As the pandemic churns on, your employees may be getting somewhat settled into their strange new routines. But don’t be fooled: Even as they get acclimated with Zoom meetings or working in masks, their anxiety hasn’t gone away. If anything, it’s just gone underground. It’s up to you as the leader to remind them just how much you care, even as you engage, inspire and challenge them.
Heartfelt leadership is needed more than ever in times of great fear.
Leadership actions that create Best Places to Work include things like sharing pride in your mission, products and services; empowering workers to feel they have a career instead of a job; challenging them; teaching skills that help them succeed; and helping them feel happy, fulfilled and successful in their lives by fostering friendship, camaraderie and a sense of belonging.
Employees still need all these things. The pandemic hasn’t changed that. And the good news is, none of them are mutually exclusive.
Build trust by keeping team members informed.
Whatever it takes, find ways to inform team members about what is going on, what’s expected of them and what they can expect of you. Doing this builds trust. Make a call or send emails or an occasional text to keep team members updated in real time. Be transparent. Share what you know. The more they know about what’s going on, the more connected, comfortable and assured they will feel.
Pay attention to those who don’t do well working alone.
Some people feel isolated, depressed and unproductive when working alone. These are the team members at greatest risk of becoming disengaged. If you have the chance to do so — and if your situation allows — encourage these people to volunteer to be part of small groups that rotate into the office or warehouse every few days. It will give them something to look forward to, help them stay productive and bolster their sense of self-worth, well-being and belonging.
Be especially considerate and forgiving of those with family issues.
Some people may find it difficult to work from home even under normal circumstances. But now, with most schools and daycare centers being closed, working from home can be especially challenging for those who must now also perform duties they usually pay others to perform. Be mindful that some workers may struggle with weaving their business responsibilities around additional responsibilities of homeschooling and childcare.
Offer creative options to ease their burden at home.
Anticipate that for most everyone, regardless of whether they must now work from home or are still on the job in the workplace with added workload, work-life balance will be a greater challenge than usual. Offer the option for team members to select from a list of home-delivery services, to be funded by the organization, to help reduce the stress and ease the burden in unique ways. Options might include a month of laundry service; a “meal-in-a-box” dinner service (such as Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Sun Basket, etc.); or a short-term subscription to online yoga classes.
Foster networking between team members.
Help every member of the team and beyond to build and maintain meaningful relationships while working apart. Create online task forces, as needed, to solve new problems that may now come up. Ask for volunteers from different departments, from key customer accounts, and/or from suppliers to keep ideas flowing and everyone engaged (both in and outside the company) and working together to achieve common goals.
Allow for more flexible scheduling.
If this is your industry’s busy season, allow team members to take comp time at their preferred times. Rather than mandate work schedules, allow team members to work out their own work schedules with each other, if possible. Likewise, if possible, give team members the option to work non-traditional shifts, perhaps three or four days per week, or a different number of days or hours on/off shift to best coordinate with their life partner’s schedule, child rearing demands, etc.
Do what it takes to make team members feel appreciated.
Be especially forthcoming with good news and praises for jobs well done. Job satisfaction surveys prove again and again that simply appreciating someone’s work can be more important than any other factor in employee engagement. The recipients of your appreciation will most likely be inspired to put forth an even greater effort to ensure they will be thanked again. Everyone is doing their best to adapt to the situation and keep business moving, but we still have a long way to go before things return to normal. If you lead with all the generosity and love that’s in your heart, you will empower everyone to show up each day ready to be their best.
Deb Boelkes is the author of “The WOW Factor Workplace: How to Create a Best Place to Work Culture” and “Heartfelt Leadership: How to Capture the Top Spot and Keep on Soaring.” www.businessworldrising.com