The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us a lot about ourselves in the past few years, as individuals and as employees. We’ve had a crash course in the importance of being prepared for change, what happens when supply chains fail, and the effects of suddenly thrusting about 70% of workers into a remote-work scenario.

Aside from the professional effects, the pandemic also has affected each of us in deeply personal ways. The global health emergency separated people from their families, workplaces, co-workers, and even familiar routines that used to uphold their lives. Mental health and well-being are at an all-time low among workers across the country. In the aftermath, grief, PTSD, burnout, and broad-spectrum anxiety are only a few of the new challenges that individuals and teams are dealing with as this elongated crisis becomes endemic.

What has this meant in the workplace? Tired teammates, fragmented team cohesion, and lower-than-usual productivity.

Putting People First

During times of uncertainty and change, being a leader means supporting your team members. Doing so means supporting their mental and physical health, as well as fostering a sense of inclusion and safety at work to create a sense of cohesion and raise employee morale and productivity. It’s no small task.

So how can you step up to support your colleagues as they face new anxieties, workplace concerns, and overwhelming economic stress?

1. Prioritize Efficient Communication Among Your Team.

Open lines of communication between all team members are key. Just realize that the traditional methods of sharing information might not work for everyone. To that end, let the team decide how they best communicate with each other.

“Empower them to establish structures among themselves. Communication is important during times of change, so try to facilitate interactions without the need of a central authority figure, attempting to maintain some level of determinism in a system that is inherently non-deterministic,” says Sean Beard, vice president at Pariveda, a provider of end-to-end change-enablement consulting services. “The back-and-forth simply slows everything down — and unnecessarily so.”

2. Maintain Transparency with One Another.

Secrets have no friends. When you want to build a team that trusts and respects each other, prioritizing honesty and transparency is crucial.

Transparency promotes confidence. If you aren’t open with your team, they’re likely to suspect the worst,” says John Hall, co-founder and president of Calendar, a scheduling and time-management app. “Don’t stop with your team, though. Try to also personalize your brand by increasing transparency. Sometimes being transparent with data has added trust with customers. When things are uncertain, a level of trust with your team and customers can go a long way.” But do your research thoroughly. If you shine a spotlight on a challenging situation, you need to also supply the team with information that can help them be part of the solution.

3. Encourage Each Other to Recharge.

As everyone now knows particularly well, work-life balance is instrumental to maintaining mental and physical health. Your teams won’t perform optimally if they’re stressed and overwhelmed, so make sure all employees understand that you support their individual efforts to find the perfect intersection of wellness and productivity.

“If you want to promote both keeping pace with change and well-being, you have to teach both. We tend to be really good at holding the standard for keeping pace, but what about well-being?” says author and business coach Jon Dwoskin. “Giving your people permission to schedule time to recalibrate and recharge is important for helping them keep pace with change. Teach your people how to take care of themselves and watch the impact it makes.”

4. Acknowledge Your Team’s Emotions.

It’s unrealistic (and unfair) to expect your teammates to be in good spirits for 40 hours each week, especially during tough times. Practicing empathy goes a long way when dealing with different personality types, and it signals that you are the fully human leader your employees deserve.

“During any protracted period of change or turmoil, it’s always helpful to anchor communication in acknowledgment. Start by accepting and acknowledging any and all employees’ feelings, concerns, and frustrations,” says Rebecca Weintraub and Steven Lewis, authors of the book InCredible Communication.Emotional validation helps people stay in a positive mindset and can be more conducive to problem-solving, whereas invalidation tends to have the opposite effect. This is just as true in a workplace context as it is in friendship, marriage, and family.”

This “new normal” isn’t going away soon, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to support one another through these hard times. By leading the way through these uncharted waters, you will distinguish yourself as a valuable leader. Your company needs you to showcase your unique ability to support and uplift the people who report to you and work around you. With empathy, communication, and a focus on openness and inclusivity, you can remake your workplace into a new and improved zone where everyone can feel and perform at their best.