6 Ways to Help Your Company Thrive
COVID-19 has thrown the US and the world for an unprecedented, debilitating loop. Markets are tumbling. Industries are hobbled. People are panicking. While many reports are focused on doom and gloom, and no one knows how long this new normal will last, the good news is that most Americans still have their jobs.
However, these uncertain times are testing our company cultures like never before. Based on what we are seeing, very few of the "great company culture," organizations are holding up very well when times are tough. Implementing strict new policies, managers shedding their stress on their employees, individuals foregoing leadership responsibilities, and the lack of transparency from the top about the organization's health are some examples of typical reactions that we are witnessing. It may come as no surprise that these actions are not conducive to positive work environments. In fact, these actions are causing an immense amount of damage. As Mark Cuban recently stated, companies' responses to COVID-19 are going to define their brands for decades. Let that sink in "Decades."
To add salt to the wound, due to the changing dynamics of work, an onslaught of articles about how to remain optimally productive during a pandemic are coming out en masse. Many of these articles are copy and paste of elementary, and often archaic, productivity measures from pre-COVID19. These articles are not only redundant, but the rhetoric is exhausting. We know the proper execution of communication and mapping our days are essential, pandemic, or not.
As exhausting as this outpouring of redundant diatribe may be, the incessant tether to the past makes sense because, in times of crisis, it is human nature to try to control everything. Our innate reaction to uncertainty is to upend it by painstakingly implementing and reinforcing protocols aimed at creating some semblance of normal, even when "normal" doesn't work in the current environment. We have to be conscious of the fact, despite our instinctive desires, that maintaining an unrelenting death grip on the notion of how things should be will often cause more harm than good, for ourselves and everyone around us. So, here is your reminder that it is ok to take a step back and breathe.
Thankfully, there are some ways to handle our new norms with understanding and empathy. We can start by intently focusing on our organizational cultures and employee experiences. We can be intentional with our coworkers, managers, and employees. Instead of focusing on hysteria, we can choose to live our values.
Here are six areas of focus that individuals, teams, and leaders should practice to improve their work lives during these trying times. With regular practice, our cultures and experiences will improve, and our workplaces may end up being even better than they ever were before.
1. Show Vulnerability
As Brené Brown so eloquently put it, "People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses." It's true. This new way of working and life, in general, is unique for all of us. We need to let our employees and peers know that it is highly encouraged and ok to ask for help.
Vulnerability goes beyond just asking questions, in any case. If your kid mortifies you by running naked behind you during a teleconference, or maybe you had a tough time getting out of bed this morning, or maybe stay at home orders are pushing you to learn how to cook without setting off the smoke detectors - share those stories too. That raw, real-life stuff makes you more relatable, helps build connections, and makes us feel less alone. You never know the relationships you will develop, and the good-faith belly laughs you may cause. More than anything right now, we need to be human.
2. Promote Flexibility
We need to understand that people all around the world are grieving. According to David Kessler, the world's foremost expert on grief, we are experiencing anxiety and grief in different phases. People are grieving over the loss of their daily lives, their normal, and they need the flexibility to manage that grief in whatever way they can.
As leaders, our innate reaction may be to beat the hypothetical drum and make more rules. Instead, we should pause and support people in processing their grief by allowing them to set necessary work boundaries. These boundaries will enable people to rebound more healthily and more quickly.
Not only are we grieving, but we are also trying to manage a new way of living that none of us have experienced before. Because of this, it is crucial to allow people to be flexible with their days. Many people need to work around homeschooling, their partner's or roommate's work calls, or any other things that we usually don't have to deal with during our workdays.
Be sure to ask if someone has the time to dive into a project or conversation before assuming they can give you their undivided attention. Also, try to be respectful of your coworkers offline hours. Delay send those 1am emails, don't send Slack messages when someone is unavailable, and don't send text messages about issues that don't need immediate attention.
Do you want to help employees be more productive with their work? Allow employees the flexibility to choose what they want to be working on right now and funnel them more of that work. Some folks may want to tackle the world with this newfound time; others may need more straightforward tasks to get them through. Listening to feedback and encouraging people to focus on what motives them will help elevate the entire team.
3. Create Space for Well-Being
Due to our new norms, we are experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety. To help manage this burden, reassuring employees that it is acceptable to take the downtime needed to focus on their mental and physical wellbeing is critical.
Encouraging mid-day breaks for a virtual workout class or meditation, or challenging folks to a step challenge are good ways to help relieve the stress and anxiety. Many employers have robust wellness programs that employees can tap into to help navigate their wellness journey. Communicate those offerings frequently and provide links to make it easy for people to access their wellness benefits.
For those that want even more, there are a lot of options available. Peloton Digital is currently offering 90 days free on its app, which has a large assortment of weight training, cardio workouts, yoga, and meditation classes, all from the comfort of your own home. Headspace is offering two weeks free for mindfulness training to help with sleeping, stress, and anxiety. Also, many local gyms and studios are offering online classes for free. Encourage employees to check out new avenues to take care of themselves and their loved ones.
4. Maintain Social Connections
Humans are social creatures, and right now, many people are trying to navigate a sense of loneliness and isolation that they have never experienced before. Leaders are in a unique position to help curb that sense of loneliness by fostering community in teams and boosting social interactions. Creating mentorship programs, implementing cross-functional training, hosting team-building meetings, hosting friendly competitions, or encouraging virtual happy hours are ways to help people feel connected and inspired.
5. Live Your Company Values
Helping employees find the personal meaning behind their work and connect their work to your company values is critical to maintaining motivation (and always has been). As leaders, make sure employees know those values by communicating them frequently and, most importantly, leading by example.
It is also a good idea to have employees frame their roles to how they directly contribute to the company's goals. This exercise will help employees identify their purpose, connect with their teams, and uncover their unique skills and strengths that make them great at their jobs.
As an organization, it is imperative to keep your finger on the company's pulse and be proactive about any leadership and employee discomforts. A quick employee survey is an easy way to gain insight into the organization's current state.
If you would like to partake in a complementary survey to gauge how your employees are doing, send us a message here.
6. Focus on the Future
This one may be the hardest of all right now. Especially since many of us are dealing with putting out fires here and now, plus there are a lot of unanswered questions about how and when we will return to normal. However, this is a prime opportunity to focus on the future and position your company and people for success.
For many of us, the future of work has been thrown at us in a whirlwind. Now is the time to understand how employees and customers are dealing with this new tech-centric way of working. Focus on how you can make the business better by determining potential improvements for employee and customer experiences. Ask, how can employee lives be improved? How can you step up to meet client needs? What training and development do employees need to fulfill succession planning requirements, and can you take advantage of this time to offer that training now?
The choice to be proactive or reactionary during this time will impact your business and your ability to attract and retain talent for years to come.
These six focus areas are more critical now than they have ever been. We have a unique opportunity to improve our cultures and employee experiences while showing employees that even though work still needs to be done, we care about them as people. We can show them that we want them to succeed, and we are willing to dedicate the time and resources for their betterment and wellbeing, which will ultimately pay dividends to us, the employer.
Hopefully, when this is all over, we can carry this new compassionate work-life forward to make work better for everyone. Let's be kind. Let's be understanding. Let's make the future of work a better place because the future is here.
As a reminder, you can get a complimentary employee survey by sending us a note here.
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