For more than a year now, we have existed in a world where social distancing, lockdowns, and isolation are the norm. As the Covid-19 vaccine continues to roll out, there are glimmers of life returning to normal. Normal. Normal? The fact of the matter is that the pandemic revealed that there are many new ways of working, living, and buying aided by existing technologies and attitudes. These will continue into the post-Covid era even as traditional methods of interaction return. But, how will a year of living in isolation affect our ability to re-socialize and work together? And, what do employees need from a leader right now?
1. Provide Clarity
With so many uncertainties in 2020, clearly defined objectives have never been more important. In a virtual work setting, the importance of having clear project goals and targets cannot be overstated. Clarity is key in 2021. Remote workers will need to understand what they are working towards.
While defining and communicating goals may be more difficult in a hybrid work setting, workers will inevitably feel like they are spinning their wheels if they can’t see the big picture. Without clear benchmarks and deadlines, employees won’t feel rewarded. Instead, they might wind up doing a bunch of work that ends up not mattering or doing a task they thought was urgent that turns out not to matter.
As a project manager, the 5 W’s might be a good framework to keep in mind. Providing clarity on WHO is doing WHAT and WHY, WHERE all the pieces fit together, and WHEN it will be complete makes it easier for employees to focus on the work at hand. Fortunately, project management tools make it easy to keep track of all the moving pieces so nothing falls through the cracks.
With a plan suited to your organization’s needs, you can manage your team’s work from start to finish. Plus, with the ability to share feedback, files, and status updates, you can coordinate team tasks so everyone knows who’s working on what and when. In doing so, everyone will have more time to execute, think creatively, and pivot should an issue arise.
2. Encourage Work-Life Balance
It can be difficult to stay motivated while working from home. For many of us, the boundaries between our personal and professional lives have been eroded and blurred due to the ongoing pandemic. Encouraging employees to put their mental health first is the single best way to avoid burnout. That means creating psychological separation with regular short breaks away from work. It also means creating physical boundaries, whether that means not checking emails on weekends or getting totally off screen after sundown. Remember, it’s up to you to lead by example – set aside time for non-work activities, friends, and family. We need to be intentional about not letting work take over our life and putting mental and physical health first. Working non-stop will only lead to burnout in the long run.
3. Hold One-on-One Meetings
A one-on-one is exactly what it sounds like – a discussion between two people. In this case, a manager or team lead and someone who they supervise. The point of this type of meeting is not to talk about work, but rather to give your employee a platform to share what’s important to them, ask questions, and get guidance. Employees need a safe space to air their opinions, thoughts, and problems. In turn, you’ll get to know them on a more personal level. Keep in mind that one-on-one meetings do not need to be formal or structured, but it’s important to set a regular day and time, whether that’s weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Meeting regularly to chat about anything but work projects will help build a strong relationship between you and your employee.
4. Be Realistic
Unforeseen bumps in the road are an inevitable part of running a business, and if you’re like most business owners, the Covid-19 pandemic may have completely derailed your operations. It’s important to remember that no one can control disasters of this scale, but you can control how you respond to those challenges. One way to lessen the impact of these challenges is by having good management practices already in place. By being a proactive manager, you can turn a crisis into an opportunity to better your relationships with your employees. With such a turbulent year, your employees require leadership from someone they can trust – one who instills confidence and optimism about their future in the workplace. Be honest and informative about how the pandemic has changed the way they’ll work together and transparent about expectations, protocols, and technology that will help everyone work harmoniously, wherever they are in the world. Most importantly, assure your employees they have the skill and talent to get the job done.