COVID-19 has turned the world upside down in many ways but perhaps nowhere more so than the workplace. Never before have we seen such widespread office closures and mass working from home. Many businesses have been through a process of complete lockdown with teams separated for weeks on end. Whether your staff are starting to return or still working remotely it’s important to ensure that you nurture close ties to maintain collaboration and morale even while social distancing rules are in place.
- Opt for the long-form conversation. Technology has given us a whole swathe of tools to use to remain in communication at all times. However, although email, messaging and platforms such as Slack can ensure that the right information gets to the right people at the right time they are unlikely to make your team feel close. That’s why longer-form conversations have become essential. In the absence of face-to-face contact, picking up the phone or opting for video chat instead of email is key to staying close to your team while social distancing measures are still necessary.
- Be open and authentic at all times. Given the level of uncertainty and disquiet that many people are feeling right now this is no time to opt for an autocratic leadership style. Your team needs honesty and clear communication even on the tough topics if you want the bonds of closeness to survive. Transparency is essential – focus on the facts and how your business is going to respond in alignment with its vision and values.
- Put contingencies in place. In these unprecedented times that could mean looking beyond existing hierarchies within the business and leveraging talent from across your organisation. It’s not just management who may have useful insights – building new cross-functional teams that are drawn from individuals at all levels and all departments will provide a much stronger approach and help to ensure that everyone feels involved.
- Switch from selling. If you are consistently trying to force your team to sell to customers and clients at a time when a sales pitch is likely to fall flat and feel insensitive you could create distance and disillusionment. Instead, advise your team to look for opportunities to support and guide customers and clients to foster a sense that we’re all in it together.
- Be ready to move when the time comes. There could be some tough times ahead for the business, from cutting staff to closing down sections of operations, even temporarily. It’s essential that this is handled sensitively so that no one feels alienated but that you have taken steps to ensure that when the time comes to start moving forward at speed again the business is streamlined and ready to do it.
There are many different aspects to keeping teams close at a time like this. From honest communication to prioritising long-form interaction wherever possible there are steps that any business can take to ensure that teams remain intact and that the business is ready to move forward when there is the opportunity to do so.