Are you a manager, asking yourself how you can cope with the current COVID-19 crisis? Have you suddenly found yourself managing staff working from home or who are having to follow strict social distancing rules to be able to attend work?
Many of us have gone from not allowing people to work from home to demanding it. So, many employers have invested in suitable equipment and access for staff; implemented collaboration tools such as MS Teams and Zoom; trained staff to use those well and safely; and started running daily and weekly video meetings. Indeed, many individuals are reporting that they have more contact with their managers than previously, and they like working from home.
However, as managers, we have more difficult issues to face if we are to ensure a healthy workplace with engaged and productive employees. Why is that, and what are those challenges?
We are getting tired!
First, the initial novelty of working remotely and virtual tools will soon wear off. There are only so many Zoom quizzes that you can enjoy, and meetings with everyone attending will degrade as a few attendees regularly consume the airtime. The cognitive load that virtual working imposes also causes us to tire, and we will feel the loss of the empathetic emotions that only face-to-face contacts secure. Boredom, distraction, anxiety or loneliness will likely kick in for many.
We are running out of cash!
Second, most of our organisations are depleting their cash, liquidity is reducing, and we will come under pressure to focus on cost-cutting, productivity, new revenue generation, or some combination of those three.
Priorities will need to change. But, how?
As managers, we must handle this inevitable shift in priorities with immense sensitivity. We will be in uncharted territory with no logical, ethical, or legal precedent. We may have to face some difficult questions such as:
- Given limited time, how should I balance the priorities of (a) ensuring the wellbeing of my staff, and (b) driving up productivity to save my employer’s business and thus jobs?
- Can I, or should I, push employees to return to work (when approved by the government and employer), even if they are scared about their safety en route or at work?
- To what extent can I, or should I, enquire into their personal circumstances to help me to decide who should attend work and who should remain working remotely? Is this fair?
- Given the organisation’s need to survive, how much allowance should I make for family and other household demands during the working day on staff working from home?
How can you manage through this?
First, look after yourself. Only then can you look after others. Eat properly and stay hydrated; exercise sufficiently and safely; take frequent short breaks away from the computer screen; make sure you sleep sufficiently and well; focus on what you CAN control, not what you cannot.
Second, pay attention to the important – don’t let the urgent overwhelm you. Plan time each day and each week to look ahead – to spot potential issues and opportunities so you can address them.
Third, communicate clearly, consistently, and congruently with all of your staff. Explain the decisions you make; the decision-making process you followed; what you considered and rejected; what you decided and why; how it will affect them and when; and how they can get further clarity, support, etc.
This is your chance to shine!
We will get through this, and this is a time for you to shine as a great manager.
Clinton Wingrove is the Principal Consultant at www.WantToBeGreatManager.com.
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