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Soul Care for Business

SBJ Economic Growth Survey: Silver Linings: COVID-19 led some businesses to confront deep-seated issues on the fly

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While coronavirus gave businesses a violent shove into the future, it also forced companies to look at important topics otherwise set aside. Some leaders have sought out mental health care for their employees, invested in professional development and team building, and strived toward a healthier work environment.

Mental Health
Supporting businesses with self-care techniques and connection during the pandemic is an ongoing mission of Dr. Shelly Farnan. She is a psychologist and director for diversity and inclusion at Burrell Behavioral Health.

“Our survival states are exhausted; we are exhausted, and it doesn’t turn off when you walk into work that Monday morning. This is affecting us always, and it’s affecting all of us,” Farnan says.

Farnan has led 35 private and virtual mental health support experiences in the past five to 10 weeks. The experiences are part of the Be Well Community.

The “community” is educated on three neuroscience principles: Human brains are survival brains, people survive best in connection with others and humans survive with hope.

“When our brains experience hope, we create the chemical dopamine,” Farnan says. “And that dopamine is required to keep us motivated, to achieve and to help make the best next decision.”

The Network, a young professional’s group with the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, participated in a Be Well experience in spring. Katie Jones, coordinator for The Network, sent surveys asking its 450 members what they wanted to learn.

“People were just really looking for opportunities to still connect,” Jones says.

Janet Dankert, CEO and president of Community Partnership of the Ozarks, says she is looking into the Be Well program for her 60 employees after attending a presentation through the chamber. She says her employees have been on the front lines of the pandemic dealing with community issues, such as homelessness and child care.

“As helpers in the community, as service providers, we always make everything about everyone else,” Dankert says. “And sometimes, it’s just hard to know that it’s OK to think about our own self-care.”

The need for mental health care and holistic wellness is not avoidable anymore for business leaders, Farnan says. Neither can they put in a five-year plan, she says, because employees are hurting right now.

“For those organizations that don’t already have a wellness that embodies emotional and mental health, I do believe this will be absolutely required moving forward,” Farnan says.

Individual and team training
Between employees working from home and sales not hitting at their best, companies are finding time to do more professional development during the pandemic.

Brett Baker, co-owner of Trustpoint LLC, conducts sales management training in Springfield. He helps people build more confidence and trust in order for them to prospect, sell and generate more revenue. Right now, he’s helping hone skills in a setting other than an office due to the pandemic.

“I would break it down into a behavior, an attitude and a technique,” Baker says. “You got to do a new behavior. You might have to do it virtually versus face to face. The attitude is the ‘comfortability’ or the comfort zone of being on camera, doing your job virtually rather than the other way. Then there is the technique ... to build trust on camera.”

According to the 2020 Economic Growth Survey by Springfield Business Journal, 68% of businesses allowed employees to work from home during the pandemic.

“A silver lining is that working remotely, or selling or managing remotely, can work,” Baker says. “In some cases, it’s working so well, I don’t think some places will go back to the old way of doing it – meaning locations and team meetings. They can do it virtually.”

Nearly a quarter of respondents in SBJ’s Economic Growth Survey agree, saying they’ll rent less physical office space post-pandemic.

Thomas Douglas, president of information technology firm JMark Business Solutions Inc., hired Baker for sales training while his employees were working from home. Douglas says with people uncertain about the virus, sales have softened.

“Sales and marketing is an area we are investing in as we try to continue to grow,” Douglas says. “And so, with some junior salespeople inside the organization, if we can accelerate their learning curve, it’s good for everyone.”

He says role-playing sales situations with Baker has been the most helpful component of their training specific to the pandemic.

Work Culture
With business structures changing due to the pandemic, company leaders are turning to consultants for direction. Marlene Chism, owner of Marlene Chism Consulting, says business leaders are realizing the importance of coaching during this uncertain time.

“When we are busy and things are in our way it can seem like, ‘I can do this’ and I got my internal team,” Chism says. “But when you are up against this virus and all these changes, sometimes you need a thought partner to help.”

Chism says the concept of how businesses operate is shifting with people working from home resulting in less supervision from upper management. The structures of businesses are also changing with furloughs and employees going part-time, she says. As a result, managers are looking for ways to effectively communicate.

“We are getting to be more – the understanding of strategy and more outcome-based versus you are just working for an hour-to-hourly wage,” Chism says.

Gerald Schmitz, human resources manager for Positronic Industries Inc., took Chism’s three-part course through the Ozarks Technical Community College Workforce Development Center. After that, he hired her to work with the global company’s supervisors last month.

During the pandemic, sales have been down in two key sectors Positronic supplies electronic connectors: the aerospace and airline industries.

Schmitz says employees are still working from home, which has strained communications across departments and projects.

“Because there is so much stress and conflict now pressed upon us from outside sources, her training has helped us to focus on reducing those stresses and making sure we are communicating and getting our messages across,” Schmitz said.

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