It has been a few months since the COVID-19 pandemic shook the world and changed the way of living and working for many communities. As employees come to terms with living, working and thriving in the new normal brought about by this pandemic, leaders similarly rise to the challenge of leading amidst the uncertainty.
Perhaps this is a good time to take a breather and reflect on how you as a leader have been coping with each of the following:
1. Overcoming remote working challenges
The biggest transition most companies have undertaken is the shift to working from home. While the productivity and merits of it have long been debated, working from home is suddenly no longer a choice due to lockdown measures in many cities.
Making the transition from an office setting to a full work-from-home situation has caused additional stress and challenge to employees and employers alike. As each individual copes with additional stressors while working from home, the range of emotions they experience increases.
It has never been more crucial for leaders to be open, transparent and honest in their communication with employees. In every communication opportunity, leaders should approach every individual with understanding, empathy, and the sincerity to listen actively. Open dialogues can only be built based on mutual trust, and leaders hold the crucial key to fostering such trust.
Is your employee struggling to handle home-based learning for their children while trying to achieve work ideals at the same time? Does your employee have a less than desirable home environment to work peacefully? Being a manager that checks in on a regular basis out of genuine concern can be an affirming source of support that helps them overcome remote working challenges better.
2. Dealing with stress and anxiety
Since the implementation of partial or complete lockdown in many countries, mental health and the well-being of employees forced into confinement have become a focus for many employers.
In a pandemic situation where anxiety, health-linked concerns, and a number of other personal hurdles plague each individual, checking in and asking how employees are feeling and making sense of their situation will allow each party to better understand the other’s state of mind. Extending empathy towards each other also helps to build trust and reassurance amongst the team.
In a time when inspiring and heart-wrenching stories are dredged to the forefront of our attention, it’s important to remember that every individual around us including ourselves has a story of our own too. This is the best opportunity to reconnect with each other as individuals, recognize each other’s fears, hopes and dreams, and be that supporting voice and presence on the other side of the teleconferencing call helping each other to keep our stress and anxieties in check.
3. Managing business impact
The impact of this crisis can be seen in various degrees in different industries. While some industries, such as IT, are booming, others such as retail and service-based businesses are struggling to stay afloat.
In such uncertain times, it has never been more crucial to stay connected with clients and partners to provide support and empathy as they deal with their respective business challenges. Reaching out at this moment is not just a way of showing altruism and compassion, it will also help strengthen and maintain business relationships beyond the crisis.
This is perhaps the best time to stay ahead of the curve with the use of technology. Businesses that can shift technology capacity and investments to digital platforms will stand a greater chance to sustain their business and surmount the negative impact COVID-19 has on their bottom line.
For businesses grappling with a dip in demand, this could also be the perfect opportunity to have a good look at changing and modifying sales pitch and marketing materials, or reviewing and recasting pricing strategy amongst other tasks too easily overlooked in busy periods.
4. Redefining real-time multitasking
For a long time now we have celebrated multitasking and multitaskers. In today’s world though, multitasking has taken on a whole new flavour as people juggle between different priorities that clash as their worlds collide at a single point – home.
At any given point in time, individuals could easily be facing home-based learning needs of their children, managing a household, navigating a clash in space as everyone in the family simultaneously works from home, while juggling the need to be connected with clients and teams online in a work-from-home setting that lacks boundaries. The stress generated could easily lead to exhaustion – psychological and physical.
Keeping some dos and don’ts in mind could help you cope better with your multitasking needs.
For starters, stick to your normal schedule. This establishes a routine even from the comfort of home and avoid overstretching yourself into the night. Instead of office coffee breaks, virtual breaks to grab coffee or do some stretching exercises helps to keep your energy up. Ensure that you insert strict blocks of time in your schedule where you can take a break from digital devices. Set this schedule as much as possible in tandem with your team and make them aware of your ‘unavailable’ timings. Naturally this requires you to be flexible and respect other’s time constraints as well.
If you are a line manager, don’t fall into the temptation of micromanaging and requiring your team to report to you constantly. This creates undue pressure on them to be available at all times.
On a more personal note, don’t feel guilty about catering to your family needs during the ‘official working hours’, ensure open and honest communication with your team so that such situations can be worked around, and in the same vein, extend that consideration to them as well.
5. Innovating to stay relevant
In a time where many service-based business operations have suddenly come to an almost abrupt halt, it is a daunting task for any manager to think of ways to maintain productivity level and revenue. While there is not much one can do to circumvent the fact that social/physical distancing has limited and in some instances prevented people from meeting, this could also be a good time to innovate.
Familiarity and predictability of a daily job routine might no longer be available, but on the flip-side employees now have the bandwidth to take on new projects or focus on projects that were shelved due to lack of time and resources previously.
While employees might rightfully be worried about the stability of their roles in this pandemic, encouraging them to brainstorm ideas on new activities within the company they could contribute to could be a good way to help them stay relevant. Instead of seeing this as a down period, it could be a period of re-calibration where new ways could be found to engage and attend to the needs of networks such as clients and stakeholders.
The possibilities are endless and innovation is the name of the game.
By building awareness and constantly reflecting on ourselves and our leadership approach during this period, we can emerge from this with a stronger team and a much more resilient business, ready to tackle the challenges ahead!