To put it simply, make them feel like they are seen and heard when they are working with you, and more importantly, stay true to who you are. These are just general ideas on how to maintain your work relationships, however you have to make an assessment of the work situation and mindset of the people you are working with and then create the best strategy to either approach or continue working with them.
At the start of the pandemic, I had been out on leave for about 3months. A week after returning to work, we moved everyone home. So, my challenge was not only have I not been with my team for three months, but now I must manage them remotely. Being adept at managing remote employees requires the ability to pivot mentally and shift perceptions and perspectives.
As someone who monitored productivity visually, I felt out of sorts. To lead my team, I discovered I need to loosen the reins a little while finding ways to continue to hold my associates accountable. I relied on the available technology to tailor how my meetings were conducted. I also was empathetic to my employees and the things they had going on, scheduling down time for them when it was permissible. I listened to their concerns and found ways to address them that helped ease their fears and did not compromise productivity.
Successful transitions to virtual work, and in some cases hybrid schedules, require that we be willing to recalibrate how we lead our people. The key to it all is adopting effective communication strategies.
Expect a certain amount of trial and error, and don’t be too hard on yourself.
1) Occasionally, schedule a non-work related chat with people you want to maintain relationships with. Whether this is in the form of a 1 on 1 or some sort of a group Zoom, the chance to get to know people (really listen, really have a two-way conversation) goes a long way to refreshing the rapport you have, which helps "grease the skids" for when a work-related issues or emergency comes up. This is no different than occasionally walking into someone's cube and having the sort of "how ya doin'" conversation we'd have in the office, and is a more necessary function than we'd like to admit. Some examples of this that we do:
- 1 on 1s (most of mine these days are a mix of work and non-work topics)
- Zoom happy hours: A group video chat at the end of a day with open discussion.
- Office House: My boss hosts an office hours video chat every so often. Topics are open to anything... it's just a chance to sit around with our boss and talk about whatever is on our mind.
- Brown Bag: We have a weekly "brown bag" video chat during lunches. Topics are sent out ahead of the meetings, and are usually things like "recommendations on home workout equipment", "How do you handle stress", or "What is your favorite dessert recipe". We actually record video for these and post notes... but it's a good way to get to collaborate on non-work topics.
2) For people you really want to keep strong rapport with, I recommend messaging them good morning regularly, just like you would if you ran into them in the office. One of the managers I work with loves this. This simple thing can go a long way to keeping you relevant and top-of-mind.
I think we're a ways off from seeing the effect of this, and there will likely be some uncomfortable culture changes that will need to happen in offices across the world, but I think there's a way forward in our connected, work-from-home world!
Safety is always a top priority. While it has been more difficult to network and develop relationships during the pandemic, staying connected is important.
Our company has instituted Teams Meetings, Zoom, email, and phone to assist employees with communications.
Group meetings via video are also effective to view and respond to colleagues. This is the next best thing to face to face contact.
Newsletters capture updates as well as providing up to date information and sharing.
Group chat on teams is useful for questions and comments, too.
As a supervisor, I encourage my team members to call me at any time with questions. We meet regularly with individual meetings.
It has been a challenge as we all miss the personal contact with each other but we all want to stay healthy for each other.
Good luck with your endeavors.
Antonio Alvarez Martínez
I think there is a different path for each of us to manage work in Covid times, but, for me the main solutions is to put limits. I work from home, so make a limit in my house where is my office, everything there is work related, nothing more; and when I'm there, I try to focus just in my work and nothing else, my family knows that and also respects that limit. Also, I limit my time in work; when I was at the office I used to take 5 minutes from time to time to walk, relax a little bit, maybe take a coffee or grab something to eat, so I try that also. And finally, my working hours stay the same, I take my time to eat and I leave at the same time I used to in the office; maybe the idea of staying a little longer gets to my mind because "I'm already at my house so I take me no struggle to stay 5 more minutes", but no, my time to disconnect is as important as my time to connect.
Hope this helps,
As a people leader, I had to be creative with how I maintained and built relationships during COVID. Prior to COVID, my team was extremely close and worked well with one another in office. It was really difficult personally for me to not see their faces every day. The best advice I can give is make sure you're more intentional with the time you spend with one another. You do not get the opportunity to just walk up to someone's desk to say hi so spend more time during your 1x1 time asking how the person is doing. I found that having fun virtual team builders and talking in the team slack channel was the most effective way to maintain the culture of my team. It's all about communication, and communicating as often as you can. Find different methods that work with different people. It's absolutely a different sort of environment but that doesn't mean you can't build and maintain healthy relationships.
James Ruth, PMP
I've attempted to try to treat work from home during COVID 19 as if I am still in the office. Meaning - I Slack everyone good morning, check in on folks throughout the day. I also wish everyone I work closely with a good evening when signing off for the day. These are all things we would do if we were in the office, so why should working remote be any different of an experience?
I'll also ask co-workers to virtual lunches / happy hours / team building activities to get to know each other better.
Lastly - I encourage everyone, just in general, to network as much as possible. That can be as simple as just picking up the phone and calling someone. When you are going for that next job, it is very important to have a network of people (former bosses, friends, etc) that can vouch for you as a reference.
I have led geographical diverse team in COVID time. Since the in -person interaction is impossible during this time, it is important to be open, honest and find opportunities to keep connected virtually with team using video calls.
Have non work related discussions and chat on regular basis, take time to get connected with the team members and understand what challenge they might be facing looking for verbal and non verbal clues.
Have regular 1:1 with team members.
Have a friend who you can talk to at the end of day to unwind
Be empathetic toward people and their situations
I find it helps to put yourself in the colleague's shoes. We never know the challenges others may be undergoing both personally and professionally during these challenging times.
While teleconferencing is helpful for collaboration, I find more are having fatigue from back-to-back meetings while on video. Try to gauge what works best based on the situation and be accommodating.
During COVID, I have led a team across multiple countries. We simply can’t be together right now. I approach this by being very open about the situation, ensuring that we have “virtual face time” through video sessions, and engage even more than previously about my employees well-being.
COVID has changed how we interact within our team, how we interact with other teams, and how we manage our work/life balance. I check in with each of my team members about this to approach everyone individually. I also make sure to continuously discuss tips/tricks to enhance how we interact with other groups.
Virtual face to face sessions are helpful. We also have to balance this against the burnout that occurs when we’re on video all day long. Sometimes you just need a break from being on video. That may be a day off, a few meetings off, or just one meeting. We set expectations about meetings where video is needed vs. optional. Coming together informally even when on video can be helpful almost like the hangout half hour to just be on video but still relaxed. Increasing recognition and thanks also goes a long way.
Finally, be human and bring your empathy. We’re mainly working at home, and my joke is if I don’t get to see a pet or a child did we have a meeting? We have to be understanding of that, especially when parents have closed schools. I also try and play the role of sounding board or simply listener more often. With all of the stress everyone is under, I can sometimes help by being the stress vent for my team. That helps keep people balanced more than I realized. Make the time to discuss any fears por concerns, understand the challenges, and help just be there. Sometimes being human and empathetic goes further than any other tactic in these time.
I hope this helps.