Being caring, empathetic and human-centered is the best way to counteract the issue of heavy workloads and expectations of more, more, more.

I thought we’d reached the limits of what was reasonable to expect from others, and from ourselves, some time ago….  Last year, COVID-19 blew that out of the water. This year, it seemed like it ought to be easier, that workloads would revert back to pre-pandemic levels. Er, is it just me, or have things escalated another notch?

In their recent Big Reset Playbook: Human-Centred Leadership Josh Bersin, Mark Spratt and Kathi Enderes at least lay it out plainly: “Not only has the pandemic impacted business models, demand, the economy, but it has also given employees more and more to do.”

They claim, based on their research with HR leaders who are collaborating with them on their ‘Big Reset’ program, that companies, and people, are becoming overwhelmed with things to do.

While humans are very resilient, there are limits to the resilience. Are we not being tested beyond what’s reasonable? I think so.

Bersin and his colleagues say that most companies are realising they must: change things to prevent overwork and overwhelm continuing.

These are some of the things they emphasise:

  • teach people how, and give them time, to focus on what matters
  • give people time off to rest and regenerate
  • lead in a more human-centered way

They refer to good advice from @Martin Seligman worth repeating here: not everybody has limitless resilience. There are three things that organisations need to pay attention to stop people from burning out under pressure:

  1. Prevent trauma. Help people feel safe, protect and nurture them.
  2. Be positive about the future. People are less likely to worry or catastrophize about the future; they will instead be reassured that things will be better in the future.
  3. Create a sense of joy. Share fun and laughter, make it OK to do this at work.

These are all features of human-centered leadership, leadership that puts people at the heart of work. Human-centred leadership balances out business-focused leaders, which is necessary, but by no means sufficient. Empathy, listening, patience, caring and flexibility are necessary in both the best of times, and the worst.

It’s time to get some sanity back into workload expectations.

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