups on how marvelously they responded to the disaster, in addition to ensuring to redirect their consideration towards extra future-focused strategic planning.

2. Heart wellness 

“It’d look like prioritizing wellness can be a pure survival response, but it surely’s not all the time a simple possibility after we’re grappling with many stressors,” says Dr. Joel Minden, a licensed scientific psychologist and writer of Show Your Anxiety Who’s Boss.


Throughout the pandemic, workers could have adopted self-soothing behaviors like anxiously over-checking the standard of their work, laying aside different duties, or staying up too late to ensure that their tasks have been excellent. However over time, all of those coping mechanisms can have a damaging affect on their wellbeing.

“As a lot as we’d consider that working more durable is the answer to work-related threats,” says Dr. Minden, “there’s a restrict to what we are able to deal with, particularly after we’re not caring for our well being the way in which we should always.”

Listed here are some methods leaders can promote self-care and stress administration:

  • Order wholesome lunches for groups when work will get intense
  • Work with workers to accommodate their requests for private time
  • Supply to help out when it’s clear an worker actually wants a break

3. Foster an environment of belief 

In accordance to Dr. Minden, “if workers consider they don’t have any different choices, they’ll proceed to prioritize work-related survival behaviors.” It’s essential then, to remind groups to concentrate to the emotional cues that may put them in danger for these selections.

What this comes down to is that as a frontrunner, fostering a tradition of belief is crucial for serving to individuals overcome their pandemic-induced anxieties. Letting your team understand it’s okay to place boundaries with colleagues when expectations are unreasonable, for instance, prevents them from skimping on self-care or neglecting different private duties. 

On the similar time, making it clear that they’ll talk with one another—in addition to with you, as a frontrunner—about their issues and struggles, helps create norms of respect and acceptance within the office. “When employees know that they’ll belief their colleagues to be supportive, it turns into a lot simpler to stay dedicated to high-level work efficiency with out compromising well being,” Dr. Minden says.

4. Shift your team’s mindset 

If not dealt with nicely, returning to the workplace will be an amazing expertise that triggers workers’ survival response. Having an open dialog concerning the challenges confronted over the previous yr and a half, is a essential element for serving to groups transfer ahead. 

Tasler advises leaders to have interaction individuals in actions that sign that you simply’re getting into a brand new season, and that the previous season has handed. One such exercise includes having workers make a listing of issues they’ve realized over the course of the pandemic, after which have them craft a transparent one- to three-year objective they need to obtain.

“In fact that doesn’t imply that the pandemic is over any greater than the primary sunny day in March signifies that winter climate is gone for good,” Tasler says. “However speaking about what you realized throughout the coronary heart of winter is one other sign that it’s okay to take into consideration and [start] planning for spring.”  

Cindy Lamothe is a contract journalist who writes usually concerning the intersection of productiveness, wellness, and the science of human conduct. She’s written for The New York Instances, BBC Future, New York Journal, Vogue, The Guardian, and extra.