The Challenges of Remote Work
While many offices have recently (if temporarily) become remote workplaces, there is still a lot you can do to maintain psychological safety among your team.
First, understand the added stress that your team is under because of the global pandemic and the life-changing effects it has had on our everyday routines. Employees are under new and changing pressures, and they are likely focusing more on problems than on solutions. This can be extremely stressful and may cause employees to be distracted and anxious, affecting their quality of work.
In addition, employees are probably worrying about their job security and the company’s future. They may be playing out worst-case scenarios in their heads. If an employee is worried about losing his job, he might be searching for a new job that provides more stability. On the flip side, he may be working overtime to prove himself, and this can lead to burnout and affect a person’s physical and mental health.
Overcoming COVID-Related Challenges
As the leader of your team, it’s more important now than ever to protect your team’s well being. Even as you continue to work remotely, think about the ways you would connect if you were in the office: check-ins, collecting feedback, and trying to alleviate pressure.
You can do all of this while working remotely.
Figure out what’s going on in your direct reports’ lives. Schedule weekly one-on-one check-in meetings where you ask them some simple but telling questions: How has life been treating you? What should I have paid more attention to last week? What’s one thing I can do to make your life less stressful? What can I do in the next week or month to make you feel more secure about your job security?
Over time, these check-ins will provide you a wealth of knowledge that will help better lead your team during these challenging times. You will learn what employees are stressed about and where their focus is, and you have a chance to shine in the way you respond to what they tell you. Pay attention to what your team members are trying to tell you: Some might want more face time on Zoom, while others might just want a place to vent once in a while.
Successful, regular check-ins like this will reinforce the team mentality that might otherwise be weakened by the remote working environment.
Don’t expect a one-size-fits-all approach as you embark on this process with your team. Every organization is different, and all employees have different work styles. At the same time, everyone has her own way of dealing with the challenges of the pandemic. Understanding what your team needs to feel safe and secure is a sign of a great leader!
Take note of who loves working and collaborating with others and who just likes to keep their head down and finish their work without being bothered. Then, adjust as necessary for the best shot at success.
And be careful not to mix regular check-ins with project status updates. Make the distinction clear before and during a check-in that the purpose of the meeting is not to receive an update on a project but to listen to your employee and to address any concerns they have.
These steps will help you establish and maintain psychological safety with your team at a time when that is more important than ever. Not only will your employees feel more connected to you and their team, but they may feel less stressed and as a result produce better-quality work.
Understand the added stress your team members are under because of the current situation: They may be anxious, distracted, and concerned about losing their jobs. This can affect work quality.
Set up regular, one-on-one check-ins with your team members to find out how they are doing, what their concerns are, and how you can help alleviate those concerns. These check-ins should be separate from project status updates.
Follow through on solutions to the problems you’re hearing about. This will reduce stress and help your team do their best work.
Repeat steps 1-3! This isn’t a one-and-done solution. It’s an ongoing process. Only by consistently checking in with your team members will you be able to keep up with ongoing issues and address them as they arise.
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