How to Support Employees Best During Uncertain Times
Employees are no longer asking “What can you offer me for my future and how can you help my career?” Instead, they are asking, “What are you doing to take care of me right now?” Workers are looking for an organization where they can feel heard, valued, safe and comfortable.
In this “new normal,” employees are faced with more challenges than ever before: a dispersed team, isolation from the real world, changes to their routines, an increased number of technology issues, and new coworkers (roommates, spouses, children and pets).
Many may find it difficult to unplug after work and feel lonely without the day-to-day interaction they were accustomed to before COVID-19. Others are worried they won’t have work to return to, fearful of an uncertain future. Trying to do too much to prove themselves may cause these employees to burn out.
As a leader, you have the obligation to help your employees feel supported, and you have the opportunity to help them adjust and thrive during this uncertain time.
Be visible, accessible, and transparent
Now is not the time to lock yourself in your office and be MIA. Employees need to see and hear their leaders now more than ever. Schedule one-on-one video conferences with employees just to check in on them. Find out if they need anything, whether it’s work related or not. Allow them to trust in you and confide in you. Be sure they know that you are working for them and with them.
Be honest and transparent with them by keeping them in the loop about what decisions are being made and why. If the organization is still unsure of what to do, share that with your employees along with the options under consideration. Try not to avoid hard or difficult conversations about what is going on in the world or in your state, city or company. Avoiding these conversations and dodging questions will do more harm than good.
Listen to understand, not to respond
Have empathy and flexibility both inside and outside of the workplace. Everyone is experiencing these difficult times and it’s affecting them differently. No one was given a handbook titled “How to Survive the 2020 Pandemic” with instructions on how to respond to a pandemic and cope with anxiety and stress during unprecedented times. Remember that we are all going through this together for the very first time.
Take some time to help yourself. Then, offer a helping hand to whomever may need it. You can find out what help your employees need by simply asking them, and then delivering without including judgement or voicing an opinion.
As a leader, you can help by:
- Personally training and onboarding a new team member
- Scheduling lunch time with your team once a week to chat and catch up
- Setting up regular team check-ins to go over any outstanding items that may need your attention
- Allowing your employees to log off early on Friday on occasion so they can spend some much needed “me” time on their own, or so they can spend more time with their families after a long week
Allow employees to be human
Did someone’s toddler “photobomb” your team’s Zoom video conference? Maybe someone’s dog began barking in the middle of your sentence. It’s OK! There’s only so much you can control when everyone is working in separate environments. Trying to hide the imperfections of working from home can be exhausting, so instead, embrace those imperfections. A little levity never hurt anyone and providing a safe, nonjudgmental space is bound to help employees relax, which will also improve their productivity.
Maintain and expand your company culture
You’re probably tired of hearing that it’s all about the culture. But it’s true. Focusing on your organization’s culture goes hand-in-hand with listening, being accessible, and being transparent. It’s important to strive to maintain the culture your company has worked hard to cultivate and adapt it to your new normal as best you can, especially while people may be feeling unseen and unheard in their home-office bubbles.
You can improve your organization’s culture by:
- Reaching out to your employees and teams to ensure everyone knows you’re there for them
- Ensuring employees feel valued and heard
- Providing employees with resources and supplies they need to do their jobs well in their new workspaces
- Setting clear, achievable goals
- Being flexible
- Being clear and transparent with all employees by hosting townhalls or staff meetings to provide updates
- Sending out companywide surveys
Remember, your company culture won’t just affect your current employees. Candidates are now basing decisions for their next move on whether or not their top choices have a positive work culture.
Host virtual activities that keep employees engaged
As employees continue to work from home, offer your support and guidance, and be there for them. Many may miss going into the office and seeing their coworkers’ friendly faces in the hallways. As their leader, you can help them re-engage and reconnect. Here are some suggestions to help you get started:
- Host a virtual team lunch
- Celebrate milestones, virtually
- Have a morning coffee (or tea) break with your teammates
- Host online yoga or aerobic workouts
- Have a virtual board game or trivia night or lunch break
- Highlight employees’ good work via your internal network or through email
You’ll find that by being transparent, flexible and accessible, you will be better able to ease your employees’ concerns and worries. They, in turn, will be more effective at their jobs and more likely to remain loyal to your organization during this tumultuous time.
Read 4 Ways To Keep Employee Morale High During Uncertain, Virtual Times for more tips on how to reconnect with employees and offer them the tether to office culture most of them crave.