The rapidly occurring changes in people’s professional and personal lives during the COVID-19 crisis are not some that many were planning to make (and certainly not all at once). In organizations, change can cause stress to any worker, especially when it was not anticipated at all.
The primary unexpected change impacting many employees today, which I am using as the main example for this blog, is the current obligation to be working remote in order to “flatten the curve.”
While this is a large change for most workers to make, leadership using the right tactics can both minimize disruption to work and guide their teams to adapt and meet their goals successfully.
Here are three ways to help teams quickly adjust to the unexpected transition to working from home.
1. Establish two-way communication with impacted teams
One of the most effective ways to manage change is by leading with empathy. Such a quick transition to working remote can feel very isolating for many employees, especially as levels of uncertainty rise and sense of security goes down. The best thing leadership can do at these times is build trust with employees through two-way communication. Instead of simply sending out a ton of company messages as often as possible:
- Set up a few call-in/video sessions to establish feedback discussions with employees
- Have 1:1 check-ins with direct reports to see how they are doing (but avoid micromanaging!)
- Conduct a quick survey to ask employees “How are you handling these abrupt changes?” or “What might help you adapt?”
Finding a common thread in people’s feedback will help you as a leader accurately highlight strengths of how the change is being handled, communicate the right messages, and prioritize concerns that your team needs addressed.
2. Empower employees with the right tools and direction to work independently
Rather than micromanaging, empower people who are working remote, by giving direction on what’s expected, and equipping them with the tools they need to be successful:
- Create a central hub or dashboard for remote teams to provide progress updates when ready, and reference information like FAQs at any time. If needed during the COVID-19 crisis, quick and free solutions like Google Docs and Microsoft Teams can be used to help teams to stay on top of their work from home and collaborate remotely.
- Implementing a new tool does not equal change success. Set some time afterwards to monitor usage and focus on how to provide any additional resources as needed.
- Keep in mind that working from home requires flexibility. Your teams won’t be available 24/7, and it’s important for them to know that is okay. Once tools and expectations have been set, trust your team to meet their goals remotely and provide support as needed.
3. Still Celebrate Quick Wins
Recognize people for putting in the effort to make these unexpected changes to working remote. Show that, especially in today’s world, having to work from home can still be just as fulfilling, motivating, and fun by doing things like:
- Taking some time in regular meetings to let people know they are on the right track and recognize them for their efforts to adapt. Face-to-face video is the best way to communicate with others on an emotional level and let them know they have your full attention. Otherwise, try to use rich communication methods like videos or celebratory pictures/memes/GIFs to enhance the message
- Encourage remote team building activities and virtual happy hour! I can tell you from firsthand experience that this can be just as fun remotely and is a solid way to boost team morale from home (especially in these tough times)
We understand the current need for us to be physically separate, but we do not have to embrace all of these changes alone. If you’re having change management challenges in the current crisis, please reach out to our organizational change management team, who can provide expert advice to help get you through these challenging times.