COVID-19 has forced businesses and organizations to embrace a level of change that we could never have imagined a year ago. In our organization, we moved from about 5% of our team members who are teleworking, to around 85%. We were able to execute that transition between two to three weeks.
Leaders— when addressing our team members on our current situation, avoid the line “We’re all in the same boat.” That is not true. We are NOT in the same boat. Yes, we are weathering the same storm, but we’re definitely not in the same boat. Some have extravagant yachts. Some have humble rafts. Heck, some don’t even have boats to navigate these turbulent waters.
Let’s all be mindful of the different situations people are in.
For some it’s a fun, refreshing situation to be able to work from home. No commute. Work in their pajamas. Enjoying a home-cooked meal. While some are stressed with having to deal with online schooling and feeding their entire family, on top of meeting the demands of their jobs.
For some it’s peaceful to be at home, with their loved one, their dog, or just having a lot more “quiet time” to read and recharge. While for many, it’s an abyss of loneliness and despair. Not having the emotional support and human connection of their coworkers.
Some (like some of the rich and famous) urge everyone to stay at home- “we’re in this together.” While some risk their lives to go out and try to make a living to survive.
Some are disappointed that they’re unable to enjoy the food at their favorite restaurants or they have to cancel that big vacation. While some are worried about unable to provide the essentials for their family to survive and not go hungry.
Some are fortunate enough to take home more money through unemployment benefits. While others are earning much less due to the inability to work the normal number of hours before the pandemic.
Some are worried about what new workout, what new home-baked bread, what new homemade cocktail, or what home-cooked dish to share on Instagram. While some are worried about what food to prepare for their family everyday-that’s at least three full meals a day, not counting snacks.
Some want to make sure they stock their liquor cabinet. While some are concerned about stocking up their pantry with food.
Some are sick of spending so much time with their family at home. While some are missing loved ones, who are sick due to the virus, or worse, who have passed.
Leaders — ask how your team members are doing. For the most part, it’s not the time to give advice. It’s time for you to just listen. Keep your ears open. Ask what you can do for them. Share with them all the benefits your organization has to offer. Be sure they’re aware that you’re there to listen and to be a support.
Do not assume that you know what they’re going through. You don’t. It may be appropriate to share some of your own struggles. Show some vulnerability. Realizing that their boss also goes through struggles during this pandemic can help them feel that they’re not alone in this situation.
Conduct more team meetings and more one-on-one sessions with your team members. Try to shift the scale of these meetings to topics that are not related to work. Make sure you have equal airtime for everyone, or at least have something to contribute to the meeting. That helps each person to feel that connection-that belonging.
In our team meetings, we assign (if there are no volunteers) someone to share something new they’ve learned to the team. We call this the #WUW or the “Wise-Up Wednesdays” — well, we started having our team meetings on Fridays, so we have to rename that to #WUWOF (Wise-Up Wednesdays on Fridays). Enough about what we call it. It doesn’t matter.
Someone would share about a book they just read. Or a new dish they just tried. Or a hobby that they’ve been involved in. These keep the learning juices flowing.
At each meeting, everyone still needs to contribute something. We start it with “shout-outs” — thanking peers for what support they’ve provided them or just simply acknowledging good work that they’ve noticed.
Towards the end of the meeting, we do rollcalls. Everyone is given an opportunity to contribute. It may be a mini #WUWOF, a last-minute shout-out, or a question/feedback. We don’t accept “nothing to share” responses.
We just started a practice that if someone doesn’t have anything to share, they should tell a joke-the cornier the better! It’s been working out well. The team seems to be enjoying it!
How do you keep your team engaged? As a leader, how do you maintain that personal connection with each of your team members? How do you convey the message that “everyone is not in the same boat”? And, what situations have you encountered that proves this statement true?
Originally published at https://donvarela.com on August 23, 2020.