Whether intended or not, teams working remote feel the need to be virtually present all the time. This desire to be visibly productive to their leaders and colleagues is creating longer than necessary work days and a lack of attention to personal priorities.
You athletes will probably laugh at this but humor me – there is a point – and it’s a true story!
When I was in basic training I was not much of a runner. We were doing our final test - a seven-mile run, and I was struggling at about the 5-mile mark when my instructor came up beside me and said something to me that I have never forgotten. He said; “I can see that you are getting tired and you have quite a ways to go” Then he said, “Don’t think about the end; instead just keep putting one foot in front of the other one.”
In this time of pandemic, we are intensely caring for our families, our clients, our company, and our careers—and in some cases even schooling our children at home, or caring for loved ones and neighbors. We are giving 110% to everything at once. Many of us have become adept at this, working virtually, leading meetings remotely, hurtling forward day-after-day.
But too often we are not caring for ourselves. Though we are strong, leading the way daily, our minds and bodies need breaks too.
ALULA has worked as a virtual company for years, so we’ve learned a lot about staying healthy in “the virtual life”—physically, mentally, and emotionally. Here’s some advice, especially for those who may not be accustomed to working from home.
When a crisis hits, many companies turn their attention outwards. Understandably, business leaders spend time crafting external messages and planning for ongoing communication to clients, partners, and other external stakeholders. Equally important, business leaders need to craft plans for nurturing and strengthening internal relationships through ongoing communications.
As we practice social distancing, we are also practicing new ways of working together. But even as we are keeping our distance, we still need the social part! I don’t know about you, but I miss the chats during coffee breaks, going to lunch with my colleagues, or just stopping by their desk for a quick check-in. All those small interactions that we took for granted are now sorely missed.
We know that high-performing teams have two strengths: productivity (alignment, accountability, efficient decision-making), and positivity (trust, camaraderie, clear communication). Unfortunately, when we are in a virtual environment, all we can see or measure is productivity—what we accomplish by day’s end. It is easy to overlook the positivity part—the human connection—which is what really drives employee engagement. Our daily human connections are as vital to productivity as doing the task itself.
In these uncertain times, your team members will have deep-seated concerns about their health, their families, and job security. It is critical that you recognize the value they bring to the continuity of your operations and to your organization’s culture. How you relate to your team during this worldwide pandemic will have lasting consequences.
It is critical to maintain solid relationships that demonstrate trust and respect, inspire, show empathy, and create positive accountability. Your primary role as a leader in these times is to ensure that people continue to feel valued, heard, and connected.
We are facing times of true uncertainty, and that means leaders, their organizations, and the people within them are faced with enormous challenges. Most people have a hard time dealing with unknowns, and this can be exacerbated by a relative lack of information, or, as is the case in the current situation, an abundance of information that causes fear and concern. People have questions, and leaders find they don’t have all the answers. As more information becomes available, leaders must realize that their decisions are now much more than just business decisions. What leaders say and do next can ultimately have significant implications for their people and affect individual lives and careers.
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.