It’s June 2020 and the COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) continues to impact countries around the world. In the past four months, millions of people have had to make massive adjustments as they work from home in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus. As summer approaches, it’s settling in for many that working from home has become our “new normal” for the foreseeable future.

It’s time to collaborate and keep morale high, but also to not be afraid to adjust how we do business. We still have our organization’s performance goals and revenue objectives to attain, but we can get creative about how we meet them. But, even more importantly, we need to care for our people. Let’s encourage our teams with compassion and understanding as, together, we learn how to navigate our new work reality.

Here are some tips to inspire and care for your team as we continue to weather the storm of the pandemic:

Be realistic as you adapt your management style. 

  • Don’t make promises you cannot keep. Your organization can’t estimate how long this new work paradigm will last.
  • Listen to employee suggestions on how to increase their productivity and how to collaborate better.
  • Shift duties among the members of the team based on new productivity patterns you observe over the next few weeks.

Maintain frequent points of contact.

  • Stay connected with your employees through emails, texts, and voicemails. The goal is to boost morale and every employee needs something a little different. In addition to traditional messages, consider inspirational quotes, daily check-ins, funny memes, viral videos, and brain challenges.
  • Schedule virtual “coffee breaks” throughout the day. Remember how you used to chat about college basketball or The Bachelorette in between meetings? You can still joke around or talk about the latest show you binged on Netflix from the comfort of your own home.
  • Schedule a “celebration session” with your team once a week. It’s easy to bemoan the challenges of doing business in such a unique time so take the time to recognize the things that are going right, no matter how small they may seem. Let’s also remember that many sectors of society are unable to work from home and that we are truly fortunate despite the challenges.

Pass along strategies to increase work-from-home productivity.

  • Get out of your pajamas, take a hot shower, and dress up in your new “work” clothes.
  • Take frequent exercise breaks. It has been proven that walking around for a few minutes will get your blood flowing to your legs again, decrease your blood pressure, and help you think more clearly when you resume work. Exercise also sends feel-good chemicals to your brain, which rapidly elevates your mood.
  • Hold a virtual meeting hosted by your “culture” committee or “Sunshine Club” and encourage employees to interact in a fun way. 
  • Utilize “time blocking” to make the most of your work hours.
  • Take 30 minutes to one hour for lunch each day. Use that time to connect with people you love or recharge with a book, favorite show, or a walk around the block.

Use your soft skills to care for your people.

  • Ask questions that show you care for your people, their families, and their extended relatives in other locations. Genuinely listen and remember the hardships each person is facing and encourage your team to do the same.
  • Urge people to practice social distancing and do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19.
  • Give employees more flexibility in meeting deadlines and demonstrating they have met performance goals.
  • Encourage employees to practice rational optimism, a strategy that encourages positive thinking about what they can achieve each day after assessing their present conditions.
  • Utilize a service like Fringe to uplift your team from afar. With our unique Fringe benefits marketplace, your people can choose services that mean the most to them during this unprecedented time.

If you are serious about helping your organization maintain its profitability over the next few quarters, you must continuously evaluate your new management style. As a people manager, be sure to keep notes about what’s working and what’s not working and track how you are holding your team members accountable for their tasks. This new era is about collaborating differently, but it also requires managers to show greater empathy, compassion, and understanding. As reality sets in and many people begin to panic, your employees will need you to be level-headed and guide them through this unfamiliar territory. Make the most of this unusual time; use it to think outside-the-box and inspire your employees to do the same.

Originally published to the Fringe Blog.