Emotionally Supporting Employees through COVID-19
Suddenly you’ve gone from leading a team that thrives on social networks to managing a staff keeping its “social distance”. The Covid-19 pandemic, and its subsequent work from home mandate, for millions of Americans has resulted in the most significant U.S. labor experiment since Rosie the Riveter inspired a 50 percent jump in women’s entry into the workforce during World War II.
Though remote work has risen steadily in recent years, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics, full-time work from home is still a surprisingly new concept for more than two-thirds of Americans. And managing a staff virtually calls for a modified mindset, perhaps more than many leaders understand or appreciate, especially during a global pandemic.
Here are three ways leaders can emotionally support employees during this difficult time.
Exhibit empathy. Your organization’s people are its most valuable resource. In a matter of days, your staff suddenly faces multiple new challenges at home due to the Coronavirus pandemic that directly affect the health, welfare and financial well-being of themselves and their loved ones. In short, their worlds have been turned upside-down. What’s more, their lives may look quite different from yours at home.
Some employees are juggling endless distractions. School is closed. Parents struggle to hold down jobs and perform as homeschool teachers— simultaneously! No more school lunches means kids need to be fed, the fridge needs be stocked, shopping needs to get done, and someone needs to find toilet paper! Through these bizarre and unsettling times, try listening to your employees’ newfound challenges and express that you are there to support them in any way they need. Perhaps, when appropriate, can you even find the humor in this “new normal”?
Others employees live alone. They may feel isolated and lack a sufficient amount of work to accomplish. Perhaps they manned your firm’s front desk and their job entailed checking corporate visitors in and out. Suddenly their main role has vanished. Are there new projects you can assign to this team member to keep productivity high and demonstrate to this worker that they are still a valued team member?
Resist micro-managing. Since you’re no longer encountering your employees face-to-face, it’s natural to be curious about how engaged your staff is with their work-related projects and timelines. How and when can they be producing for the company with so many pandemic-related personal distractions?
Interestingly, according to Gallup, 70 percent of employee engagement is directly related to effective leadership. Research shows it’s best to take a situational approach to your role as a leader and adapt to the circumstances and crises your team may be facing. Thus, assume your staff is doing the best they can during the Coronavirus crisis. Though productivity may not be as robust as it was when your staff was physically present in the office, can deadlines be adjusted to meet these unprecedented times? The best leaders do not focus on “inputs”, i.e. what their team members may or may not be doing at any one moment in time. They instead focus on overall “outputs” and team-related accomplishments.
Pay special attention to new hires. The old adage still holds true, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Research shows nearly 70 percent of employees are more likely to remain with a company three or more years if they have a positive onboarding experience. Conversely, nearly 20 percent of employees who leave a company do so within their first 45 days on-the-job. Thus, most effective organizations continually practice onboarding for new recruits during the entire first year of employment.
What specific steps can you take for new employees while working from home? Schedule personal check-ins at least once a week to ensure they have access to the systems, processes, procedures and people they need to succeed in their role. This goes not just for employees new to the company, but also for young folks just entering the workforce, as well as for people new to remote work. If your calendar tends to be packed, assign a fellow team member to take new team members under their wing to answer questions when you’re tied up. This not only supports the new hire, it empowers the veteran and shows that you value their longevity and expertise.
The best leaders, according to Gallup, motivate employees, build trust-based relationships and have the ability to overcome adversity. The good news for you as a manager, amid all of the bad news of late, each of these attributes can be exhibited virtually.
Written by Jay Sunny Bajaj. Have you read?
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