By Teresa Tanner
It’s no secret that we’re living in unprecedented times. In fact, the use of the word itself is living out its very definition, quite possibly never having been used as much in communication as ever before.
That’s because there’s never been a situation like this. There’s never been a precedent. We’ve never sheltered-in-place while working from home full-time and acting as teachers to our children. It’s never been done. There is no rubric, no model, no example to follow. We’re in uncharted territory.
And yet, grand ideas still happen to come about in periods of isolation. Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity. Shakespeare wrote Macbeth. Even George R. R. Martin has finished his sixth Game of Thrones novel. Being alone to think about the world and spend time being creative isn’t such a horrible thing.
But what happens when the isolation starts to interfere, especially with your employees’ moods, confidence levels and general ability to stay connected?
You’ve got to take the reins, think outside the box and not simply succumb to the first thing you find on Google (reimagine commute time). In his recent book Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation, Dan Schawbel says that the rise of remote work can be a potentially harmful trend in the modern workplace—and the more we work apart, the less we work together, and this can hinder both our productivity and our sense of community.
One study recently found that a third of employees globally work remote always or very often, and two-thirds aren’t even engaged. That’s not good … not good at all.
Human connection, at its core, is quite possibly the most important aspect to life right now. Even if that means scheduling five Zoom calls per day. When you feel lonely as a worker, you can’t do your best work … and that’s not a place you want your employees to be.
So how do you as a leader strengthen that sense of community will still fostering a space for the utmost creativity? Here are a few of our favorites:
Fewer emails, more face time.
Now is not the time to bombard your team’s inbox. Instead, handle as much as you can face-to-face (in this case, via video calls). So much of communication is non-verbal—you’ll get a better idea of how your employees are feeling when you see their expressions.
Schedule one-on-one time.
It goes without saying, but your employees are probably pretty scared. With so many uncertainties looming, spending time with you as their manager on a regular basis can calm some of those fears. Your reassurance of their feelings, as well as your confidence in their work will do wonders.
Encourage growth opportunities.
Whether it’s an online learning course or taking on a new project, working remotely doesn’t need to equate to making your team get stuck in the daily grind. In fact, suggesting that your team step outside their comfort zone or finally check off that bucket list item would probably give them the exact boost they need.
Have a little fun.
Your employees are working hard during this pandemic and possibly juggling a nagging toddler or seventh grade math all while getting you what you need. Don’t let these things go unnoticed. The best way to strengthen your relationship, especially in such a stressful time of isolation, is to bring a little levity to the separation. Schedule a team happy hour or have themed attire days (#fancyfriday). No matter what you choose, the smiles will be worth it.
Staying connected when we’re not in an office or business setting can feel impossible—but it doesn’t have to be. What are YOU doing to keep the connection strong during isolation? Who knows, you may have another Macbeth on your hands.