by Tara Peters, Ph.D., coauthor of “The Demotivated Employee: Helping Leaders Solve the Motivation Crisis That Is Plaguing Business“
Tune into social media, and you’ll most likely see the trending hashtag #TogetherAtHome. Remote work and social distancing have limited our daily activities as we work together to flatten the curve. But sheltering in place has adverse psychological consequences, and people are feeling alone and isolated. As a result, folks are trying to find ways to stay connected with the world. Famous artists like John Legend and Coldplay’s Chris Martin have offered free online concerts to provide opportunities for people to connect virtually through music.
Human beings are social creatures. We need to know we aren’t alone, and that we have the support of others as we live our daily lives. While we tend to think of these needs in our personal lives, they’re an integral part of our professional lives as well.
Now that significant portions of the workforce are working remotely, companies must move fast to keep employees from feeling as though they’re alone on an island. As the economy flatlines and job losses mount, anxious employees need their leaders to “lean into” this crisis by creating a sense of community and shared purpose that lets employees know “we’re in this thing together.”
Employees no longer have the water-cooler discussions, coffee breaks, and happy hours that promote group cohesiveness, so replicating these connections virtually has become a new priority. To keep operations going, your employees will require reassurance that they’re going to be supported — and that they don’t have to go it alone, even if they’re “home alone.”
Here are three strategies every leader can employ now:
1. Schedule a daily huddle.
Set a team huddle for the start of each workday. Keep in mind, it’s a “huddle,” so the meetings should be short, typically no more than 15 minutes. Its purpose is to communicate the plan for the day and address any pressing matters. This ensures your team has the information they need — and clears up any uncertainties on priorities. But these virtual meetings do even more: they boost your team’s camaraderie as team members see and hear from each other. Start the meeting with an icebreaker, and give everyone time to foster personable interactions with their peers.
2. Plan weekly check-ups.
Just like you go to the doctor for a check-up, you should check up on each member of your team on a weekly basis to see how everyone is doing. You may be surprised at the difference you can make in the lives of your employees by sending a “thinking of you” email or picking up the phone to ask, “How are things going? Just wanted to check on you.”
If you have a small team, you may decide to reach out each day or every other day. What matters most is ensuring that you’re contacting everyone, getting a pulse, and letting them know you’re there.
3. Don’t forget to say thank you.
Thank you is one of the most powerful phrases a leader can use. Why? Because showing appreciation for your employees’ efforts goes a long way toward reiterating the point that the team is in this together.
You can choose to literally say, “Thank you,” or find another way to do so. For instance, managers can say thank you by giving their employees increased autonomy, or by pitching in to help. We know you’re busy, but don’t be too busy to say thanks. Doing so is a way to personalize your interactions with employees and demonstrate your advocacy in a tangible and meaningful way.
While your employees may be home alone, there’s no need for them to feel alone. Leaders should be purposeful in their efforts to create human connections that support a sense of belonging despite the distance of remote work. During this crisis, your employees must understand that we’re in this together. How you choose to lead will go a long way toward ensuring this becomes a reality.
Tara Peters, Ph.D., is a gifted educator, TED Talk speaker, bestselling author, and international consultant with a client list that includes Coca-Cola, Allstate, Walmart, and Ocwen. A professional educator for more than 26 years, she currently serves as a professor at Northwood University’s Richard DeVos Graduate School of Management and as academic dean for its Texas campus. She is the co-author of the new book “The Demotivated Employee: Helping Leaders Solve the Motivation Crisis That Is Plaguing Business“.