Leading a team while working from home amid a crisis: 7 considerations

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The coronavirus pandemic has forced employers to abruptly adopt unprecedented remote working arrangements, with entire teams forced to work from home for an undefined period of time. The unfamiliarity of this arrangement and added anxiety teams may experience puts managers, directors and leaders in an especially visible position to falter or thrive. 

Here are seven considerations for those leading remote teams during this unusual time:  

1. Check in regularly. Establish a regular, predictable cadence of team and/or one-on-one calls. Employees need assurance they will have pre-determined opportunities to consult with you, share concerns and ask questions. 

2. Encourage normalcy. As much as possible, employees should stick to their daily routines. 

3. Ensure they have the tools they need. Needs for resources may grow apparent overtime, as the speed of the coronavirus pandemic did not allow much time for trial runs or to draw out plans and resources for every possible work-related scenario or task. Encourage two-way communication with your team so employees will bring their needs to your attention as they unfold. 

4. Don't rely on email alone. The best form of technology depends upon the goal or conversation at hand. For quick collaboration, chat functions are often helpful. For sensitive conversations, look to video conferencing. There are inexpensive options for various communication tech tools, but consult with IT departments regarding any data security needs that must be met when adopting these tools. 

5. Your job description now includes providing emotional support. Like you, your team is working from home because of a global health pandemic. Healthcare teams are likely experiencing anxiety and stress pertaining to their jobs, as well as their personal wellbeing, health of families and friends, and their overall safety and security. If you previously thought it was optional or as-needed to invest in your employees' mental or emotional health, it's time to discard that notion. Research shows employees look to managers for cues about how to react to sudden changes or crises. The best thing managers can do is adopt a two-pronged approach: acknowledge the anxiety of this difficult time while affirming your confidence in your team, according to Harvard Business Review

6. Be flexible and forgiving of imperfection. First, accept that things are not going to run completely smoothly and productivity may not be 100 percent. Then, communicate this to your team. Many adults are trying to maintain the normalcy of their full-time jobs while also homeschooling their children and caring for their isolated elderly parents and relatives, among other responsibilities that were structured differently a mere three weeks ago. Be kind and trust your people are doing their best to make it all work right now. 

7. Carve out time for levity and socialization. Loneliness and social isolation are real concerns right now. Some small but helpful ways to invite connection into your daily work: Devote the first few minutes of calls to catching up about things unrelated to work. When a call can replace an email, pick up the phone. Consider virtual happy hours. Or just check in with your team and see what they'd find most helpful right now, and respond accordingly. Bottom line: Do what you can to promote a sense of belonging among your team.

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