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How Leaders Should Manage Uncertainty in the Age of COVID-19 [Guide for Managers]

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Times are stressful. People don’t like uncertainty, yet we are in the midst of the most uncertain times in recent history.

This morning, I felt really good. Now, at 4 p.m., I’m at a low ebb. I’m thinking about my team members and their families dispersed across the globe. I’m thinking about my VP, who is celebrating his birthday today by not going outside.

I take a breath.

I’ve been struggling with this post, which offers advice to managers on how to help their team grapple with uncertainty, fear, and doubt through this pandemic. The truth is, there are no easy ways to address this. But consistency, open communication, and empathy are a manager’s best tools to help their team through this difficult time.

Here’s what I’ve been doing to help my team manage their stress, as well as my own...

How to support your team individually

Keep asking how they’re doing

No matter how repetitive it feels, keep asking how people are feeling in your regular check-ins. Get focused by asking how they’e dealing with things and whether or not they’re okay. You’ll likely get an “I’m fine” the first few times, but if you’re consistent, your team will eventually open up to you on how they’re truly feeling and coping. If your employees won’t tell you how they’re doing, it makes it a lot more difficult for you to help! But that doesn’t mean you can’t. If it’s easier, first send them resources. For example, we’ve assembled some resources to help prioritize mental health while people are working from home.

Let them know that you’re there to listen, even if you may not have the answers

“More so than ever, we need to be okay with investing in the mental and emotional health of our people in addition to their professional achievement.” -Sam Mallikarjunan, CRO, Flock

Managers aren’t a replacement for healthcare professionals, but in this chaotic time, and having someone to talk to is more important than ever. Let your team know you don’t have all the answers, that you may not always say the right things, but you’re there for them. If doing this makes you uncomfortable, use it as a learning experience to improve your managerial skills around relationship building and active listening. Reminder: Being there for your employees is important, but try to draw the right boundaries so that you’re not overly burdened as well. It’s a hard line to tow, but again, you’re not a replacement for a healthcare professional for your team.

Encourage them to seek professional help

If you find your employees aren’t coping well under the circumstances, you can encourage them to seek out resources with your HR team or speak with a mental health professional. There are many online providers who can help folks remotely. Take care to recommend services with licensed professionals with the proper credentials to actually help.

How to support your team as a unit

These are things you can do with your entire team to encourage positivity.

Create time for the team to get together with no agenda

At Flock, we’ve recently set up daily morning standups so that everyone on the team can chat and connect with no agenda. We talk about how we’re feeling, current events, and any questions we may have around work. While it may feel excessive, setting aside time for the entire team to routinely meet is crucial for building employee engagement and morale. You can also observe how individuals are faring during group conversations.

Rein in conversations that are spiraling

It’s natural for folks to express their concerns and worries to each other. Stay vigilant and try to pause conversations that go further into negativity. Change the topic or ask an icebreaker question to divert the conversation.

Remind them to control the things that they can control

Uncertainty and lack of information cause people to assume the worst possible outcomes and scenarios. It’s human nature to get pessimistic and not feel in control sometimes.. Remind your team to focus on the things that they can control rather than the things they can’t. When they focus on what they can control, they’ll take positive action, as opposed to feeling helpless, down or even depressed.

Suggest they move around and get some exercise (responsibly)

I’m not a gym rat but I’ve been exercising more as a way to blow off steam. I worked out—in my living room to a YouTube video—to combat that low ebb I mentioned earlier even though I didn’t feel like it. But I knew if I just sat around, my body would manifest the negativity in my head and I’d feel worse. If I could at least get my body moving and producing endorphins, I’d have a chance of getting out of the doldrums. I finished my session feeling a lot better. Honestly, it works.

Give folks some space if their productivity dips

We’re living in unprecedented times. Many people are working from home with their partners, parents, roommates, and/or children. There are many distractions and stressors. Give your team a break. Don’t expect them to be constantly on or instantly reactive. Ask them to share their struggles and give them the grace to keep their home life in order as we all try to figure out this new remote work reality.

Need more resources? Flock has assembled our best remote work content to help you keep your head up.

From the Flock team to yours, we wish you the very best.

Talk to Flock! Chat live with us right now to learn how Flock can help your  team work remotely!

Leadership, Remote Teams