Structure is important even in times a great change. Having a routine and following clear guidelines are what people cling to in times of uncertainty. For workforce leaders asking themselves what they can do to enable workers to be successful during and after the Covid-19 crisis, here are some suggestions:
- Focus on standardization and communication. People want to know what is expected of them. Without structure or parameters of expectations, people will quickly become overwhelmed in a work environment of chaos and disorder. This is why organizations should have standardized policies wherever possible. Especially now, as many employees are working in more flexible environments, they won’t be successful unless company policies about remote work expectations are clearly defined and communicated. For example, are employees expected to be available during normal working hours or will they have flexibility in their schedule? Are they able to work a compressed work week, such as 10-hour days? How will the virtual workplace expectations be different from in-office expectations? These are questions that will need to be defined and standardized as company policy. Helping employees understand the “why” behind policy is key. Employees who have a clear understanding of why following standardized practices benefits the entire organization can also act as stewards who uphold these formal policies, thereby maintaining the structures that allow for the autonomy that many workers desire.
- Consistently apply company policy and leading by example. Clearly setting expectations around standard company policies is just the beginning. Once policies and procedures have been defined, leaders must ensure they are consistently applied and followed. This means leaders must also adhere to standard practices. Employees expect their leaders to follow through on commitments. If leaders do not set an example by consistently following policy themselves, employees will not feel motivated to adhere to formal policies either.
- Be open and promote accountability. Along with setting and communicating clear expectations and a consistent application of policies, communication is fundamental to a thriving and engaging work environment. Employees don’t just want autonomy to do their jobs — they also want to understand how their jobs contribute to the organization’s success. With employees being physically separated from each other, it’s important to find ways to stay connected to the organization’s mission. Managers should be available to their employees daily. Communication platforms such as Slack or Microsoft Teams are simple ways to stay connected. Video calls are a great way to get a virtual “face-to-face” meeting with employees. The benefit of this digital age is that there are multiple pathways to open communication.
Sharing information about the organization’s achievements, opportunities, and even areas for improvement, helps tether employees to the greater good. When employees understand how their work impacts the company, they feel more motivated to strive for greatness.
A monthly virtual meeting in which company leaders share updates on organizational milestones and progress is a great way to promote transparency. Beyond companywide developments, these meetings should also share updates on department-specific activities. That way, employees across the organization can see what their colleagues are working on, which promotes transparency and further open communication.
Communication and accountability are complementary. Keeping employees and leaders accountable fosters a culture of responsibility, which in turn further motivates employee performance. Employees want to feel like their work really matters, and being held accountable shows them exactly that. Moreover, employees also appreciate when their managers hold accountable those team members who may be falling short of the standards expected. A cohesive, thriving team is one in which everyone does their part.
As employers work to redefine their workforce operations during the pandemic, their focus should be on creating positive virtual work environments that boost morale and keep everyone moving in the same direction toward shared goals.
Additionally, organizations must acknowledge this is a new and challenging situation. The best thing a company can do for its employees is to set them up for success by giving them clear expectations, consistently applying company policies, and promoting a culture of communication and accountability from leadership. At the same time, company leaders need to remain empathetic to each employee’s unique circumstances and allow flexibility when needed.