Every organization will face difficult times – it’s inevitable. Today, it’s the COVID-19 Pandemic: teams are being sent home, money is tight and a lot of difficult decisions are being made. During this time, many leaders are prone to pulling back on efforts to maintain a healthy culture in an attempt to focus on “the business.” However, sustaining a strong culture is crucial to your business and your team weathering the storm together. So how do you keep those relationships strong during the uncertainty?
When crisis hits, oftentimes the initial reaction is panic. Will I be able to provide for my family? Will I maintain my income? What does the future look like? Listen for your team’s pain points and the things – even small gestures – you can do to help relieve that anxiety. What are your employees in need of right now? What will ease their minds, even a little, immediately?
Address the essentials first.
Do all of your team members have ample food? Toilet paper? If they don’t, find a way to ensure they do.
At Petra Coach, as stores were quickly running out of cleaning supplies at first word of the pandemic, there was an immediate concern around having access to basic necessities. In response, the company bulk ordered toilet paper (possibly the resource in highest demand) to the office to ensure that, if stores did run out, there were extra supplies on deck for the team.
What about money? There have been a lot of unexpected costs incurred lately in prepping for quarantine. Not only that, many people have been furloughed or asked to accept reduced rates or compensation. Your team member’s spouse could be in that boat and it’s affecting the family’s overall finances.
At Petra, as the masses were stocking up on food, team members were given $200 cash and encouraged to use it to purchase ample groceries for their households. This not only increasingly eased stress around resources, but also around how employees would immediately allocate funds for these extra purchases.
The stress of this situation may be causing issues to your team members’ emotional and physical health. Check in with them. Make sure you communicate that their health is a priority.
Many teams have been asked to or are choosing to work from home for the time being. This doesn’t mean communication or connection should suffer – in fact, it should increase.
Throughout the day, schedule times for employees to hop on the computer, take a break from the grind and interact with one another. “These sessions build trust and autonomy and lead to better work,” said Stefani Baranowski, Senior Talent Acquisition Manager at Acceleration Partners.
To ensure the best outcome for your team’s virtual activities, consider the following recommendations:
Be sure your team is using a tool with Video Conference capability. Below are a few programs our members use:
If you just allow for general discussion, a conference call can quickly get messy, so it’s a best practice to set a topic or theme to maintain some kind of order. Calling on people to speak by drawing names out of a hat or “popcorning” also keeps one conversation going at once, and eliminates people talking over one another.
If you’re a global or even nationwide organization, you’ll want to schedule your virtual activities to accommodate different time zones. “We host a lot of our activities around 11:30AM/12PM ET because it includes the most time zones – East Coast, West Coast and Europe – and also do a few 9PM ET ones for Singapore,” says Baranowski. No one wants to feel isolated so it’s important to make these sessions as accessible as possible to all team members, in spite of location.
This is a time for you and your team to relax, share some laughs and enjoy each other’s (virtual) company! There’s no limit to what you can do. Some organizations prefer a simple approach, like hosting a virtual happy hour on a Friday afternoon, where everyone shares their favorite beverage. Others approach this as an opportunity for stress relief by hosting an online yoga class or meditation session. For a more light-hearted approach, host a game like trivia or jeopardy. Encourage pets, children and spouses to pop in and say hello! Be yourself and learn more about one another that you maybe wouldn’t in the office setting.
Virtual meetings are an excellent opportunity to encourage one another and recognize outstanding character tied to core values. At Acceleration Partners, one of their core values is “Embrace Relationships,” so they use these virtual meetings to build upon those interpersonal relationships. For example, they hosted a game where everyone showed their favorite pair of shoes and took turns explaining why those shoes had meaning to them. “One person said they wore their pair of shoes their entire trip in Thailand, so someone planning a trip there could reach out to them, and it just adds another layer of connection,” said Baranowski.
Another company working with Petra Coach, Nova Naturals, starts each day with a different team member leading their Daily Huddle with an inspiring quote and asking for “Core Value Shout-Outs.” They end by going around and expressing gratitude for the team. It’s a great way they’re acknowledging the difficulties of the current situation, and also giving each other the support and thanks they need to stay motivated and encouraged, even when working remotely.
If you need anything during this time, come to us at Petra Coach. Let us be a resource or a sounding board for you. We work with organization all across the globe. Through this, we have a unique perspective into what leaders are doing and, more importantly, what’s working. We’d love to have your back through this. Reach out to us with any business questions, or anything that’s on your mind, at email@example.com.
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