Managers always have a responsibility to make sure their employees feel supported — and that’s even truer today.
For those fortunate to still be employed, many are shifting into remote work practices for perhaps the first time in their careers without the benefit of advanced preparedness. Even for individuals who do have experience working from home, remote work during a pandemic takes on a totally different meaning. Add to that the obstacles working parents are facing and the tremendous amount of uncertainty we’re all up against, and the need for clear leadership from managers during this crisis is heightened.
If you’re leading a team and unsure how best to support them right now, start with these 11 things all managers should be telling their remote employees.
1. “How are you feeling?”
Much like the news cycle itself, our lives are changing — rapidly. Check in with your how your employees are feeling on a regular basis, and don't presume that by asking them once, you've checked this box. Starting this dialogue will reassure your direct reports that they're encouraged to be honest with you.
2. “I encourage you to build breaks into your work day.”
The transition into working from home has, for many of us, brought with it a struggle to implement boundaries and allow ourselves enough time offscreen. One article from Bloomberg suggests that since the start of mandatory work-from-home policies in the U.S., we're working (or at least are online) for an additional three hours each day. It's crucial that, as a manager, you're reminding your employees to take breaks whenever they need them.
3. “Here’s what the pandemic means for our team strategy and for your specific role.”
With so much uncertainty in the air — including about people's financial health and job security — it's essential that you clearly communicate with your team about any foreseen changes in their job responsibilities or priorities. These updates should continue to come as frequently as new information from company leadership is made available.
4. “Don’t worry about your kids being audible on our call.”
For most workers with kids at home, maintaining the illusion of work-life separation is a bygone luxury. Make sure that the working parents on your team know this is totally OK and expected.
5. “I’m about to log off for the day but will get this back to you tomorrow.”
As a leader, you should be modeling work-life boundaries. Otherwise, it's only that much harder for employees to feel they have permission to draw these lines themselves.
6. “Let’s talk about your career goals.”
As so much of our collective head space reorients around navigating the immediate present, it's reassuring to be reminded of one's longer-term career vision. Is there a new project or stretch assignment you can give a direct report right now (if they have the bandwidth for it) that's in keeping with their goals?
7. “I’ve pulled together some mental health resources to share with the team.”
Supporting your team during this crisis means letting them know that you see their health as a priority, and that includes their mental health, too.
8. “Here’s our plan for the way we’re going to structure meetings.”
Leading an effective virtual meeting in many ways follows a different model from in-person meetings. Forming a set plan and providing clear communication around how you'll be adapting to these new meeting needs is crucial.
9. “You’ve been doing a great job.”
Stress is high, and now isn't the time to leave employees uncertain of your feelings about their performance.
10. “Are there any tools or resources you need at home to help you do your job?”
Supporting workers at this time also comes in the form of making sure they have the literal tools they need to work from home as effectively as possible. What can you help acquire for them that they don't currently have?
11. “Is there anything I can be doing differently?”
We're all navigating unchartered waters, and that includes you as a manager. Creating channels for honest, two-way feedback won't just help your employees feel supported; it'll also ensure that you all work better together during this crisis.