A crisis like COVID-19 makes it hard to focus on day-to-day work. And, there’s a good reason why. In addition to the personal stress of a pandemic, workplace stress is off the charts. Researchers say the factors that cause the most workplace stress include loss of control, fears about job security, changes to responsibilities or routines, and unclear/unrealistic expectations.1 The coronavirus crisis has it all.
However, there’s still work to be done.
As a manager, you can alleviate stress and help your team stay productive. Here’s how:
1. Provide clear, timely communications
When everything feels uncertain, it helps to focus on things we do know. That’s why clearly and regularly communicating with your team is the number one priority. Be sure to:
- Do your homework before you speak to the team. Clarify the situation with company leadership, do some research if necessary, and organize your thoughts (creating an outline helps).
- Be concise and clear. Make your points succinct and easy-to-understand. Address the main points the team needs to know and focus on the information that is most important to your audience.
- Be honest. Acknowledge what you don’t know and be straightforward with any bad news.
- Provide a pathway for questions: Make sure your team knows how to get more information—immediately and as time goes on.
2. Unite the team behind a purpose
When there’s a crisis, work that once seemed critical can feel meaningless. Help your team see how the work you’re doing contributes to the greater good. Whether that’s helping your customers, staying true to your company mission, contributing to the economic growth of your community, or something else—help your team see the purpose and impact of their work.
3. Define the new normal together
A crisis affects all aspects of a team culture. Routines, processes, and team structure are suddenly and drastically different. When possible, work with your team to decide how cultural norms—such as working hours, communication channels, responsibilities—can adapt. Be flexible, allowing team members to weigh in with what works best for them. Then, communicate clear expectations for how you’ll move forward.
4. Focus on results, not details
It can be tempting to try to micromanage everything. (Afterall, loss of control is stressful for managers, too.) However, during times of crisis, it’s important to focus on results—not details. Give trusted team members some autonomy and decision-making power. For example, in many circumstances, it’s ok if people have different schedules or follow a slightly different process than normal—as long as the job gets done well. In fact, many teams discover new and better ways to work as a result of unusual circumstances like this.
5. Set the emotional tone for the team
Emotions can be as contagious as a virus. As a manager, you need to set a positive emotional tone for the team, so negativity and fear don’t take over. To do this, you can:
- Model the behavior you want to see. That doesn’t mean you have to be “all sunshine and roses”—but you can do your best to be focused and encouraging.
- Be on the lookout for extra-stressed or emotional team members. Work with them to identify ways to make them more comfortable before their emotions impact the team dynamic.
- Make people feel appreciated. Whether they’re going above-and-beyond the normal call of duty or simply making the best of a bad situation, make sure your people feel valued. If possible, take time to recognize each person individually.
6. Encourage breaks to be human
It’s important to take time out from focusing on the crisis. Allow the team latitude for exercise and stress breaks together (or apart). If you’re working remotely, make a Slack channel just for the personal anecdotes and banter you would normally have in the office. Designate time in team meetings and 1:1s to just chat about life in general. And, if the team is working around the clock, find ways for people to get sleep and healthy food.
During a crisis like coronavirus, being a manager is no easy task. However, the work you do can truly make a difference for your team and your company.
At Salo, we regularly help companies who are going through crisis situations by providing senior consultants in finance, accounting, and HR to help steady the ship. If we can be of any help to your organization during coronavirus or any crisis, connect with us here.