I don’t have to tell you how terrible COVID-19 is. You already know. Each and every person across the globe are impacted in different ways. We deal with things in very different ways. Organizationally, leaders are making decisions in real-time based on the information they have. This pandemic is really testing us as humans. There is no roadmap for this stuff. We are simply doing our best and trying to survive.
I have had more video calls during the past month than I have during the past 5 years. I actually enjoy them because I get to use real-time caption, which, as someone who is hard of hearing, has been extremely advantageous. Most of my conversations have been with HR practitioners and leaders on how to support their organizations through the COVID-19 pandemic. Through all of the ideas, strategies and decisions that have been made, I have boiled everything down to the number one thing that leaders can do to make the greatest positive impact.
Be Extremely Accessible
We are working remotely in our homes and do not have the choice to go to an office and be around other people. The ways we are accustomed to socializing have been cut off. Our abilities to connect with other human beings in a social setting has been impacted. Employees are suffering with their mental health, and it’s becoming a really big problem.
As leaders, we need to be really REALLY accessible to our employees. Employees need to feel comfortable in being able to approach you using whichever communication channel they wish. If you are not already doing so, NOW is the time to start using social collaboration tools like Slack and video platforms like Google Hangout Meet and Zoom. Leaders need to schedule video calls with their direct reports on a more regular basis. We know that employee productivity is going to decline during this period but we need to do everything we can to knock down barriers, be helpful and of value. Simply put, your role as a leader is to serve your employees.
In line with being extremely accessible, now is the time to promote employee support programs like EAP — counselling, meditation, exercise, etc… It’s the role of a leader to actively promote this to employees. Our world has changed and how we support our employees need to change too.
If there was ever a time for leaders to step up and shine, it’s now. Accessibility is the key to building mutual respect, trust and strong working relationships.