Working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic is a rather stressful and anxious time, even for someone like me, who has spent a good portion of my career working from home and managing distributed teams.
Adjusting to a work from home lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight. That transition takes time and is not easy, even with all the wonderful information available to us about working from home. The world is in turmoil right now and so are employees. Many of us are feeling uncertain about the future, are lonely, and overwhelmed. Our emotional states are compromised, whether we’re able to admit it or not.
When things are chaotic as they are right now, it’s also incredibly difficult to be a people manager. As a manager, you try your best to keep the team together, productive, and spirits up. The worst thing you can do as a manager right now is to push your team to be more productive. Your team needs emotional attention, not project management optimizations during this pandemic.
So instead, I encourage you to schedule a weekly video call with your team. There is a catch of course. Don’t talk about work during this call. No project or status updates. Don’t share company news. Don’t create meeting notes. Nothing work related. Just chat like a group of friends.
Take advantage of these turbulent times to bring your team closer together and allow them to create stronger relationships with each other. Talk about how everyone is adjusting to their new schedules. Allow people to vent and be frustrated. Support them and encourage the team to support each other. Share weekend stories. If you see something interesting in a team members background, see if they’d be up for a “Show and Tell”. In general, just have fun.
The beautiful thing about this weekly video call is you’ll discover something wonderful, as did I when I built my last company. Each week, you’ll begin to learn new and more personal things about your team members. Things that those team members would have likely never shared in an office atmosphere. You’ll get intimate peaks into their personal world where they’re most comfortable being themselves, not a facade they put up to blend in. It’s amazing.
Companies try to artificially create off sites and team building exercises to emulate building relationships. They work to some degree, but none of those activities come even close to helping build relationships as these weekly video calls did for us.
I implore you, please don’t stress about productivity right now. Seize this moment to bring your team closer together. They’ll be stronger for it once this pandemic is over.