Looking after your people during a crisis

Your employee experience is something that changes and evolves all the time, but the pace will  have certainly sped up over the past month or so. Usually, when we talk about the employee experience we think about our culture, which is usually made up from our vision, our values and the way our people interact. We think about the technology we use and how it enables us to work and communicate at our best. We also usually think about the physical space in which our business exists: what does our office look and feel like? Where do we host our events? We probably have even thought about our break out spaces and where we eat our lunch! 

Our control over each of these areas has undoubtedly changed. We are all seeing some really positive progression. Lots of the changes we have been pondering and talking about for some time now have been expedited: business leaders are implementing new tech, shaking up schedules and adapting like never before. That said, there are things that we no longer have control over and boundaries are more blurred than ever. 

As an employer, you need to be thinking about what will make your employees feel healthy and safe right now, and what you can be doing to support this. As the employee experience changes and shifts during this time, you want to be seen as part of the support system, not something making life harder. 

There are five key areas you can focus on to best look after your employees right now. 

 

Reigniting your cultural assets 

This is really all about going back to basics. Ask yourself: Why are we here? What does our business exist to do? What is our purpose? Remind yourself, and the team, of the answers to these questions and then begin to realign everybody. 

The best way to do this is through communication. Create an open, consistent and reliable dialogue that encourages your teams to feel trusted and safe. Town halls, 1-2-1s with everybody, weekly wrap up emails detailing what you’ve been up to. If you don’t already know what suits you, try a few different things and see what suits you best. 

Leading with empathy

It’s important to remember that we’re all human. While this won’t last forever, we need to recognise that the pace we cope with change, adjustment and trauma are totally different. 

It’s not always fair to ask or expect your team to keep up with your pace. As the leader, you are always going to be a few steps ahead of them. Instead, come to their level and take time to show them you value and appreciate them.

To best lead with empathy, you need to listen. Give your team a chance (perhaps anonymously) to ask questions then act on people’s concerns. Your teams likely also want to provide ideas. If they’re not a good fit, simply explain why. To best lead with empathy, remember that people really value being listened to and feeling heard. 

Trusting and empowering your people

It can be really difficult to feel like you’re in control when you don’t have full visibility of what everybody is up to. Think back to a time when you’ve been micro-managed, how it made you feel and what you would have ideally said. Channel this into your own management style. 

Routines are good but they shouldn’t be completely rigid – you likely have parents, people working from shared homes and potentially athletes in your team so a bit of flexibility will be greatly appreciated and give a massive sense of relief. Let your team know it’s okay to prioritise different things and support them by sharing all information they may have missed. 

Creating a sense of community 

Be mindful of shoehorning people into new roles or projects as a short-term solution. You still need to be allowing people to pay to their strengths and to be doing jobs they are confident they can do. Your team will best work together when everybody has a purpose, plays a clear role and feel like they’re capable of doing a good job. With this in place, you’ll naturally observe greater cohesion and community. 

You can amplify this by gamifying different things. Ask your teams to share their WFH playlists, show photos of their workspaces or morning coffee, create an open Zoom channel for people to eat lunch together and have a ‘just for fun’ Slack channel. Little things can mimic what used to happen in the office. 

Considering employee wellness, both mental and physical 

It is worth taking a note of any of your team who have past or existing physical or mental conditions which may require extra support. Simply asking ‘how are you?’ or ‘have you got everything you need?’ will open a line of communication to make sure they’re getting the right support. 

We are seeing businesses set up mental health hotlines to therapists, gamifying physical activity and training people as wellness coaches to support the team. 

This is all great stuff to be doing but also bear in mind how well you are looking after yourself: lead by example! Head your own advice, take care of yourself and stay tuned into your own feelings during this time. Remaining active, eating well and taking regular breaks will help your body and mind.

Jo Geraghty
Jo is a Director and Co-Founder of Culture Consultancy, specialising in cultural change and employee experience. She is a regular speaker, author and guest lecturer, and a champion of women in business. 
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