Putting People First in Times of COVID-19

March 2020 | By Danielle Hochstein, Ph.D.

Personal Reflection: Caring for Family and Colleagues

These personal reflections are from Danielle Geissler, Ph.D. A trusted advisor and coach to many senior executives in the U.S. and abroad, Danielle boards planes, trains, and secures ride services on a daily basis to better help executives create positive, productive, and engaged workplaces. She resides at—what is today—the epicenter of the U.S. COVID-19 outbreak. These are a few of her insights.

DG_Working_From_HomeAs I am sitting here in lockdown in NYC and am reflecting on the current situation, I am amazed at how fast the world as we know it has turned upside down. NYC alone went from “The City that Never Sleeps” to the epicenter of COVID-19, with everyone worried about how to keep the hospital system from collapsing. And all over the US, and all over the world, cities and people are experiencing similar scenarios. The economic implications of the current situation are undoubtedly going to be immense, the degree to which is yet unknown.

There is another impact that is becoming more and more apparent. The toll the current situation takes on each and every individual is enormous—emotionally, physically, and mentally. Each of us deals with uncertainty, loss of control, fear, anxiety, and the many related human emotions differently. But we are all in some way impacted by what is going on, and the situation is likely going to intensify before it gets better.

Add that to the general concern about the economic impact—keeping ones’ job, Working_from_home_street_viewfeeding ones’ family, maintaining health insurance, and paying the rent or mortgage—and you can see how COVID-19 has already shaped us all in some very major and lasting ways.

Concern about family is at the center for many people today. I personally believe that our families also give us the stability, purpose, and strength to weather what is happening. In fact, I think that the way we interact with our families in times of turmoil can provide some ideas for how to motivate and support our employees in these never-before-seen work environments.

The idea came to me as I was having a conversation with one of my sisters. My sisters and brother are spread across 3 continents, and this has been the case for many years. And yet, we are a very close family. Because of our circumstances, we quickly learned how to leverage technology to stay connected—creating a family WhatsApp group, making Facetime calls, Skyping in groups, and setting up regular times to talk on the phone as well as finding a way to meet in person, all together, in the same place. I am sure that for many of you this sounds familiar. After all, most of us tend to have family members at least in different States.

I also noticed that whenever my siblings and I find ourselves in unusual situations, with unexpected impending drastic or sad changes and decisions having to be made, we automatically adjust how we communicate:

  • We increase the number of times we check in with each other
  • We take more time for our conversations
  • We find ourselves listening more than usual, allowing the other side to share emotions and concerns, without judgment
  • We let go of grudges or stressing out about personality traits that otherwise drive us up the wall
  • We let the other person know, repeatedly, that we are there for them
  • We resort more to joint, creative problem-solving
  • We highlight the other person’s strengths and values
  • We help each other stay focused on what’s important: talking each other off the ledge if need be, or encouraging each other to accept the current situation—and all the related consequences—and finding a way to move forward regardless

As a person in a leadership role, I find that many of the practices above are also very fitting for ensuring that those I work with know how important they as individuals are to me and the company we all work for. Engaging in these practices will not only demonstrate true care for your colleagues, but hopefully create an environment that can more easily weather these new times. I for one, am going to try to be more mindful of implementing them at work.


Topics: Leadership, Team Building, Communicating with Teams, Working Remote, Leading Remote Teams, Work from Home