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How to Cope With Job Stress and Build Resilience

Psychological Safety
Health / Stress / Burn-Out

4 August, 2021

Rohini Babygirija
Rohini Babygirija

Product Owner at Danske IT

Rohini Babygirija, Engineering Chapter Lead at Danske IT, shares her experience on how she allocated herself during the COVID-19 crisis and provided vital support to her team members.

Problem

You can ask any manager working in the tech field right now, or even any manager, and they would say that the challenge right now is having to work from home. For me, it is the same, but the difference is that I had two role changes in between, which made me stretch and stretch my days to the extent that I started questioning myself: why did I even end up in this job? As we had an agile transformation in the company, my role got changed to engineering chapter lead.

Eventually, my responsibilities increased, and I had to sail the team through the agile transformation and convince them why we were doing it. Perhaps, everywhere in the world, when we talk about agile transformation, the first thing that comes to anyone’s mind is more productivity and fewer resources. In tune, many employees feel that they might get fired, which includes a chunk of emotional baggage that I needed to manage, along with the project deliveries and the commitments. After all, my final goal was to make sure that the stakeholders were happy.

Starting with my engineering chapter lead, I managed 12 junior engineers, who were also reporting to me when I was in the previous role. However, the roles had quite many changes because I had to start working as an engineer myself in the squad. Although the squad setup was not new to me as I was already used to the agile structure, the team members were very juniors. I had to begin from scratch with them, explaining why we did what we were doing while learning the mainframe for myself.

Before this, I was a complete .NET person, and I had to get accustomed to it. The best part about working from home amidst such challenges was that we did not have to push through the traffic congestion in the city, but there were other challenges. My 10-year old had his online classes going on while I was in one of my meetings. I vividly remember that while working on an important stakeholder project, my son would randomly come up with his shenanigans. On top of that, he was also learning a particular language that he sometimes needed help with, and exposing him to too many of those gadgets had also posed a threat.

Altogether, it was a pretty hectic situation to deal with, whereby some of my team members had been diagnosed with COVID themselves. Having to support them emotionally, attending stakeholder meetings from day to night, and managing family expectations, a manager’s life is much more than just being ‘a manager.’ In pen and paper, we were working from 8 - 4, but in reality, I would say, we worked from 8 - 10. Since the team is scattered across the globe, I had to make sure there was enough face time with everyone. If I had to describe all of that in one word, it would be: crazy. How did I manage all of the craziness?

Actions taken

First of all, I followed my regular routine; instead of bringing about any changes to it. Typically, if I started work at 8 am, I started working at the same time from home. Of course, I did adjust a little bit here and there. The most emphasis I had to put on was my child’s online classes, which started and ended at a particular time. His breakfast and lunch, in the meantime, became another one of the responsibilities that I had to undertake.

I knew that I could not halt anything; everything had to continue just like business as usual. In necessary cases, I woke up a little earlier than usual to get done with the day’s cooking and some other household chores so that nothing would affect my day. The only activity that was impacted by my day was my workout sessions. Since we were not allowed to step out of our houses during the lockdown, I could not go out for my daily walks, making it a little more complicated than usual.

The only meetings that got cramped up with my routine were during the evenings. I had to call the other team members in the other region, which was about 10 pm at my end. In between the meetings, I would be making some sandwiches at the kitchen and tell my team members that it was more like an informal session and we could carry on some other stuff while we were in it. At times, I would also be feeding my son in the background while listening or talking to people in the meetings. Although my usual plan was to work from 8 - 6 pm, daily, and in the evenings, I would carry on with the 1:1s.

For the team members who were affected by the COVID-19, I started approaching their families. As a matter of fact, I had their emergency contact numbers, so I used to talk to their families to keep a check on them. Alongside, I wanted to make sure that they had all the support they needed from the organization. Needless to mention that our company was super supportive and empathetic during such tumultuous times. Having a global task force, I would give out information regularly to my manager and their managers to keep them updated on any inconveniences.

As might be expected, we could not meet any of our team members in person, but we did not leave any stone unturned when it came to doing everything online. In any event, if someone did not know that a particular insurance card did not work somewhere, I would go on to figure out how to make it work. Occasionally, I would call on behalf of the employee to get things sorted out.

Lessons learned

  • Take nothing for granted. Finish what you may have to finish for the day not to become a burden to someone else in the future. There were instances where people kept on delegating and postponing some highest priority tasks, which is not repeated once again.
  • A leader should be empathetic. Your team members are going through the same situation as you are, and in some cases, worse. Being more understanding would help everyone in such a situation.
  • Make sure you have some excellent time management skills. Sitting with your laptop on your couch makes you feel like you want to work 24/7, but it is certainly not healthy. At times, take a walk or do something that does not relate to your work to refresh yourself. If you have a timetable that would be the best.

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