It’s been nearly a year since COVID-19 changed lives across the globe. As well as the devastating impact the pandemic has had on physical health, it has also clearly taken its toll on mental health – whether through increased isolation from friends, family or colleagues, the upending of routines, or the general anxiety some may feel as a result of the situation.

Doing what we can to protect our employees’ physical and mental wellbeing has been our number one priority at Sirius throughout the pandemic. So, I thought I’d outline some of the techniques and strategies that we’ve employed to try and steer us all through this uniquely challenging situation.

Mental wellbeing in a challenging time

At Sirius we know that our people are key to our continued success, driven by a strong and thriving culture of togetherness. So, when the pandemic first struck, we moved quickly to do what we could to secure people’s physical health and establish new home working practices. Communication was and continues to be crucial, and we have gone to every length to ensure that requirements and protocols around COVID, such as ventilation and social distancing, are made available to all our teams via a COVID information database that centralises all the relevant guidance in one place.

Perhaps most importantly, we placed our trust in staff to do the right thing for them, and the right thing for the company. We didn’t rule by management diktat, rather we empowered employees to do what they feel is best for them. That doesn’t mean leaving people alone, we are all in this together - as an example, right from the beginning of the pandemic if an employee has contracted COVID we’ve always made sure that one of the senior leadership can call for a chat and to keep in touch.

Maintaining resilience

On a personal level, I have always recognised that my own personal resilience and mental wellbeing requires maintenance, and over the years have developed my own strategies for keeping well – from ensuring I get regular exercise and fresh air even on the busiest days, to eating healthily. I know that my own role requires clarity of thought and rapid decision making, so have always made it a priority.

Routine is one of the coping mechanisms I employ, and it’s been particularly useful in the context of this pandemic and social distancing requirements. As a leadership team we have worked hard to ensure a sense of routine and normality has been maintained even remotely, with regular calls and check-ins with team members to give positive feedback ensuring people feel valued and, in the absence of face to face interaction, are able to feel that it’s been noted that they’ve done something well. 

Leadership lessons

For me, the pandemic has also taught a number of valuable lessons about how to lead a business. Primarily, it’s reinforced the importance of situational leadership – that is, to adapt how you lead to the situation you find yourself in.

A situation such as the pandemic shakes people’s confidence and makes them look to leaders they think can provide confidence and reassurance, and leaders at all levels and in all parts of the business have handled the pandemic with great adaptability, resilience and compassion.

Above all, we recognised pandemic is a unique situation that requires adaptable, situational leadership, and that any finely-tuned plans we made for the situation would be invalidated by the pace of change – so instead we focussed on clear communication, flexibility and trust, as well as making sure we were confident and resilient enough to assuage any fears and concerns among the team. I’m immensely proud of how leaders across the business have stepped up, which is reflected in the 99% approval rating of how management has handled the pandemic in our most recent employee survey.

Final thoughts

In all, I have been amazed at the resilience and flexibility shown by our teams and the business as a whole in what continues to be a uniquely challenging time. We all have our strategies to look after our own mental wellbeing, but sometimes it’s about returning to the basics of looking after yourself and your colleagues, maintaining a healthy routine and being flexible in terms of finding what’s best for yourself in the circumstances. We don’t know how long this current set of circumstances may last, but I for one am very much looking forward to a return to normality and meeting with colleagues, tenants and investors in person once more.