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COVID-19 updates

Director wellbeing and resilience during COVID 19

By Institute of Directors
23 Apr 2020
read time
3 min to read
Green leaves

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic crisis has rapidly changed our business and social operating environment. Communities, organisations and individuals are being impacted in different ways. Some are doing ok, others are struggling. 

‘Always on’ has taken on a whole new meaning for many leaders. Directors who are leading, often multiple organisations, through operational and financial stress will be more than likely feeling the pressure. There is an adage that says if you want to have enough to give others you have to look after yourself. This is wise advice.

Director wellbeing is rarely talked about and can often be overlooked. During these times it is important that boards not only support their executive teams and employee wellbeing, but also ensure that they are supporting each other and building the collective resilience of the board.

Five steps boards can take to support director wellbeing

  1. Provide access to support services: If an organisation has support services such as EAP and they are not already accessible to board members, consider making these services available to board members for a time. Some boards may also choose to provide access to other forms of independent support for directors during the crisis.
  2. Develop contingency plans: Board workloads are likely to have increased significantly during the crisis, which will also be heightened for directors serving on multiple boards. Many people are also juggling extra family commitments. Everyone’s circumstances will be different, and at certain times some board members may need to miss board meetings due to illness, personal crisis, or urgent commitments to another board. Boards can support directors by ensuring that there are plans in place to ensure they can still operate effectively. For example thinking about technology efficiencies, quorum requirements, reassessing agendas and deferring work to ease workloads, and a back-up (or successor) for the chair if needed.
  3. Reach out and support each other: Break down the stigma and encourage each other to seek advice and support from mentors and peers. Some boards may want to encourage a buddy system so that directors can check in and support each other. Also make sure someone is checking in on the chair and providing support as needed.
  4. Be diligent about cyber hate: As the board makes tough decisions individual members may find that they become subject to personal online abuse and harassment. If you know that members of your board may be facing a backlash, raise the issue with the board as a whole. For more information and tips about dealing with cyber hate see our article.
  5. Take care of yourself: Prioritising self-care and your mental wellbeing is critical to maintaining the calm and resilience needed for sound decision making. Take time out and exercise, relax, reflect and think. The government is supporting the development of a number of services to support New Zealanders, including the free app Mentemia. The Resilience Institute and Umbrella also provide useful tools to support mental wellbeing.

Setting the tone from the top

True culture shines through in a crisis and boards can show strong leadership and set the tone through their actions during this time. This means prioritising mental health and wellbeing and showing that it is important to your organisation.

During these times executives and other employees may also be feeling increased stress and anxiety. Demonstrating and talking about prioritising self-care is important. It is also important to monitor organisational health and wellbeing and consider how you can support your people.

Our article Keeping chins up provides further information about mental wellbeing and supporting your staff during the COVID-19 crisis.

The IoD is developing other resources on resilience for members. Check our COVID Governance hub regularly for new information and resources.

Further reading and resources

The following resources include guidance and insights on personal mental health and wellbeing and also actions that can be taken to address this in workplaces:

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