The Strengths Hardest Hit by the Latest Round of COVID Restrictions

Melitta Hardenberg
Sep 21 · 10 min read

In Australia right now you only have to open your news feed, or socials to see someone sharing an article on why this latest (and longest) lockdown is harder this time around. For those in Victoria and NSW and especially those in metro areas, they are doing it tough.

During these challenging times it’s never been more important to find creative ways to find joy, or any emotion that lifts us from what is otherwise a challenging time.

Why your strengths are even more important as a focus right now

What we know is people who focus on strengths are three times more likely to report a higher quality of life than those who do not. Focusing on our strengths makes us happier than focusing on our weaknesses. What we also know is the more hours per day you use your strengths the more likely you are to report positive emotions, have plenty of energy, feel well rested, and report smiling or being happy a lot. Using your strengths inoculates you from feeling stressed and from burning out. And let’s be real, if you’re in Victoria under stage 4 restrictions right now, we could all use a lift in positive emotions! We simply cannot separate strengths from wellbeing right now.

What makes it hard to focus on strengths

Here’s the catch, whilst we intellectually understand it’s important to use our strengths even more during this time, under times of crisis, change, and stress it can present more of a challenge or barrier to using your strengths. As an example if one of your strengths is your capacity to get work done and work at pace (the Cliftonstrengths ‘Achiever’ theme) and some of your work has been hibernated or paused, it can present a challenge to your feelings of productivity, so much so you might even feel deflated, demotivated, and low in energy.

The key here is to be aware of your feeling of stress, then try to label which strength might be experiencing a barrier in the ability to use it effortlessly. Once you’ve been able to label the strength, then consider what would give your strength some relief? The positive emotions you will experience from the relief of your strengths in action have a flow on affect in the brain opening up more cognitive resources and motivation.

The strengths hardest hit by the latest round of restrictions

Whilst all strengths will be impacted there are five that are feeling the full force of the latest round of restrictions:

WOO. Feeling the full force of the ‘Stay at Home’ Mandate

“Check on your WOO friends…. We are not ok!”

About Woo

Woo simply means to win others over. People who are high in woo derive genuine energy from getting to know other people, breaking the ice, finding points of connection. Whilst a big group or networking event might be associated with a Woo’er and their happy place it’s not at all about the group setting. It is about the opportunity to break the ice and get to know one human at a time and quite genuinely turn that stranger into a friend.

Why COVID is hard for WOO

Woo relies on chance meetings, access to people you do not yet know. Under ‘stay at home’ measures this tap has simply been turned off. Whilst, like many, there is an ability to stay connected, you simply cannot do this with people you do not know yet.

“Even in group calls I find myself not getting the same energy I used to, nowhere near it, in fact I sometimes leave flat. I realised that in these group sessions -whilst it’s nice to see everyone, I do not get a chance to connect with one person, deeply, or really get to know them. It is the one on one with people I’m craving”. Alison Drew-Forster, Director — Workology

Like oxygen, if your supply is running low you start to feel tired, lethargic and even small acts — you know, like getting out of bed, suddenly seem a little harder. The usual ‘pep’ has waned, and the motivation does not come quite so readily.

“There is a very real and noticeable difference in my motivation on days I have zoom meetings booked in and where I get to really connect with another human, especially when compared to the days I don’t. A very noticeable difference”. Alison Drew-Forster, Director — Workology

Lifting energy, focus, and motivation in WOO

In short, even if you’re zoom fatigued, scheduling some short catch ups with people you want to get to know better will breathe life into your soul. The energy you gain from connecting with others and finding new points of connection will fuel your energy, focus and motivation for the rest of the day. Try and add social variety, book in catch ups with a range of people from different work and social circles.

“I went back through my linkedin contacts and reached out to people I hadn’t spoken to in a while; and actively sought out new contacts and asked if they would like to share a Zoom coffee. I’ve been surprised and absolutely delighted with how many were up for a connection. They’re not long, but they are really energising.” Alison Drew-Forster, Director — Workology

Achiever. The frontline strength of the economic impact

About Achiever

Achievers work at pace. They have a huge engine when it comes to work. They know how to be efficient and they like to get things done. Achievers are at their best under pressure with real and looming timelines. When there is not quite enough time in the day to fit everything, is like a playground for an achiever. And the need to be productive does not discriminate by weekday or weekend. Every day, and every moment is an opportunity to tick something off one of the many lists an achiever has on the go.

Why COVID is hard for Achievers

COVID has had an unprecedented economic impact. For some, it means business closures, paused priorities, and temporary budget cuts. For others, the workload has significantly increased to cope with the impacts of COVID.

If the business has had to pause, the work hibernated, or the doors shut even temporarily it will be having a significant impact to those high in Achiever. With no or little meaningful work, or deadlines looming, Achievers’ motivation significantly decreases whilst procrastination starts to wander in, and this is a wildly foreign and unwelcome feeling. Self imposed or arbitrary deadlines don’t quite cut it. Achievers need real deadlines, real goals, real pressure.

“I’ve got stuff I can do, but none of it’s critical. I’m really struggling to get out of bed with the same gusto I had pre-COVID. I mean before COVID I was bouncing out of bed, sometimes even at 4am to fit in everything. Now, I sleep past 7 or even 8am because, well, I don’t need to get up. I don’t enjoy this feeling.” Lisa Stafford, Property Specialist — AJ Stafford Property Services

Lifting energy, focus, and motivation in Achievers

To get the energy back for an Achiever you need concrete and clear goals, something to work towards, and you need to be accountable to it. So, you might need to pivot, to change goals. Your combination of other strengths might determine how you pivot. For instance, if you have Learner also in your dominant strengths you might set a new goal that requires a steep learning curve. Lisa Stafford from AJ Stafford Property Services did exactly that. She pivoted her content from being a sellers advocate to add content for first time home buyers and learning how to run this via virtual channels. Not only that, Lisa has Responsibility in her dominant strengths so she partnered with someone else, set a deadline, and got cracking. The result — an energising sense of purpose.

For others, pivoting to personal goals is an option. Like Jaqui Clark, who in May set a challenge to run 500km’s during the lockdown month of May while raising funds for a charity she’s passionate about. Clear goal. Real deadlines. Public accountability.

Intellection. Feeling every bit of School & Childcare Closures.

About Intellection

You love to think, muse and reflect. Your powerful mental processing and intellectual activity empower you to clarify and explain, regardless of the topic or situation. Clear space, free time, and the freedom to muse over topics usually motivates you. Time can fly quickly when left to your own musings.

Why COVID is hard for Intellection

With schools and childcare centres closed this means you went from having total control of your time and your space to having your child/children at home… 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When you’re only allowed to leave the home for one hour a day, all of a sudden that clear space, free time and freedom to muse has been obliterated. The house is noisier, it’s messier, and free time has been quashed. You might find yourself feeling weighed down, almost claustrophobic, and deeply in need of time away and time out.

“I love to think. It’s like oxygen for me. I usually take the dog for a multi-hour walk on weekends and that is my quiet time. With the kids at home and only one hour allowed outside, I needed quiet solace so bad recently I just went to my bedroom, shut the door, and laid down. I just needed five minutes to do nothing other than let my thoughts wander”. Holly Cardamone, Communications Specialist, Blue 51 Communications

Lifting energy, focus, and motivation in Intellection

Find space and time. This could be hard to do with everyone being home now, however put some thought into how and when you can have space in your day. Do you get up early before the house rises to be at one with your thoughts? Do you take your full hour of exercise to walk in total silence whilst musing about the topic of the day? Perhaps even engage in intellectual discussion with those you value. Schedule calls, loosen the agenda and deepen the discussion. This must be a priority for you. Space and freedom to point your Intellection at will be like breathing life into your soul.

Focus. Feeling the combined impacts of the Economic slowdown & School/Childcare Closures

About Focus

If given a clear space they can zero in on the task at hand and focus until it is complete. The level of depth they can work at is intense, and they can do this to the exclusion of other priorities. They are masters at prioritising then acting.

Why COVID is hard for Focus

This is all dependent on having clear goals and a clear space to be able to focus, and if your work or business has been impacted and you have children home, Focus needs suddenly dissipate. If you have children interrupting every few minutes, lots of noise at home, and constantly shifting or unclear priorities, someone strong in Focus might feel foggy. Like they can’t quite see through the fog, and it becomes a very uncomfortable feeling, somewhat of a nagging sense. And if that’s not the feeling then I suspect it’s frustration. With work to be done and no clear space to apply some deep thought, this becomes quite frustrating. You might find yourself snapping at either the kids, the partner or the noisy neighbours. You just need some clear space and a clear goal to make progress on.

Lifting energy, focus, and motivation for those high in Focus

Boundary management, clear space and defined priorities will increase the energy and motivation for those high in Focus. If you have children at home it means identifying a space in the home you can work free from interruption for a set period of time. Sharing and alternating the load with a partner. Save your focused work for when you are not on parent duty and you can close the door. Create the space to prioritise the work and where your focus theme can be pointed at. Use techniques like the pomodoro technique to work in focused sprints. If you have Achiever in your strengths this will have an amplified impact.

Empathy. Feeling every part of the pain.

About Empathy

People strong in the talent theme Empathy have great emotional depth. They have a sixth sense that is always on, and always sensing. How people feel. Especially those that are close to them or that they have a level of responsibility for. The words left unsaid, the subtle expressions, and nuanced tones are all clues to what is really happening for an individual. Armed with this information they cannot help but want to provide support, or ease the burden.

Why COVID is hard for Empathy

Restrictions to our way of life is proving to be far longer than anyone expected. In Melbourne where there are four seasons in one day, under stage four restrictions it is more likely that there are four emotions in one hour. People are feeling every part of this and those high in empathy are tuned into it all.

“At work I feel a great responsibility to provide a safe environment for my staff, everyone is on edge just a little with the current environment. There are real challenges and people are experiencing the full emotional spectrum. Even at home when it’s my husband’s turn to support remote learning, I can hear when frustration takes hold, and I often feel compelled to jump in and help out to ease the tension. Empathy is a great strength but at time it can be tiring.” Olivia Giglia, Acting CEO — Melba Opera Trust

Lifting energy, focus, and motivation for those high in Empathy

It’s important to find joy where you can. It probably goes without saying but downtime activities must be calming, even more so during this time. That means no suspenseful media, including books. Limit the inflow of bad news (yes, that means turning off Dan’s daily press conference) and finding the people who can lift you up… or even sit with you when you need to download.

In summary, if you feel like your energy is waning, your motivation low, and your agitation levels at an all time high it could be due to your needs — what breathes life into you — simply not being met. Sure, it could be that you’re doing too much or not enough, but what is more likely the case, you’re not doing enough of the things that put a pep in your step. So, carve out a slice of time, reflect on what breathes life into you, and find creative ways to make it happen.

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Melitta Hardenberg

Written by

I head up the Learning & Development function at SEEK. I’m also a mother of two fearless & funny little humans & I love nerding out on all things humans at work

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At SEEK we’ve created a community of valued, talented, diverse individuals that really know their stuff. Enjoy our Product & Technical insights…