How leaders can offer support to their employees during this strange economic time
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For employers and employees alike, the past few weeks have been frightening, challenging, and uncertain, forcing families and businesses to make difficult decisions in response. For the latter, it has ranged from reducing hours of operation to layoffs and furloughs to closing doors entirely.
Whether it be uniting and galvanizing a team in new, virtual ways, or simply keeping employees safe, there are a number of ways business leaders can continue to support their teams, foster trust and collaboration, and remain in compliance during these challenging times.
First, communicate honestly and openly with employees. It can be tempting to shelter employees from fears and risk, especially since high stress has been shown to erode trust and inhibit empathy. But it’s likely your employees are already thinking about the issues keeping you up at night. The foundation for an engaged, empathetic, and emotionally supported workforce is trust, in both leadership and one another. Invest the time in keeping employees informed and connected.
Second, invite employees into the challenge. Surviving during a crisis requires creative and innovative thinking, as well as a willingness on the part of everyone to rise to the occasion. Focus your team on the purpose of your company’s work and the challenges ahead, and invite employees to seek new ways to contribute to the mission of the company, deliver its values, and achieve its strategic objectives. If your employees are invested in your culture, company, and mission, they will respond.
Third, manage your employees holistically. Employees working from home may have additional distractions or disruptions they’re not used to managing during the workday. It’s also possible that employees or their family members are experiencing distressing financial or health-related circumstances. Prioritize the health of not only your employees, but also their support network. If an employee is sick, give them time to get well, even if they are working from home. Employers shouldn’t lower their standards for employee performance — that can also have a negative impact. But a little flexibility can have a big impact on employee wellbeing, commitment, and contribution.
Finally, if employees are being asked to sacrifice – whether that’s working more or taking a pay cut – leaders who are interested in building loyalty should make the same sacrifices. Not only do leaders who take pay cuts make national news at times, but they earn the respect and admiration of their employees in a way that is impossible to replicate with empathy alone
As this crisis unfolds, it’s more important than ever that employers and employees support each other and work together to keep themselves and their communities healthy. The COVID-19 situation is unique for nearly everyone, and just because you haven’t led through circumstances like these before doesn’t mean you’re ill-equipped to lead through them now. Focus on authenticity, transparency, empathy, and purpose, and you and your team will find your way through together.
This article was originally published on April 29, 2020 by Forbes.com.