Dealing With Stress in the New Normal: The Road Ahead in the IT World

COVID-19 has taken a huge toll on every industry.  From one industry sector to the next, business owners worried whether they could keep their doors open, make payroll, and keep their employees and customers safe. This is unlike anything that any of us have previously experienced.

Providers of IT services saw their own unique challenges: keeping clients working remotely with varying connectivity capabilities up and running, dealing with canceled client contracts, finding new sources of revenue to meet the shifting industry needs, and more. Add to that the wide range of industries that require IT providers, and most of them had to deal not only with their own company challenges but the challenges of every industry they serve.

Talk about a recipe for stress! For business owners and the clients they serve, one big question is what post-COVID business will look like as we all strive toward the “new normal.”

The corner to normalcy has turned, but with this return to routine comes the latest set of challenges for those in the IT/managed services industry … primarily keeping up with the demand from clients now facing security threat management obstacles as a result of the pandemic.

Because most companies had to switch from in-person to virtual very quickly, many let their guard down a bit – scrambling to stay functioning while in the process making themselves potentially more susceptible to cyberattacks and resulting in a current increase in security incidents. This will place an extra burden on already strained IT teams, both in-house and outsourced.

Making the road a little less bumpy as we move toward re-integration won’t be easy, but when tackling the challenges ahead, remember the adage “one day at a time.”

“One day at a time” is not just a cliché. It’s a great mindset to maintain the “here and now” as business owners contemplate their next steps. You may not presently have a solution for every challenge you’ll ever encounter, so concentrate on the immediate. Science has shown that when we stay in the moment and engage in “here and now activities” including meditation, yoga, tai chi, and prayer, for example, our brains begin to relax.  The chemical response is to calm down our arousal center and experience a lesser release of cortisol and adrenaline, two hormones at the root of stress.

And don’t forget that whatever anxiety you as a business owner may feel over reintegrating to a more normal work environment, those feelings are likely shared by employees. That means that communication is key. Employers must be thoroughly clear in communicating plans, and should listen attentively to concerns employees may have and take positive steps to assure them that they are being heard.

Flexibility is an important spoke in the wheel of reintegration. It’s important to consider both the professional and personal demands on employees. Taxing work schedules, childcare needs, residual pandemic anxiety are all genuine concerns that can take physical and emotional toll. Business owners must take the time to genuinely listen and accommodate employees’ needs and address them to the best of their ability. These conversations also provide an opportunity to discuss what the company has been through over the past year – and how it affected employees.

We’re all in this together.  One of the greatest gifts I have come to embrace as a counselor is the realization that I am never alone. I have never gone through, nor will I ever go through anything that someone else has not overcome. And right now, your employees may need to be reminded that they are not alone – that you are, indeed, all in this together, working toward a common goal.

Leigh-Ann Larson, Elevate Counseling
Leigh-Ann Larson
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Leigh-Ann Larson is founder and CEO of Elevate Counseling Services, a private practice with locations in Bellingham, MA and three other communities