Updated: Dec 17, 2020
2020 has been an incredibly challenging year so far. COVID-19 forced us to make significant changes to our work and private lives. Most of us have never experienced something like this before.
The pandemic has a huge impact on businesses, especially on small and medium-sized enterprises. How can we, business owners and HR professionals support employees during these challenging times? Communication, compassion and trust are the three key elements to build a good company culture and this is now more important than ever. As we are all experiencing challenging times and constant change it is crucial to communicate any changes within the company as soon as possible.
Many companies have transitioned to remote businesses, as remote leaders and HR professionals, we need to keep in mind that the employee experience has changed for many teams. When working remotely, you can’t quickly go to your colleague who used to work next to you to ask a question and you don’t have water cooler conversations. Virtual meetings are the new norm and because you don’t physically see each other communication is more important than ever. When communicating something to your team always think about different communication channels and provide as much information as possible. For example, if you want to announce an important company update instead of sending an email or a Slack message invite your team to a virtual catch-up or send a video message. Before sending an email or message take a moment to reflect and ask yourself if someone who reads your message understands what you want to communicate. It can be even helpful to write how you are feeling about the changes or news, it shows that you do care and want to share as much information as possible and employees can understand you and the situation better.
A great way to start and finish virtual meetings is a one-word check-in and check-out. Ask your team how they are feeling before and after the meeting (you can use tools like https://www.mentimeter.com/features/word-cloud). It is a great way to show your employees that you are interested to know how they are going and are keen to support them.
We are all facing our unique challenges within the pandemic. Some team members might juggle family responsibilities like homeschooling, and work-life others might struggle with isolation, live alone and haven’t seen another human being for a long time. Therefore it is crucial to understand the situation of your team members first, show empathy and work on a solution with your employees. It might be that some team members need more 1:1 catch-ups, they want to talk about their problems and ask for help others might want to interact with team members more often. Virtual team events like virtual team games, Friday afternoon drinks or monthly team challenges can be a great way to strengthen team bonding.
Taking care of the physical and mental health of employees is critical. In times of remote work, this can be a virtual yoga or Pilates class, coaching sessions or even social clubs sponsored by the company (e.g. virtual fitness classes).
In times where many teams are working remotely, it is vital to build a culture of trust, empower your employees and support them the best way possible. Increasing management and control measures can easily lead to frustration and the feeling of getting micromanaged, therefore, it is now more important than ever to show your employees that you trust them and empower your teams. It is incredible what team members can achieve when they are feeling empowered and they get the opportunity to grow with the business and come up with new solutions and can be creative.
From my experience working with startups, small and large companies over the past years, it is not necessarily about how much money businesses are investing in team activities etc. it is more important to invest time, acknowledge and thank team members for the amazing job they are doing, offer support when they are struggling, build a culture of trust and not only have awesome company values in writing but also live and breathe them.
Although 2020 is a challenging year, I see it as a huge opportunity for all of us to question our current structures, see what is working and not working and shape the future of work together. One of the lessons I’ve learned from COVID-19 is to acknowledge what you can and can’t control and to focus on the positive things in life. It is so important to be grateful for what we have and practice abundance. For many of us, it is a mindset shift from seeing and focusing on the negative things all the time to seeing, acknowledging and appreciating the positive things. What helped me a lot in the last couple of months is taking time for myself, practicing yoga and meditation as well as taking breaks in between working and going for coastal walks.