For many businesses around the globe, the COVID-19 crisis is the ultimate work from home test.  While many teams are used to working on partially virtual teams, moving fully virtual challenges not only the way we operate but also how we connect.   At Mercer, flexible working is part of our DNA.  My team, given our global footprint, is comfortable continuing to work remotely.  Even though we may consider ourselves ready and able, the circumstances have changed.  

What does this mean for leaders?  Well, it’s time to rethink how we manage teams effectively and recognize that work may look very different for the next few months, even as countries begin opening their borders again.  

I’ve compiled my top tips for managing a global, largely virtual team in the hopes that these ideas help some leaders new to working in our current climate.   

Lead with empathy and authenticity 

Now more than ever, it’s important to lead with empathy, understanding and authenticity. Many employees (myself included!) are working with kids at home that demand attention and these personal distractions can be frustrating and a recipe for disaster, especially when your LinkedIn feed is showing people ‘making the most’ of social distancing by working on passion projects or learning a new skill.  

By recognizing and showcasing your own struggles with ‘the new normal,’ it can help your team feel understood during a time of unprecedented uncertainty and transition.   

Be prepared for schedule changes 

While flexible work options may not be new for many, you may start to notice people signing on earlier, going dark in the middle of their day or signing back on at night. Schedule shifts and changes may occur more often as working parents grapple with a full-house or are stocking up on supplies when the lines are shorter.  
Offering flexibility in schedule changes will go a long way in showing support.  

Check-in more  

It’s an uncertain and scary time for everyone. Even though it’s important to get on with work and keep things moving, don’t forget to check-in more. Start each call with a check-in on how your team is feeling and if they have any questions or concerns that they’d like to share. Show that you’re listening and that you understand their fears and challenges.  

It’s important to remember that we’re all in this together. Social distancing and staying indoors is stressful and lonely for many. Be sure to balance out your own stress and challenges with those of your team.  

As a leader, it’s easy to want to have all of the answers. The reality is that no one knows what the future holds at this time and the best thing you can do as a leader right now is listen, understand and accommodate.