What a weird week last week, huh? I think we’re all feeling a little skeptical about what this week, or next week, or the next decade, is going to look like. Last week was the first real week where most of the world was told to stay at home. There were tons of articles and blog posts and tweets about how to work from home (WFH), and last week we wrote a post for managers on How To Manage Remote Workers Effectively.
This last week was full of lots of… chatter. Chatter about losing jobs, companies closing, layoffs, and all kinds of uncertainty. People who could work from home were sent home to figure out the logistics of doing their job from their couch or kitchen table. Families were faced with the unprecedented challenge of figuring out how to have their kids do school while they figured out how to do work, sometimes right next to one another. Boundaries that have been in place all the sudden crumbled.
It didn’t help that there is a plethora of information causing panic, but no one really knows what is true. Gas stations are shutting down… make a run on the gas station! Don’t even get me started on toilet paper.
The big result I’ve seen, as it relates to work and employee performance, is UNFOCUS.
Last week I heard from many people in my network that they had work to do but just couldn’t focus. How easy is it to focus on your job when you aren’t sure if you will have a job? Or your loved ones or dependents? Or when you are wondering if you’ll ever eat at a restaurant again (you will), or if you will run out of gas and not be able to gas up, or if a catastrophe happens and you need to go to the E.R., but the E.R. is full, or … or … or…. !
Lack of focus was the theme last week.
What about this week? Will we continue, glued to social networks where we aren’t sure of much except that political parties hate one another, and are blaming the other parties for this catastrophic mess? Will we listen to the news, where everything seems to change by the hour, except for blame?
The big question is: how can you best support your employees? You can reread the post from last week. I think the most important thing you can do is to ask them how you can best support them. Communicate, and then communicate again. Overcommunicate, but do it with a heart. If you are one of those companies that have been saying your employees are so important, what are you doing to prove that to them?
This might mean you are patient with them as they figure out their new work from home normal.
It might mean you create a communication plan to help them feel a bit of stability in this weird world. Some people have gone to work from home, by themselves, and might go days without seeing or talking to another human.
It might mean you offer whatever support you can while your team figures out how to take care of family issues during this transition.
It might mean you assure and reassure them about their jobs. I know this will be crippling for many companies, but if your company is financially healthy to weather this storm, and continue paying employees, that will provide a great sense of relief.
Finally, it might mean you work with them to work on their projects. Just because the world is in turmoil, our projects don’t necessarily go away. What can they do to feel productive, to feel like they are earning their wage and helping your company survive? Don’t put the stress of survival on their shoulders, but as a leader and manager you can help them with work that might help them with a routine.
Communicate this. Be available. Think of how to best maintain your #1 asset: your employees.
One day we’ll get through this and have memories of this time. Here’s hoping we are doing the right things now so we come out of it okay, and positioned to thrive.
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