Research on emotional intelligence and emotional contagion (the spread of affect from one person to another) informs us that individuals look to their managers for signs about how to react to sudden changes or crisis situations. If you are a manager, here are tips on how you can support your colleagues in staying connected to the workplace and each other during COVID-19:
- Check in with the Employee Assistance Program: Confirm availability of your company’s EAP. Remind everyone it is there if they need behavioral health support. Make sure to communicate all relevant website links and phone numbers to them.
- Check in with the health plan: Learn what your organization’s health plan is offering to support plan members and pass that information onto everyone. Make sure to communicate all relevant website links and phone numbers to them.
- Offer encouragement and emotional support: Make yourself available to everyone to talk about fears, to answer questions, and to reassure them about work and other issues that might arise. Be sure to acknowledge any issues and empathize with their struggles.
- Listen thoroughly to responses: Once you ask a question, be sure to listen carefully to the response and briefly restate it back to the individual to ensure that you understood it correctly. Let the person’s stress(es) or concerns be the focus of the conversation.
- Provide clear and consistent communication: Make sure to communicate all possible updates without overcommunicating information. One suggestion is to prepare powerful presentations to keep everyone engaged and motivated.
- Offer different communication channels (if working remotely):This includes video conferencing and mobile-enabled individual messaging functionality (like Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.), which can be used for simpler, less formal conversations, as well as time-sensitive communication.
- Encourage everyone to get on video (if working remotely): This helps get that face-to-face focus and much-needed social interaction. Schedule regular video conference meetings and keep them professional so everyone is prepped and out of their PJs. Do not worry too much about background noises.
- Avoid the habit/temptation of micromanaging (if working remotely): Try not to constantly check in on everyone – this will only make them feel like you do not trust them. Instead, keep communication channels open and allow everyone to work independently.
- Encourage feedback from everyone: One suggestion is to set up an employee engagement survey to get feedback from individuals on how they are doing, what is/is not working for them, and how the general mood is within your team.
- Recognize the impact of isolation (if working remotely): Be aware of significant changes you may see in an individual’s personality or work product, because it may be a sign that a person is struggling. Make sure to not only ask about their work, but also see how they are doing.
- Encourage online training to sharpen skills (if working remotely): This is a great time to suggest this opportunity and is also a good distraction for individuals to focus on learning rather than worrying about other issues. Find online trainings and new learning opportunities to recommend to everyone!
- Establish “rules of engagement” (if working remotely): For example, make it a rule that videoconferencing is required for all meetings and instant messaging is required for any urgent communication. Also, let everyone know the best way and time to reach you during the workday if you can.
- Offer social interaction opportunities (if working remotely): Schedule virtual coffee chats with individuals in between meetings for some friendly, non-work conversation. When you are chatting with them via instant message, get creative and have a little fun with visuals to express yourself.
- Confirm your confidence in everyone: Use affirmations like “we’ve got this,” or “this is tough, but I know we can handle it,” or “let’s look for ways to use our strengths during this time.” With a sense of purpose and focus, individuals are more likely to take up the challenge.
- Show what a good work setup looks like (if working remotely): Before you start a video conference, remove any clutter in the background that can be distracting, try facing a window for natural light or have a lamp nearby so you can be seen clearly, and use headphones to stay focused.