No matter what your industry or job title, the structure of your team and workflow has pretty much gone out the window with the pandemic. Aside from those with jobs that have been deemed essential, everyone’s working from home and connecting with their colleagues remotely.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed considering the many concerns you can have, from trying to protect your health and safety to feeling isolated or stressed by being around your family all day to keeping your team on task.
Some of these issues require patience and waiting out the storm, but in terms of work management, there are steps you can proactively take. With the help of software development providers (such as BairesDev) and other technology companies, you can keep your productivity up and support your team.
Communicate Often and Responsibly
Face-to-face communication is important for keeping everyone informed and functioning together effectively. Fortunately, there are plenty of video chat platforms, including Zoom and WebEx, that can facilitate these connections, even if you’re not in the same room as your colleagues.
Not only will you be able to keep everyone apprised of important information and news, but you can communicate more effectively. After all, body language can tell you a lot about people’s feelings and reactions that chatting over email or even on the phone can’t.
In addition to having team meetings at least once or twice a week, communicate with employees one on one. People are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, and they’ll appreciate you checking in and showing that you care about them as people, not just workers.
Share Your Own Struggles
Along similar lines, empathizing with your employees can facilitate better teamwork and cooperation. Remember that while no two people have identical reactions to times of crisis, you’re all going through a shared, extremely difficult experience together. Showing vulnerability will humanize you and make your employees feel like they’re not alone in this.
Welcome them to disclose their struggles and stories, too. You might even start off each team meeting with a brief check-in with every employee, encouraging them to share what’s going on, even if the issues aren’t work-related.
Right now, no one has all the information. We don’t know how or when things will get back to normal. We don’t know how long the pandemic will last. We don’t know how it will impact everyone economically and whether recovery is feasible.
While you can’t provide all the answers, you can be forthcoming with what you do know. Keep the staff informed about goings-on at your organization and how they will affect employees and the business as a whole. You might email out a daily internal briefing every day to make sure nobody’s caught off guard. Of course, if you do have to lay off workers, share that information privately on the phone.
COVID-19 has probably changed the way you work and your expectations for how employees work, too. Make sure everyone understands what you expect of them. Do you want them to continue to clock in and out virtually or let you know when they’re taking a lunch break? Say so. Are you using a new project management system like Trello? Make sure everyone knows how to use it and what it’s for.
Given that people are dealing with new personal responsibilities on top of adjusting to different ways of working, it’s better to focus on outcomes, rather than how they’re actually achieving those outcomes. Try not to manage day-to-day activities or overwhelm employees with check-ins — this will only contribute to their stress. Instead, let them know what you expect them to achieve, and check in only when the situation warrants it.
At the same time, you need to be more flexible than usual. Understand the many obligations your team is juggling at home. Do your best to be accommodating of the challenges people are facing. An employee with school-age children, for instance, may not be able to meet with you virtually at a certain time if their child needs the computer to do homework.
Take Breaks Together Online
Working all day, every day isn’t the way to ensure productivity. In fact, research shows that working too hard can actually harm people’s careers.
Boost productivity by taking breaks together virtually. Just as you might go out for lunch or grab coffee with a colleague, take some time to share a meal together via video chat and talk about your lives unrelated to work. You could even have a virtual happy hour, encouraging everyone to enjoy their favorite beverage while on Zoom.
There are some necessary resources your employees will need to access, such as hardware. In addition to these, you might offer tools to support their work and overall well-being, including:
- Guidance from the IT department on how to set up a home office
- Online course libraries like Coursera and Udemy
- Wellness reimbursements
The COVID-19 crisis will eventually subside, and you need to start thinking about how to make the transition back into the office. You should also consider what changes to make going forward. Some industries will be impacted more than others, so how you adjust will depend on different factors.
Most of all, you should prioritize the safety and well-being of your employees. Work out a plan that protects everyone. If employees need to take public transportation to get to work and worry about being exposed to the coronavirus, for example, you might consider allowing them to continue to work from home until it’s clear that it’s safe to go back on the train or bus.
This is a temporary situation but one that will have long-lasting effects. Don’t sacrifice teamwork or productivity during the crisis — being proactive is all about putting strategies in place, communicating frequently, supporting your employees, and planning for the future while keeping everyone engaged and prepared for what comes next.