The only certain thing about the COVID-19 pandemic has been a constant state of change. The pandemic has upended how we live, shop, travel, parent and, of course, work.
The impact on the workplace has been profound. It’s likely your team has experienced one or more of the following changes:
- Working from home rather than at the office
- Virtual meetings
- New procedures, both when working remotely and in the workplace
- Turnover in, or the elimination of, key positions
- General uncertainty about the future
With so much change in the air, you may find it difficult to hold your team together. The question becomes, how do you help your team not just survive these rapid changes, but also adapt and thrive?
Empathy is one answer. An approach that emphasizes understanding and compassion will help your team stay focused on and invested in their work. Here are some ways to bring an empathetic mindset into your management philosophy:
- Be aware of stresses. Think about the challenges your team might be facing. These might include isolation, child or elder care issues, financial concerns (particularly if their partner now has limited employment), and general worry about both their own family and situations in the news.
- Acknowledge losses. Many people have experienced personal losses and disappointments in the last year. In addition, your team may be absorbing collective losses, such as the death of a colleague or decreased workplace camaraderie. Encourage your team to support each other through these difficult experiences.
- Create a sense of normalcy. Many people on your team may find the stability of a work routine soothing. You can help to foster this feeling of “safe space,” even during rapid change, by creating a set schedule of events. Some examples include weekly team meetings or socially-distanced Friday lunches.
- Establish purpose. When too much change happens too fast, it can push people into survival mode. Give your team “big picture” goals to strive toward. Explain how day-to-day tasks are foundational to reaching these larger goals.
- Shift the focus. If your team has had change imposed upon them, shift the focus so that the change feels more designed. For example, if your team no longer has access to a specific resource, shift the focus onto developing new processes that will work around, and perhaps even improve upon, how tasks were handled previously.
- Embrace adaptability. Change forces people into a state of transition, whether they want to be there or not. Encourage your team to focus on how adapting to constantly changing circumstances may benefit the workplace and help them grow as individuals. “What can we control?” and “What steps can we take to be more prepared the next time this happens?” are questions that will help your team maintain a solution-focused, forward thinking mindset.
- Express appreciation. Frequently remind your team that you value their contributions. In addition, recognize individual team members when they step up to help a colleague or put in extra effort.
- Avoid micromanaging. Your employees were hired because they each bring needed skills to your workplace. Keep the focus on meeting your team’s goals and objectives and on following procedures that help them stay safe. Demonstrate trust in your team.
- Maintain perspective. Be sensitive to when your team needs to catch its breath and when it should put its foot on the gas.
- Be honest. Let your team know that you’ve been challenged by the last year, too. Encourage team members to access relevant company resources for assistance with stress, grief, and any other personal concern.
Instilling empathy into your management approach will lead to increased engagement, improved morale, and greater loyalty from your team.