Having a flexible and focused workforce has always been an aspiration for any company. But now that our lives have changed (at least for the time being) around coronavirus concerns, having employees who are adaptable, agile and empathetic has never been more important.
As I write this blog, our collective strength as a society is being tested. “Social distancing” and “shelter in place” mandates are the new norms. Being apart from one another is how we are “flattening the curve” and stemming the spread of this deadly virus. Yes, it means that we are working in physical isolation from one another. But this new level of seclusion doesn’t necessarily mean we need to feel alone, either.
As we hunker down in quarantine-type conditions (for who knows how long), the questions executives must ask themselves are these: Are my teams resilient enough to overcome these acute changes in their work habits? And how will this new reality impact the way we communicate with one another or with our customers?
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That’s a lot to worry about. But relax, you might be in better shape than you think. If your employees have already been acting in a manner that promotes connectivity and togetherness and if they’ve been approaching both their colleagues and their customers in a way that’s empathetic (and not one-sided), then thriving in these new circumstances shouldn’t be an uphill climb.
On the flip side, however, if your overall business is taking a hit from the forced sequestering, there are still methods you can follow to strengthen your teams’ level of camaraderie, its internal cooperation, and its customer focus.
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3 things you can do to build a more resilient workforce during the pandemic
1. Stay connected even though you are separated
Staying connected with coworkers—even though everyone is required to stay physically apart—helps to maintain team cohesion. There are many systems on the market today that make video conferencing easy (where familiar faces can be seen and not just heard). If you haven’t already, subscribe to Skype, Zoom, Webex, or Go-To Meeting and make sure everyone has a working camera on their computer.
In addition to scheduled video conferences, it’s equally important to pick up the phone and just say “hello” once in a while. Those types of informal calls can go a long way in replacing the hallway conversations that define the social connectivity of a shared workspace. And in addition to learning how things are going for another colleague, the calling employee may pick up a tip or two that he or she can use to help overcome the same difficult challenge that they are facing.
2. Celebrate the “can-do” nature of your team
A resilient workforce is one that can adapt to changing circumstances. Not too long ago our professional lives represented business as usual. Today its total disruption. We are all in isolation at home trying to find new ways of serving a broad range of clientele who are also held back by the same issues.
The most effective work teams don’t avoid challenges, they embrace them head on and recalibrate their approach to solving them. They work hard (and creatively) to find opportunities brought on by new obstacles.
Is there a better way to move forward? Your employees will have suggestions. And of course, not every idea will be a homerun. That’s to be expected. The important thing for managers to do here is to provide a psychological safety net for those offering up alternatives so new ways of working can be voiced and heard without the fear of repercussions. In other words, don’t hesitate to celebrate the “can do” attitudes that resilient teams and individuals bring to the table.
Employees who feel emboldened to make suggestions, or float new ways of working, are much more likely to do so if they feel they will be acknowledged and respected—even if the idea itself is rejected. For people working remotely, where both the emotional as well as the physical distance can be daunting, that’s an important concept to keep in mind.
3. Empathize with clients and coworkers
Finally, there are the client and coworker interactions that are notable across a resilient workforce. These work teams are noted for their internal and external customer centricity which invariably translates into empathy in both words and actions. During all times (difficult or otherwise) their messages are never opportunistic or self-centered. Instead they reach out in an empathetic manner. They offer to help both clients and coworkers with ideas and messages that are educational, enlightening and actionable.
Empathy can manifest itself in many forms. Resilient work teams have a natural and uncanny ability to connect with both customers and colleagues. They listen and suggest to customers in a manner that builds confidence and adds credibility. And they are always ready to do the same with co-workers. Their messages are meaningful and positive. They are genuinely interested in how others are doing and are always prepared to lend a helping hand. In fact, it is that willingness to step in and be of service that ranks resilient teams above all others during a pandemic—and beyond.