Managing staff in these Challenging times
You are a Manager. Covid 19 has come along and impacted your team in many ways.
Your workforce is working from home – as are you. How can you be a good manager in these unusual situations?
Whilst you are a manager, one thing that sounds counter-intuitive is to admit your difficulties. Being open and honest about your struggles makes a powerful connection to others. Having the courage to show yourself in a vulnerable light will set the tone for your team to feel that it is OK to not be “perfect”. It can be a confusing time and uncertain – for everyone.
What do you need to manage?
- Your team members
- Getting the work done
Your team members
Checking how things are for them, communicating messages well, everyone is different with different situations.
Accept that everyone is likely to be in shock, usual routines shattered and not just in the workplace. Plans have been ruined. People may be isolated and lonely. People may be squashed at home with children, dogs, etc. And going to the supermarket has become a major undertaking.
Ask each team member what they are finding difficult– maybe starting with an example you are struggling with. And listen, let them tell you how it is for them. What sort of things should you be asking about?
Their environment – have they got a work-space that is suitable? Have they got broadband that is adequate? Is their home quiet enough? Who else is there? What about working at their computer? As far as they can, try to make their desk space safe. For advice from Health & Safety Executive see this short video Have they got all the equipment that they need? Will you cover the costs – for example headphones, broad band boosters, keyboards? Their environment may be shared with others – this may impact on their working hours – is there flexibility for this?
Their adaptation to working from home – some people will feel bereft without their colleagues, the hustle and bustle of the workplace – and this is very real. For many people work is central to their lives, and without it they may feel lost, uncertain etc. Allow people to express their feelings without any assumptions or comparisons. High emotions are not going to lead to good work being completed – you will need to help them through this. Listen, signpost – e.g. if you have an Employee Assistance Programme it may be very useful to remind people that they have access to counselling as well as financial and legal advice. Do you have Mental Health First Aiders available? Can you provide people with a Buddy/Mentor? Can you encourage teams to meet virtually on a regular basis – coffee time? Lunchtime? Helping someone to see that there are some benefits as well as negatives – ask people what the benefits are for them.
Others may find the opposite – working harder than ever – without a break, without boundaries, hours flying by. People will respond differently – but there are some basics that will help everyone
- Have a routine and try and keep to normal working hours where you can. Set the alarm clock for a reasonable time. Get dressed in the morning.
- Commute to work – this has shrunk, hugely for some people, which could be a real bonus to home working. BUT maybe your commute helped zone into work and at the end of the day, separate work from home. Try (yourself) and suggest engineering a commute – go for a half hour walk before you start and at the end of the day – this marks out your day. You may combine with shopping too to stay within the lock-down rules.
- Have breaks – lunch away from workstations – maybe have a virtual lunch with colleagues?
- Stretch regularly and move away from your work-space – set alarms to do this if you need to nudge yourself– good exercises are here. Combine moving with getting a drink of water – stay hydrated.
- End the working day – encourage employees to send you a brief note of what they have achieved that day and what they will be doing tomorrow. This helps you to stay informed, but also helps employees to wrap up the day and leave work behind.
- Manage exposure to news, and using reliable sources. Catching the news in the morning and evening is sufficient. People need a “diet” of good information for their brains. Wherever you focus that will be where your energy goes – focus on fear and despair and that is what you will get. Having a balanced diet of information will help people cope and respond appropriately.
Getting the work done
Morale and Productivity – this may take a hit, as may your own. There is a period of adjustment which will vary from person to person. What will help?
Accept that work may reduce – adjusting to the distractions at home may be difficult at first especially where children are getting schoolwork at home. What is the minimum expectation? Anything else is a bonus. People may have to work in fits and starts – or at different hours, sharing space, computers etc. This is a temporary state – things will not always be like this. Flexibility where possible.
Communication – which will now be virtual. Use as many ways of communication as possible. Online platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Teams, Webex – will you be providing paid versions of these? Ask people what amount of communication they want – setting a minimum daily amount – to more where required. Where possible keep communication positive and focusing on what is possible. But do also acknowledging fears, doubts.
Communal communication Allow people to be creative in their communication “Pizza Friday” “After Hours cocktails”, “Netflix/Book/Ted talk sharing” – let this come from the ground upwards. Wellbeing Wednesdays – allowing people to benefit from Lunch’n’Learns, Ted Talks, Relaxation Techniques, open discussions on their current situations.
Communicating bad news. If you have to furlough staff or reduce hours or other major changes to peoples lives, make sure that you communicate this sensitively and in person. Don’t hide this news in an email, for example. Remember that compassion and kindness are your real allies in your communication.
Remind people that they are doing valued work. This can be forgotten in the midst of everything else. If people have less of their usual work to do what else could they be doing – refreshing, rebranding, training, clearing out databases, their own computers, setting up templates for making future work easier, learning new skills/platforms – all the things which normally take a back seat but you may have time for now – and value it.
Encourage people to focus on their wellbeing very deliberately – their physical wellbeing – diet, sleep, exercise, but also their emotional wellbeing – their thinking, relaxation, reframing negativity, boosting their happiness and resilience, mindfulness, managing stress well, being self-compassionate.
If you want to find out more about Managing positive mental health and wellbeing you can receive i-act training as a Manager – an online half day course from Unlock Your Wellbeing (April 30th course available NOW) See this video for more information.
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