- April 23, 2020
- Posted by: adam
- Category: Company Culture, HR Strategy, Leadership + Management
Whether you’re new to managing remote employees, or you’re an old hand at it, understanding how to meet the individual needs of newly remote workers is central to ensuring your team is functioning successfully. Now more than ever, it’s critical that employers take extra steps to help their employees navigate the fear and uncertainty posed by COVID-19.
With many businesses just becoming acquainted with the ins and outs of remote work, it’s too easy for business owners to get wrapped up in smoothing out the wrinkles in functionality and forget that their workers are facing an exceptionally challenging time.
Chances are, your company and employees are facing some of these challenges yourselves. It’s important to remember that it’s going to be your employees who get your company through this. By supporting your employees, you’re supporting the very foundation your business sits on. Plus, it’s just the right thing to do.
Start with care
It’s easy to laugh it off, or insist that you don’t have time, but first things first: take care of yourself! If the leaders of your company are tired, stressed out, and suffering, your teams are going to feel it.
Connect with your leadership team often and check in with them repeatedly. You may have to ask how they are doing more than once. Their first instinct may be to brush off their anxiety, doubt, or frustration. But if you follow up your first “How are you?” with “So how are you, really?” you may get a very different answer. The same goes for the teams they manage.
These conversations may seem daunting but go into them recognizing you don’t have to have solutions to their feelings. Often just a listening ear or some words of encouragement is all they need to feel relief from their stress.
Listening to these answers can be draining, too. If you checked in with five people today and four of them expressed anxiety and doubt to which you had to respond, it can quickly burn you out. So have a way to take care of yourself as well. Meditation, exercise, or peer discussion groups can be a great release for your own built-up anxiety and stress.
Remote work is touted as a great solution that can raise productivity and employee engagement. Still, for some employees, it’s exceptionally challenging, and to most people who are new to working remotely, it takes time to adjust. The stress of navigating a new working situation compounded with the anxiety of dealing with the pandemic may be putting employees in a particularly challenging position.
Acknowledging this is the first step to supporting your employees. Working remotely can cause feelings of isolation, so ensuring they don’t feel alone in their struggle or experience is a vital part of helping them navigate the change.
Connect, connect, connect
Connecting through check-ins and one-on-one meetings in an employee-manager relationship is a great place to start. If you usually have monthly check-ins, consider bumping it up to a weekly occurrence.
Manager-to-employee check-ins are essential, but making sure your teams are connecting as well is also critical to helping them combat feelings of isolation and encouraging team building and engagement.
- Consider setting up weekly group happy hours where the only thing on the agenda is connecting with peers and catching up. Keep them casual and encourage people to eat and drink. Bring your employees together by sharing funny stories from the previous week and celebrating successes.
- Be a source of reliable information for your employees to depend on. At the beginning or end of each week, provide them with local resources and information that may help them address personal challenges brought on by the virus.
- If your teams are substantial, consider setting up a buddy system, or support groups of up to three employees. Encourage them to meet with each other throughout the week. Encourage them to work on challenges together and to keep leadership informed of any particular needs that arise.
Take the lead
Remember, your workforce is a living, breathing animal. It needs connection, encouragement, and time to care for itself. If you want to ensure your team is prioritizing these needs, you must lead by example. If your productivity or work quality drops, respond with care and understanding.
A steady hand and even voice now will mean a more durable and healthier workforce later. The whole world is in this together, and we must be patient as we find solutions to the challenges we face.
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