Remote Working Guidance For Leaders During Covid-19
One of the challenges of this pandemic, as with other large scale natural or economic disasters, is that it creates rapid change that has people scrambling for physical and psychological safety.
As humans, we all deal with this change differently which makes the role of a team or organisational leader even more difficult.
In this article we explore how you, as a leader, can ensure your team stays safe, positive and resilient, we call this mindset and mental toughness, whilst working from home.
A common description of this current situation is that we are all sailing in the same storm but each in a different boat, which is apt because we all have a unique mental profile that causes us to think and respond differently to often similar events and situations.
Since many of our current daily experiences and decisions are new, we are generally on a constant high state of mental alert and can therefore become more easily stressed. Whilst it is natural for us all to seek safety, as first noted by Maslow, some people are more mentally resilient and positive than others who really struggle to deal with the daily setbacks and resistance they encounter.
Our differing mindset profiles come from our “factory settings” through our genetics, usually about 50%, and then a mixture of other influences such as our childhood and adult experiences, our values and principles and our current situation. Our mindset profile is to a certain extent elastic though and so can be developed over time.
Whilst there is no right or wrong, if you are mentally tough, ie more resilient and positive, the more likely you are to feel in control of your surroundings. As a result, you are likely to be happier and healthier because you can better manage your emotions and responses to stress and change as well as stay focused for longer to achieve more consistent and certain outcomes combined with higher performance.
Working from home is one event that people experience very differently. Many find it difficult to stay engaged and productive whilst working in the confines of a small space in the close proximity of family members, whilst for others it’s the change in routine that creates mental challenges. Sometimes it’s the difficulty in switching mindset between home and work life without commuting or the lack of connection with work colleagues.
In contrast those mentally tougher individuals who are more resolute and tenacious can work through these challenges relatively calmly and effortlessly.
Leaders can experience any of the above personal mindsets but have the additional challenge of staying connected with each individual and the team as a unit without being in close proximity.
Here are some strategies for leaders:
- Understand each of your team member’s individual situation and mindset. Are they living alone or do they have other family members at home and what age are family members. Do they have a dedicated work space and are they by nature well organised, resourceful, confident and engaged with other members of the team – all of which will help them to work productively at home. If it helps perhaps use a rating system – 1-5 on home, situation, mindset, routines, resourcefulness and communication to help you to remember for easy reference.
- As a result of each individual being different and working out of sight, you will need to spend considerably more time each week communicating with them to assess their mindset and effectiveness to work effectively alone.
- This balance between communication and productivity is likely to be different in this working from home situation and in your leadership role you will likely need to be supporting and connecting rather than primarily driving for results.
- Without the cues you gain from a face to face conversation you need to work doubly hard to understand how you are responding and impacting on your team. Leading with CARE (compassionate, approachable, receptive, engaged) is a helpful guide here.
- Don’t set and forget on your own and your team’s physical and mental wellbeing – you do need to regularly check in and monitor where everyone is at.
One of the additional imminent challenges for you as a leader and your organisation will be the end of Covid-19 working from home regulations and a transition to a “new normal”, whatever that might me. This will involve another period of significant stress and change to which some people will respond in a resilient and positive manner and others far less so. You should regularly reassess and re-induct everyone to ensure you can reduce the risk of a large-scale dislocation.
In summary, because we all respond uniquely to stress and pressure, leaders need to be aware of this and place additional emphasis on staying connected with their people as individuals and as a team.
During Covid-19 and non Covid-19 times, there is a constant and increasing pressure on leaders to improve organisational performance therefore leaders need to be able to perform at the highest level under extreme pressure. An understanding of leadership styles and an awareness of your own personal leadership style will enable you make rational, effective and correct decisions to support the people in your team and organisation. Our leadership coaching package may be of interest to you. For further information please contact Mental Toughness Partners.