As the pandemic rages on, managers need to help their remote employees battle feelings of isolation over the long term. Online social activities — from coffee breaks to happy hours — can help, but many people are craving those informal office interactions that stimulate creativity and encourage collaboration. One thing you can do is set up a remote coworking space — basically, a videoconference at an agreed-up time where people can simply work quietly in each other’s virtual presence. This allows team members to informally chat, share ideas, and spontaneously ask questions, the same way they would in the office. If you’re managing a hybrid team, you can also set up a “hotwall,” a large monitor and camera placed in a busy location in the office, where remote workers can drop by to “visit” with their in-office colleagues. Experiment with turning it on for a fixed period of time each day, and see how people like it. Finally, establish a weekly, open office hour, without an agenda, and invite your entire team to ask questions and check in. These techniques, which aren’t hard to implement, can allow for the spontaneous and unstructured conversations that many of us are missing these days.
While the benefits of self-care are well known, some leaders still question whether it’s for them. You might feel like you don’t have the time, or think that you don’t need it, or maybe you consider the whole idea to be a bunch of hippy-dippy nonsense. Well, it’s time to reconsider. Self-care is important, and it can look different for everyone. So, set aside your resistance, and find a way to make it your own. You might like a long, cross-legged meditation, or something much more simple, like a routine journaling session, a brief afternoon nature walk, or a 15-minute break during the day to listen to music. The key is to start small, because even short diversions can provide stress relief and an energy boost. Whatever form of self-care you settle on, be diligent about making time for it everyday. Schedule it on your calendar and set alarms so that you don’t forget to actually follow through on your commitment to yourself. And once you start feeling the benefits, share your experience with others, especially if you’re a leader. The more you encourage others to take care of themselves, the more your team and organization will benefit.
Every workplace has unwritten rules — the unstated cultural and emotional norms that dictate what’s acceptable on your team or in your company. But is everyone aware of them? Do they know if it’s okay to turn off their video during a Zoom meeting? Or to go for a walk in the middle of the day? During stressful times it can be helpful for everyone to know exactly what your norms are. So write them down. Set aside time for you and your team to brainstorm an “It’s okay to…” list to clarify the small uncertainties that can add unnecessary stress. Your list can include things like “It’s okay to say you don’t understand a process,” or, “It’s okay to have quiet days.” If your company has moved to remote work during the pandemic, you might want to refresh your list, including things like, “It’s okay to shift your hours to take care of family commitments,” or “It’s okay to block off calendar time for focused work.” Documenting these norms is a simple exercise that has positive benefits for new, tenured, and future employees — and allows you to reinforce your culture even when the nature of work changes.
“What are we here for?” This question is essential for every leader to answer if you want to keep people engaged and focused, especially in times of change and uncertainty. So how can you provide a motivating answer to this question? It can’t come from you and your fellow executives alone. Determining your company’s purpose should involve employees, customers, suppliers, and members of the communities you serve. So convene these parties, perhaps in small focus groups, and ask them what they need and expect of your organization now (acknowledging that their answer may have changed over the past year). Then turn their feedback into a narrative of what success — and failure — looks like. Now is not a time to cling to an old plan. Instead, galvanize your constituencies to shape your company’s purpose and future. When you take a collaborative approach, it’s more legitimate, more motivating, and more likely to subvert the status quo.
The Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women’s careers: One in four are considering downshifting or leaving the workforce entirely due to the strain of the crisis. So how can men be an ally to their female colleagues right now — especially when working remotely? First, be an active sponsor and advocate for women, and particularly women of color. Talk about the great work they’re doing and the specific results of their efforts. Next, ensure women’s voices are heard in virtual meetings, passing the mic when you can. And take a gender-equal approach to distributing mundane chores and administrative duties, which are disproportionately assigned to women and detract from more career-enhancing responsibilities. You can create a simple rotational schedule so that everyone takes turns doing things like creating the agenda, taking notes, and keeping a meeting on time. And crucially, encourage the women you work closely with to say “no” if they’re being targeted with these kinds of assignments. We need to retain and advance talented women in the workforce — anything short of this commitment will undermine recent gains in gender diversity.
Waiting for big news is extremely hard. Whether it’s a job interview or a grad school application, or yes, even election results, it can be hard to avoid contemplating the worst possible outcome. So, how should you prepare for these pivotal moments? Start by asking yourself if you’ve done all you can to affect the outcome. If not, worrying can compel you to take meaningful action toward your goal. But if there’s nothing left to do, then worrying won’t help much. At that point, you might think through what you’ll do in the worst-case scenario and gather whatever resources you need, such as social support, to make it through. But you don’t have to dwell on the negative: It’s okay to hope too. As long as you temper your confidence, a dose of optimism can help lighten your mood. Once you’ve done everything you can to prepare, distract yourself. Whether it’s a silly movie, or a long run, or practicing mindfulness, sometimes distraction is the best medicine.