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Adapting to Work in the Face of a Pandemic

Cassandra Rose, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

It’s March 2020 and the busi­ness world is chang­ing rapid­ly as we adjust to a new nor­mal. The spread of COVID-19 (Nov­el Coro­n­avirus) from the Wuhan province in Chi­na is now impact­ing more than 100 coun­tries around the world. There’s a huge adjust­ment to make as mil­lions of employ­ees are now stay­ing home to reduce the spread of COVID-19. It’s time to col­lab­o­rate and keep morale high, but also to not be afraid to adjust how we do busi­ness. We still have our orga­ni­za­tion’s per­for­mance goals and rev­enue objec­tives to attain, but we can get cre­ative about how we meet them. But, even more impor­tant­ly, we need to care for our peo­ple. Let’s encour­age our teams with com­pas­sion and under­stand­ing as, togeth­er, we learn how to nav­i­gate our new world of work.

Here are some tips to inspire and care for your team in the face of this pandemic:

Be realistic as you adapt your management style.

  • Don’t make promis­es you can­not keep. Your orga­ni­za­tion can’t esti­mate how long this new work par­a­digm will last.
  • Lis­ten to employ­ee sug­ges­tions on how to increase their pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and how to col­lab­o­rate better.
  • Shift duties among the mem­bers of the team based on new pro­duc­tiv­i­ty pat­terns you observe over the next few weeks.

Maintain frequent points of contact.

  • Stay con­nect­ed with your employ­ees through emails, texts, and voice­mails. The goal is to boost morale and every employ­ee needs some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. In addi­tion to tra­di­tion­al mes­sages, con­sid­er inspi­ra­tional quotes, dai­ly check-ins, fun­ny memes, viral videos, and brain challenges.
  • Sched­ule vir­tu­al ​“cof­fee breaks” through­out the day. Remem­ber how you used to chat about col­lege bas­ket­ball or The Bach­e­lorette in between meet­ings? You can still joke around or talk about the lat­est show you binged on Net­flix from the com­fort of your own home.
  • Sched­ule a ​“cel­e­bra­tion ses­sion” with your team once a week. It’s easy to bemoan the chal­lenges of doing busi­ness in such a unique time so take the time to rec­og­nize the things that are going right, no mat­ter how small they may seem. Let’s also remem­ber that many sec­tors of soci­ety are unable to work from home and that we are tru­ly for­tu­nate despite the challenges.

Pass along strategies to increase work-from-home productivity.

  • Get out of your paja­mas, take a hot show­er, and dress up in your new ​“work” clothes.
  • Take fre­quent exer­cise breaks. It has been proven that walk­ing around for a few min­utes will get your blood flow­ing to your legs again, decrease your blood pres­sure, and help you think more clear­ly when you resume work. Exer­cise also sends feel-good chem­i­cals to your brain, which rapid­ly ele­vates your mood.
  • Hold a vir­tu­al meet­ing host­ed by your ​“cul­ture” com­mit­tee or ​“Sun­shine Club” and encour­age employ­ees to inter­act in a fun way.
  • Uti­lize ​“time block­ing” to make the most of your work hours.
  • Take 30 min­utes to one hour for lunch each day. Use that time to con­nect with peo­ple you love or recharge with a book, favorite show, or a walk around the block.

Use your soft skills to care for your people.

  • Ask ques­tions that show you care for your peo­ple, their fam­i­lies, and their extend­ed rel­a­tives in oth­er loca­tions. Gen­uine­ly lis­ten and remem­ber the hard­ships each per­son is fac­ing and encour­age your team to do the same.
  • Urge peo­ple to prac­tice social dis­tanc­ing and do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19.
  • Give employ­ees more flex­i­bil­i­ty in meet­ing dead­lines and demon­strat­ing they have met per­for­mance goals.
  • Encour­age employ­ees to prac­tice ratio­nal opti­mism, a strat­e­gy that encour­ages pos­i­tive think­ing about what they can achieve each day after assess­ing their present conditions.
  • Uti­lize a ser­vice like Fringe to uplift your team from afar. With our unique Fringe ben­e­fits mar­ket­place, your peo­ple can choose ser­vices that mean the most to them dur­ing this unprece­dent­ed time. We like to call it our ​“Quar­an­tine Sur­vival Kit”. [For more infor­ma­tion, click the but­ton at the end of this post.]

If you are seri­ous about help­ing your orga­ni­za­tion main­tain its prof­itabil­i­ty over the next few quar­ters, you must con­tin­u­ous­ly eval­u­ate your new man­age­ment style. As a peo­ple man­ag­er, be sure to keep notes about what’s work­ing and what’s not work­ing and track how you are hold­ing your team mem­bers account­able for their tasks. This new era is about col­lab­o­rat­ing dif­fer­ent­ly, but it also requires man­agers to show greater empa­thy, com­pas­sion, and under­stand­ing. In a time when many peo­ple are pan­ick­ing, your employ­ees will need you to be lev­el-head­ed and guide them through this unfa­mil­iar ter­ri­to­ry. Make the most of this unusu­al time; use it to think out­side-the-box and inspire your employ­ees to do the same.

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