Leading Your Team During the COVID-19 Pandemic

It’s probably fair to say that most of the roughly 30 percent of Americans that were abruptly asked to begin working full-time from their homes a few months ago are still in reaction mode. Work is getting done, yes, but leaders are beginning to see the need to pivot in terms of how they lead, organize, and support their teams.

Teams were initially impacted by the emotional aspects of the pandemic and the sudden shift to full-time remote work. Then, just as people were settling into the 9 to 5 in their homes, and parents made adjustments for childcare and remote schooling for their children, they began hearing of widespread pandemic-related layoffs. 

Moving Beyond Reaction Mode

Logically, employees put their heads down and focused on making their value visible by maintaining momentum and productivity while leaders rushed to assess the situation and deal with immediate needs. This left little room for employees and their managers to consider changes that could positively impact collaboration, productivity, culture, and the overall work experience.

With case numbers across the country rising again, one can predict that remote work will continue indefinitely for many people. Knowing this, leaders can take steps to bolster their teams, reimagine how they are organized and supported, and move beyond survival mode.

New Tools, Policies and Processes

Large companies are already putting new policies in place. Twitter was one of the first to announce a formal, permanent, work from home policy, and Facebook and Square have followed suit. This week Google extended its voluntary work from home option through June 30, 2021, for roles that don’t need to be in the office.

Siemens recently announced a policy enabling employees to “work from anywhere,” along with the decision to focus on outcomes over the  amount of time spent in the office. They are also providing an app to their more than 100,000 employees, a contact tracing tool that also provides local data on the COVID-19 situation and displays office occupancy levels. 

Teams across all industries are looking to technology and tools, such as Teams, Jira, Trello, and Slack, to support communication, collaboration and other critical business functions. Some have started using virtual whiteboards and war rooms to simulate collocation. 

Leading With Empathy and Empowerment

Empathy tends to flow more freely when everyone is weathering the same storm, and workers may have noticed new levels of support and personal concern coming from peers and leadership. This can only benefit individuals, teams and organizations. 

Some employees have found remote work to be empowering, in terms of the elimination of commuting-related stresses and the introduction of new options for reshaping their work life. Leaders can show their support by talking through these adjustments with individuals and teams and endorsing the ones that make sense. 

What may be of concern is the trend of employees forgoing the use of their vacation time. While it makes sense to accumulate paid time off in case of illness in the family or postpone vacations until travel restrictions ease up, leaders should encourage time away from work. This includes protected breaks during the day as well as paid time off. 

Other aspects of growing and supporting a team, such as mentorship, professional development and social bonding may not be top of mind given the circumstances, but leaders will need to consider them as their organizations change. 

Organizational Adaptations

Some leaders, such as Adam Aron, CEO and president of AMC Theatres, are considering the addition of a health officer to their C-suites, someone who could apply a background in epidemiology and infection control to the business. 

Other leaders are looking at ways to create small, agile, cross-functional teams that can function more independently. Distributed companies like Automattic and DuckDuckGo maintain a centralized knowledge repository to improve access to critical information and streamline work. 

Rethinking How Office Space Is Used

While many offices have been temporarily shuttered, it’s reasonable to expect that leaders will start to reimagine how office space can be safely used. For example, processes may be put in place to limit capacity at any given time. Time in the office could be reserved for socially distanced team collaboration and socialization, and access to resources and equipment. Other companies might look into the use of co-working spaces, in areas where employees live. 

Teams and organizations will surely continue to experience major changes over the coming months, however, leaders can create a clear path forward by focusing on what they know to be true and effective about managing change and supporting their teams.

If your marketing team could use a senior set of hands to support you during this transition, learn more about Claritedge Communications.


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