As we deal with the seemingly perpetual lockdown, our lives have become increasingly stressful. Notice I did not say “more” stressful. We can all agree that working life is stressful. What COVID-19 has done is remove some stresses and introduce others.
No longer have to deal with the daily grind on I-495? Excellent. Replace that with now having to balance the on-line work environment while home schooling the kids. Lessened interpersonal contact reduces the challenge of office politics but is supplanted by having to negotiate the chaos of a Zoom meeting. And, in far too many cases the complaints of being under compensated are replaced with the joy of pay cuts.
For many managers, one of the newest unexpected challenges is dealing with geographically diverse colleagues. As a manager how do you cope with a workforce that is no longer around you?
There are issues that range from communication to accountability. What are some good strategies that will help make your situation more, well, manageable?
- Prioritize – Your team is treading in uncharted waters. Their individual routines have been shattered. As a manager, it is your responsibility to decide what is important…and what can wait. Whether it is a grand vision of what you expect to accomplish in the near term or a daily listing of what needs to be done, YOU set the tone that allows your team to proceed with some semblance of normalcy.
- Provide Direction – Hopefully, by now your team has adjusted to this disjointed way of doing business. However, they will still need guidance from you. Be clear in your instructions and expectations.
- Communicate – No, over communicate. Do not assume everyone is as focused at home as they are in the office. Deliver your direction and then make sure everyone has heard – and understood – those directions.
- Be Flexible – Yes, office hours are 8:30 AM to 5 PM…in the real world. In this iteration, don’t be so strict. Some may rise early and hit the ground running. Others may not. Worry more about the outcome than the structure. The object is to get the job done – not crack the whip.
- Be Human – Pay attention to what your team is going through. Be aware of their individual circumstances. Do they have a loved one who is infected? Are they alone most of the time? Great management is about adjusting your style to fit the person. Remember, it is your job to put them in a position where they can succeed.
- Remain Positive – We are surrounded by scary news. Some of it may directly involve your business or industry. The last thing any of us needs is a boss who screams, “We’re all gonna die!” Work can be a great escape for your team members. Give them a reason to log on, not check out.
- Stay Safe – Your safety is important. But the safety of your team (and their families) is even more so. Make sure they have what they need. Not only to conduct business but to remain safe. It is hard to focus on work when they are concerned about protecting themselves and their family.
Many of us are making this up as we go along. At the same time, we are creating new rules for the workplace. We are managing a crisis while living through it.
As a manager, recognize the struggles of your employees. As an employee, recognize the increased pressure on your managers and overall team. Working together, we can pull this off.