The new reality for your staff members: three habits to reprogram the mind

Now that the new normal is becoming the "now normal", the labour market will have to address a number of mental challenges. After all, the changed labour market conditions require a great deal of flexibility. That's why it's so important – for you as a manager as well as for your staff members – to step outside of your comfort zone. And be willing to reprogram the minds. The outcome? Your staff will be more agile and better equipped to cope with future setbacks. If it's not immediately obvious to you how to do this, don't worry. Health expert Anneleen De Lille shared a lot of interesting tips with us at our latest webinar. Find out what you missed, or revisit an interesting session!

Encourage weekly reflection time to increase self-awareness

With the gradual easing of the lockdown restrictions, your staff members' calendars have been filling up fast. So it's not just you who's in danger of returning to the earlier rat race! How do you keep your employees from getting caught up in a stress cycle? According to our health expert, you should ideally try to let go of your tunnel vision. Most of your staff members will probably schedule activities whenever the opportunity presents itself. This is exactly why self-awareness is so critical. By making reflective thinking a habit, your staff members will get a better idea of what's going on inside and around them. More importantly, they'll learn how to make a conscious effort to spend their time on what gives them the greatest satisfaction.

Try to share these insights in a constructive way at a meeting. Encourage your team members to come up with a top-five list of what's important to them. The list should go beyond pure work-related considerations to include physical health, family, self-development, etc. During their reflection time, they should review their entire calendar to check whether it's consistent with their pre-defined priorities. They can then further expand on their self-reflection by identifying the habits they adopted during the lockdown. It's a good idea to list them and assign a score. Each staff members should note the individual habits they'd like to keep (with a plus sign), such as daily morning walk. Things they'd like to change – for example, answering e-mails late at night – get a minus sign.

Want to make the reflection time even more palpable and effective? Set a good example and show your own scorecard and priorities! In addition to inspiring your staff, you'll also show vulnerability by being open about your own wishes.


New rituals: help each other turn sheer willpower into achieved goals

Once your staff members are motivated to make changes and have a clear idea of what their priorities are, it's time for targeted action. But what can they do to make a new habit or resolution stick? Take a brief sidestep with your team and try to understand how the brain operates. Researchers have discovered that there's a simple neurological loop at the core of every habit.

Imagine, for example, a colleague that was an avid cyclist for years but then suddenly gave it up. When s/he gets back on a bike again after a 10-year hiatus, s/he'll still know how to ride. That's because that neurological connection has been permanently programmed in his/her brain.

This applies to anyone who wants to form new habits: with repeated practice, you create new loops in your brain. In addition, the habit must fulfil certain conditions. An important consideration to point out: when creating new patterns, don't limit your focus to behavioural change only. That's a good start, of course, but even more important are the thoughts and feelings associated with that behaviour. They must be in sync with each other. Imagine, for example, that one of the managers wants to dedicate more time to long-term projects, and therefore keep participation in online meetings to a minimum. As a result, this manager rejects the next invitation to an online meeting. Yet this triggers feelings of anxiety in the manager: "What if this makes me look antisocial?" The consequence: feelings of guilt arise, and to get rid of the discomfort, the manager will accept the next meeting request. Despite the fact that s/he clearly has other priorities.

By explaining the above to your staff, you can work together to turn wishes into achieved goals. And everyone can focus on what makes them happy. There is simply no better win-win outcome for your organisation, is there?


Take small but solution-oriented steps

Perhaps your staff members are already beating themselves up over their inability to break bad habits. If that's the case, it's a good idea to present a solution-oriented starting point. As highlighted in the example above, by rejecting that one meeting request, the manager frees up time to focus on what s/he thinks is important. This way, a reward gets associated with the change of habit. Want to bet that the manager will find it easier to reject a virtual meeting the next time?

Also explain that patience is an essential ingredient when it comes to forming new habits. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day. Not to mention that change requires energy. While we all may be eager to change course, let's not forget that adopting a new habit is a gradual process.

Finally, keep in mind that we don't need to wait for a turning point like the coronavirus crisis. We can make a decision to form a new habit at any time. Of course, testing and evaluation will be needed to see if the change really is for the better. This is the only way to find out whether the "reprogramming" of our mind makes us truly happy.


Want to find out more about wellbeing at work? Be sure to read our other articles!