“How you treat people during tough times says more about you than how you treat them in good times.”
Beyond our roles in keeping a business running, the health and safety of our employees and customers must also be top priority—both in times of crisis and in times of normalcy. In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we’re all responsible for keeping each other safe, healthy, and well.
How can employers best support their teams? We have five major suggestions to adopt right now, with advice from HR experts and business leaders.
Put your people first.
As much as American culture compels us to describe a tight-knit workplace as “like a family,” your office is decidedly not a family! (That mindset, experts say, can lead to troublesome boundary crossing and outsized expectations of loyalty at work, especially for more vulnerable groups.)
Let’s be more clear: your coworkers and employees are their own families, and in times of crisis, those are the people who must come first.
“There are times to look at the data, leverage metrics and analytics for decision making, and develop long-term strategies for the business,” writes HR leader Ben Eubanks. “Right now, though, everything we do must be done through the lens of caring for and supporting our people. We just have to keep the human in human resources.”
So if you must, think of your coworkers like your family. But in that case, let it lead you to more radical empathy for your team. What would you do to protect and care for your family right now? What does your family need? What challenges are they facing, and how can you help ease the burden?
Leading with compassion and empathy results in better relationships with your employees than anything else. (For help here, we really like this list of 7 traits of compassionate leaders.)
If at all possible, allow your employees to work remotely. But beyond that, we recommend increased flexibility when it comes to schedules and connectivity.
“The Coronavirus has turned millions of office workers into remote employees overnight. Companies are sending workers home with laptops and a prayer that business will be able to continue as usual, but things can’t be business as usual,” says Alison Green, of the Ask A Manager blog. “Employers will need to adjust their expectations…Just because workers’ laptops are now nearby on their kitchen tables doesn’t mean managers can expect their workforce to be available 24/7.”
In fact, says Green, employers need to allow for the opposite: maximum flexibility in difficult times. That might mean allowing for more flexible schedules, adjusting your project management workflow, or other creative ways of approaching the business of doing business.
And one major thing to avoid? Micromanaging your remote employees. Assume that you’ve hired great people, and that they’ll be as productive and accountable as they can.
“Leadership is about creating confidence in times of great uncertainty, says Thomas Koulopoulos, Founder of Delphi Group, a major consulting agency.
In a piece for INC, he reminds fellow managers that “your role as a leader is not to sugarcoat or sidestep the truth. It’s also not to predict the future.”
Instead, he suggests, company leaders should provide a protected space for employees to feel confident that they will be cared for and best protected from the implications of uncertainty. That means being honest about changes, and talking candidly about what we know and don’t know, especially as situations change quickly.
Take it from some remote work veterans: be proactive and effusive with your project-related communication, but also keep up the more casual chatter too. Experts say doing so can help fight feelings of isolation.
“Since you won’t be bumping into your colleagues in the halls or cafeteria or elevator or parking lot, you won’t have the same opportunity for chitchat and human connection,” suggests Lindsay Pollak for INC. But that connection is so important.
“Make time every day to text with colleagues, check in personally, share stories, ask how people are doing. If you normally catch up with colleagues in person before a big meeting, do the same before dialing in to a group conference call when everyone is remote. Even when at home, you should confirm receipt of messages and check in with people when you start your day and end your day. Try to follow the same rituals and habits to maintain relationships and a sense of normalcy”
Video chatting can also help fill the need for face-to-face connection. At IncentFit, we’ve started adding casual video chat to replace our team lunch. If you have an internal messaging system, consider adding a channel to encourage more casual chat among your team.
As a health and wellness company, we’re charmed by the many folks sharing suggestions on how to stay healthy and active while quarantine at home.
Today the internet is full of lists of free streaming workout classes, healthy pantry meal ideas, resources for parents now faced with a different kind of juggling act, and suggested daily routines to stay productive but sane.
One bit of good news: you can still show a commitment to your team’s health and wellness from afar.
While employees can’t get their regular gym visits in, you can get creative by running wellness challenges that include at-home workouts, small daily habits, or walks outside. (See our blog for more remote wellness program tips.)
It’s also a great time to promote healthy work-life balance, and the vital need for good nutrition, preventive healthcare, and social/emotional wellness.
As always, if you want to promote a culture of wellness, it starts at the top. Model healthy behaviors for your employees now (yes, that includes virus prevention!) and we guarantee you’ll see positive effects spread.
We’re here to help. Want to talk about your employee wellness program, or ways you can support your team from afar? Let’s talk.