How to Overcome Office Dystopia during Hard Times

There’s a lot going on in the current news cycle. War rages across the world while mass shootings continue to plague the U.S. Politically, media outlets are preparing to cover the 2024 presidential election and some candidates have already thrown their hats into the ring. As for the economy, it looks very much like Schrödinger’s cat: we are in recession and not in recession, both true at the same time. This can be a lot for anyone to keep up with and emotionally handle.

How to overcome office dystopia during hard times

Recently, an article in Business Insider introduced the concept of office dystopia. It describes that situation where it becomes hard to focus on day-to-day tasks because they seem irrelevant compared to global issues. Office dystopia can distract your team members and cause mental anguish, both at work and in their personal lives.

You have no control over international wars, climate threats, or elections. However, you can take steps to create a safe and welcoming space for your team to combat this office dystopia.

Create space to talk about issues

It’s tempting to ask your employees to leave the news cycle at the door and focus on work. However, that request isn’t always realistic. There are countless social media posts and news updates that can lead to endless doom scrolling.

We found this useful guide for leading teams in a compassionate manner when faced with bad news. It walks leaders through the process of acknowledging a crisis and its potential impact on team members by creating spaces to discuss the news cycle and understanding trauma responses.

As you do this, remember: it’s not your job to explain the crisis or take political sides. As a leader, your job is to be empathetic while acknowledging that some employees might be directly impacted by what’s happening thousands of miles away. This is hard for everyone in different ways.

Your staff are going to talk about the goings-on in the news anyway. Your intervention can make these discussions safer for everyone involved.

Let your workplace become a distraction

In a good way, of course! This might sound counterintuitive to the first point. Yet the reality is that some employees don’t want to talk about their trauma and emotions with their coworkers.

The modern workplace can become a safe haven away from the news. Empower your employees to focus on their work instead of worrying about global events.

As a leader, check in with your team members one-on-one to make sure they are doing okay. Acknowledge that they might experience trauma or PTSD from the current news cycle and offer resources for support. However, don’t force your employees to use these resources. They might have their own support system outside of the company and prefer to set healthy boundaries between them.

It is possible to accommodate both employees who want to talk about their emotions and those who don’t want to bring them to the office. You can create spaces to discuss current events without making them mandatory. It’s that simple.

Here, at 4PSA, we do that by leveraging our powerhouse team communication and collaboration platform, Hubgets. We create private Topics joined only by the people who are interested in such subjects. And we use the Team Topic for less grim discussions.

Build employee coping toolboxes

Even if you create a healthy environment within your workplace, your employees can grow stressed and anxious by global events when they leave the office. If you take steps to help them combat stress in the workplace, they might be able to apply those tools to other parts of their lives too.

Stress is a natural part of life. Developing tools to address it in a healthy manner can help your team no matter what events occur inside or outside the workplace.

Understand how these events affect you

Emotional intelligence requires two things: understanding the feelings and reactions of others and identifying those feelings and emotions in yourself. It’s easy in a leadership position to focus on the needs of your staff without acknowledging your own trauma response, stress signals, and emotional warning signs.

The news cycle affects you as well, which is why it is important to practice what you preach. If you aren’t able to face your emotions, you might act out in unwanted and toxic ways. In turn, this could cause more distress to yourself and your employees. Thus make sure you have someone to talk to about your concerns.

Leaders are humans, too. You are allowed to have emotional needs and traumatic responses to global events. Part of your job, however, is to be aware of that and take the steps needed to address those responses.

The news cycle is part of the workplace

Even the most focused employees will be affected by global news events, from posts on their social channels to discussions overhead in the hallway.

While you can’t ban discussions about current events—and you wouldn’t want to—you can create safe environments for your team members to process them if they want to. Otherwise, support your staff as best as you can so they (and you) can.

Bouts of office dystopia will come and go, but your company support systems will remain strong throughout.

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