The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the world of work. Some companies have had to furlough or lay off staff, while others are busier than ever. And virtually every business, regardless of what industry it is in, is coping with a significant amount of staff working remotely for the first time.
While the specific issues that companies are facing may differ, some common questions that managers are asking include:
- How do I keep my team on track and help them stay focused on their work?
- How do I maintain morale and foster collaboration in a virtual workplace?
- How do I provide support to my team in these uncertain times?
- When will things be back to normal? Will they ever be?
The constantly changing situation we find ourselves in makes many of these questions difficult to answer, and even experienced managers may struggle with knowing the right path forward. If you are feeling uncertain, keep these points in mind:
Focus on Performance
If your staff is working from home, it may require an adjustment in your mindset. Measure productivity by work output, availability, and timeliness of responses to inquiries. You may not be able to “see” your team working, but you can measure it in the progress they make on projects.
Set Clear Expectations & Reasonable Deadlines
Clearly explain both day-to-day tasks and larger organizational goals. Set appropriate deadlines for completion of work.
In these times of uncertainty, your staff will want answers. Provide as much information as possible about what is happening and any plans the organization may have regarding staffing or schedule changes, projects that have been put on hold or when people will be expected to start working from the office again. If you can’t answer a question, be honest and say you don’t know. Let staff know you will follow up with them as soon as you have more information.
Provide Regular Feedback
Collaborating by phone or video conference makes it difficult to read body language and non-verbal communication. It’s more important than ever to provide specific feedback, such as: “I really appreciate how you handled that situation” or “Great work on that project.” Be clear and direct when asking questions or making requests.
Be Supportive During an Illness or Family Crisis
If an employee falls ill, provide support and encouragement. Some people who contract COVID-19 have reported feeling a sense of social stigma regarding the disease. Avoid implying that the infection was the employee’s fault or that if he or she had been more careful, it would not have happened. Remind those coping with an ill family member or other personal crisis of any resources the organization may offer to assist with personal challenges.
Lead by Example
Eat healthy meals, get sufficient sleep and follow the recommendations of public health officials regarding handwashing, cleaning and social distancing. Emphasize the importance of good self-care.
Employees may be coping with a number of extra stresses, including worries for their own or a loved one’s health, financial pressures or difficulties with managing child or elder care. Employees who live alone and are engaging in social distancing or isolation may struggle with loneliness or fears about not having access to support should they fall ill. Make sure your team knows you care about them, not just the work they do.