Social Distancing is the new normal — But in truth, it is really the concept of “physical distancing” — Keeping people apart from one another to slow the spread of COVID-19. While your workplace may be physically apart from one another right now, it is more important than ever to stay socially connected and joined as a team as much as possible.
Whether your business is a restaurant, bar, office setting, nightclub or commercial production facility, your team and co-workers are in many ways a second family. Through shared work you mark milestones and experiences and when that team is removed many individuals find themselves feeling even more isolated than they expected.
If you are facing a situation where some or even all of your staff is working remotely, you have limited staff on site working in designated zones or you have had to reduce hours, furlough workers or even shut down completely, there are ways to stay connected as a group:
1. Use technology to your advantage where possible — Video conferencing tools such as Zoom, GoToMeeting or Google Hangout are great ways to connect people together for important updates, discuss ideas or lay out an action plan. With the ability for multiple users to join at once and share files and screens back and forth, you can review necessary documents as a group as well, just as you might have in a previous in-person meeting.
2. Encourage your employees to be empowered — This may be the first time an employee has ever worked at home or independently. While structure and accountability is important for essential tasks, use this opportunity to tell your employees that they will be integral in setting their own schedule and deliverables, allowing them to structure their work day based on their own personal needs such as childcare that might have previously not been a consideration in an office setting.
3. Communicate! — Whether you have employees working in an office, remotely, or even have staff on furlough or reduced hours, it is more critical than ever to keep everyone informed. Plan on sending out structured group emails and texts regularly with updates on what is happening — Even if it is just to reinforce a business status quo based on state or local guidelines, your employees will feel more connected if they know their employer is committed to keeping them in the loop.
4. Get creative and share — While it is important to keep business functions operational during this difficult time, it’s also key that you preserve your company’s culture. Did you previously partake in regular potlucks or group lunches? Host a group lunch via video chat where everyone ‘shares’ what they are having. Other ideas include creating a shared Google Drive or other repository for favorite recipes, food hacks and entertainment ideas. Think about the things your employees used to share on a personal level and look for ways to maintain that.
5. Create opportunities for feedback — It’s safe to say business operators have never faced a crisis quite like this one — and as a result, there is no clear roadmap on how to proceed and what your workplace may look like short and long term. You may have an idea of what is best for your business but also be sure to talk to your team about their ideas. A virtual suggestion box or online survey through something like Doodle is a great way to hear from employees if an in-person brainstorm isn’t possible. Who knows? Someone might have a great idea for a program or promotion or even a community partner to pair with to provide aid to others.
6. Ask your employees what tools they need — Your employees know best what they need to successfully continue their work off site. Be open and transparent with them about what things they might actually need and don’t currently have while remote working such as increased broadband and investigate ways to make it happen. If solutions are truly limited, work with your employees to figure out a work-around versus waiting for something that isn’t going to happen.
7. Remember everyone handles stress differently — You may have some employees that cope well with a remote or undefined work environment; others may struggle without structure. The entire unfolding circumstance is very unsettling for many people — the uncertainty about work, school cancelations, limited travel and personal restrictions is causing great deal of stress across all sectors of the economy. Let your employees know about available counseling or stress management programs through your healthcare plan (if applicable) or be sure to provide a list of resources to manage mental well-being. Your city or county mental health department may have a list of resources to share and be sure to check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Stress and Coping Page for valuable information and resources.