What Lessons Will We Take Away from the COVID-19 Crisis?

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

I heard a great observation on a weekly IHI COVID-19 webinar last Friday.  One of the physician presenters remarked, “In times of trouble, people rally together to take care of the patients and each other.  In times of calm, how do we get people to come together?”

It’s hard to imagine a future that’s calm, that resembles anything of what we thought we knew and how we interacted before COVID-19 and the protests following George Floyd’s murder. But we have to believe that there are better days ahead if we can survive these times of crisis.

The panelists on the webinar were asked what things they thought were most helpful in easing the stress of their staffs since the pandemic broke.  Here are some of their insights:

For many people, uncertainty in large and small things can be almost crippling.  Remind people what hasn’t changed in your organization and in the world at large.

As a leader, you are seen as having more – and more credible – information than other sources your employees have.  Have transparent conversations. Be a trusted advisor.

Acknowledge the grief that people are going through. They may be grieving for many different types of losses, but their grief is real. And all grief is personal, with its own intensity and pace.

Expressing genuine appreciation for their commitment and just for showing up goes a long way to lifting up employees’ spirits.

Attend to your employees’ most basic needs during this time. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has special relevance during this time.  Do your employees have food, water, warmth, and a place to rest and recharge? Do your employees have a secure and safe environment – at work, at home, and on transportation in between?

Finally, they said that an important job that leaders must do is to provide hope during difficult and uncertain times. That seems like a tall order, but we need to step up to the challenge if we want to be leaders.

When I reflect on these insights and the opening question, I believe that these are certainly the things that would contribute to helping people come together in a powerful way in times of calm.  What others would you add?

Reminder of great COVID-19 Resources

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement continues to provide incredible resources on a variety of topics related to the COVID-19 crisis — and not just for those in healthcare organizations.

Be sure to register for their (free) bi-weekly Virtual Learning Hour series offered every other Friday.


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