The coronavirus has surely thrown a monkey wrench into business processes across the country and around the world. While some companies have managed to find ways to maintain productivity, others are struggling for their very existence. In any case, employees have been sent into the isolation of their own homes and, with all the stress of keeping themselves and their families healthy and safe, many are having a hard time adjusting.
Workplace culture firm Great Place to Work has been tracking how the COVID-19 virus has impacted global business, and has learned how the best workplaces have responded during this time of crisis. Marcus Erb, the company’s Vice President of Data Science and Innovation, and Ed Frauenheim, Senior Director of Content, have compiled a list of five things that business leaders need to be doing right now for their employees during these uncertain times.
While COVID-19 forces us to be socially distant, it’s crucial to be emotionally close. People are social creatures. Organizations are social institutions.
The research shows the best and most successful ones have the highest levels of connection, trust, caring, and emotional safety. COVID-19 is challenging us like never before. The solution: focusing even more on the things we know are better for people, better for business, and better for the world.
This isn’t easy, especially when teams are being thrust into remote work for the first time. Many are questioning the stability and survival of their own companies and jobs. Others are juggling unexpected childcare needs while figuring out how to navigate the latest developments. Through all of this, getting back to basics is what will get us through it together.
One of the most impactful basics is listening. Whether it’s through simple informal approaches or formal ones like pulse surveys, staying in touch with what employees are experiencing is critical.
Here are five reasons to listen to employees now:
1. Show you care
Anytime you ask someone how they are, it tells them you care. When you ask during these times, you tell them you really care. It shows their experiences are a priority, even as leaders face complicated, fast-moving priorities and decisions.
By asking people how they are, you signal their experiences and concerns are a key priority during times when it’s easy to feel forgotten or unseen. As we shared in earlier research, that sense of care is a strong predictor of your company’s health.
2. Build community
For leaders and employees alike, these times create high pressure and isolation.
This is particularly true for often-marginalized groups, who already experience exclusion and inequality more than other employees. Crises like this are times when things can get worse, as we found in our research on restructurings.
The act of listening to all your employees builds connections. It tells everyone, “you’re not alone.”
Creating opportunities for all to experience community is a powerful way to ensure employees experience togetherness. Do whatever you can to avoid sliding back to biases and silos that separate teams.
3. Create safety
Psychological safety is hard to come by these days. Uncertainty about job futures, finances and childcare are burning out employees from all industries.
Asking about people’s experiences won’t solve it all, but listening is a key first step to offering some solace amidst the turbulence. It beats back the isolation, stress and fear that social distancing and economic uncertainty create.
4. Give hope
When things are out of control, even a little control—like getting a say about how things are done—can bring hope.
Ask your team to give input and provide ideas during this crisis. It shifts people’s mindsets. It gives them feel a sense of agency that brings hope things will turn around.
5. Increase intelligence
We’re all flying a little blind through these times. Events are changing so rapidly it’s hard to predict what the next hour will bring, let along the next quarter.
As the firm shares in its recent research, your employees can help you see further down the road. Their input and experiences can help you better prepare your company for the threats and opportunities you haven’t recognized yet.
Your teams can grow closer even while apart
Listening now is vital for resilience. It’s a way to be good to each other, care for your people and world, and strengthen your business. It turns these tumultuous moments into opportunities to make your organization tighter than ever.
Even though you and your colleagues are physically separate from each other, this moment can slingshot you into togetherness. It’s a paradox—there can be great closeness within social distance.
Portions of this article were originally published on the Great Place To Work blog.