The recent COVID-19 pandemic has forced most workers into self-isolation mode in order to protect the most vulnerable members of society. With the exact time it takes to flatten the curve in the U.S. unknown and based on geography and the concern about a second outbreak occurring, this may not be the last lockdown. Self-isolation can be logistically challenging in terms of actually getting work accomplished, and it proves even harder for employers as we try to keep team morale high and our now-virtual workplace culture positive and strong. Leaders can implement these five tips to help keep your team together during these trying times:
If you are missing your team happy hours, you’re not alone. The good news is, they don’t need to stop. Technology makes it easy to see and hear each other, whether using Zoom, Google Hangouts or Skype. Now’s a great time to schedule a weekly virtual happy hour with your team. Chances are, they may need a break from their family, roommate or partner. Everyone just has to grab their favorite alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages and log in. To keep conversations flowing, my law firm includes an agenda with random questions such as the most random thing you’ve found in your pantry while quarantined. You’ll be amazed how quickly your colleagues warm-up and how this can help combat the isolation blues.
Research shows exercise helps both our physical and emotional wellbeing. You can support your virtual officemates’ physical and mental health by creating fun, achievable team challenges. Nike has a great app called Nike Run Club where you can connect with coworkers and create running challenges. Garmin offers a similar app where you can challenge others to running, biking, or even a certain number of steps per day. You can see your colleagues’ leaderboards, talk smack, and keep the “fun” factor in your new digital office culture.
During trying times, compassion, grace and kindness are even more necessary than usual. Carve out some time in your weekly schedule and just check in with your team. Pick up the phone and call them, or use video chat. Don’t talk about work. Ask them how they are doing, how they are feeling and what’s going on in their world. Just listen and then ask what you can do for them. This makes your teammates feel supported, heard and less alone.
Many of us find comfort in familiar routines. When that routine is disrupted, it is easy to feel off-center and consequently, our productivity and morale may suffer. Your team needs your leadership now more than ever as we all figure out new routines that may juggle unexpected homeschooling or child care obligations due to statewide or citywide shelter-in-place orders. Offer employees resources that provide tips on how to be successful. Each week, if not more than once a week, I share articles about meditation and physical exercises that can be done at home, blogs explaining how to cope with the emotional hardships of isolation, and other resources for the working parents on our team who may be struggling to keep their kids busy so they can get work done.
Sometimes it can be difficult to step outside your own struggle and recognize the hardships that others may be experiencing. The reality is, in times of lockdown, everyone is affected and many need a helping hand. Encourage and support your teammates in giving back to the community. For instance, many healthcare facilities are experiencing a shortage of face masks. There are several tutorials online showing you how to create one at home. Our more crafty teammates have taken up that cause and are sewing face masks to send off to our local hospitals. It’s a small gesture, but one that helps our colleagues feel connected to one another and their community.
Whether there’s a global pandemic or times are normal, leadership requires creativity and adaptability. You can help your team adapt best in times of hardship and stress by supporting healthy habits and providing opportunities for human connection through technology. Your team will thank you and your business will thrive because of it. You’ve got this!
Tara Malek is a co-owner and the chief litigator at Smith + Malek, Idaho’s fastest growing business law firm. She and her husband, Luke, split their time between Boise and Coeur d’Alene.
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