How To Be A Responsible Leader In The Face Of A Pandemic
We look to our leaders to guide us through difficult times in all domains of life, but what happens when those difficult times constitute a global pandemic? There is no guidebook on how to navigate through an international crisis but, after having lived through it for a few months, The Professional Centre has put together some advice for our managers, employers, and all-around leaders. There is no denying that the current world climate has given way to a ‘new normal.’ Returning to an office environment will not look the same as it did before, with so many new procedures and policies needing to be in place to ensure a safe return to work. Though cities are slowly re-opening, flattening the curve is still a vital part of navigating a COVID-19 world.
So, what is the best advice we can give you? Do Something. Adapt, change, and work with your employees and team members to rebuild your community. The key to returning to work amidst a global pandemic lies within being mindful of the risks and taking the necessary precautions to ensure your workplace is as safe as possible.
What happens if an employee suspects they may be falling ill? You will need to have two policies in place: a regular work-from-home policy and a developed sick-leave policy. It is important for your employees to feel it is safe to address illness and feel it is easy to continue to work. They should not be penalized for suspecting illness but rather encouraged, as negative reactions will only create fear. Remote work policies should be fairly simple to apply for (if an application is necessary), with clear guidelines on how to carry out the work from home and how they will be evaluated during this period. The next step is making sure there is a clear sick-leave policy in place for severe illness, as there is no guarantee that employees will be able to avoid all risk of contracting the virus.
Employee health should also be monitored regularly. It might seem excessive to ask employees to check their own temperature and symptoms frequently, but getting ahead of sickness is a crucial aspect to flattening the curve.
Ensure your employees have a safe and secure space to work in. Thorough cleaning procedures and plenty of sanitation supplies are a must. Employees should be required to practice regular sanitization, such as frequent handwashing and wiping down surfaces, while working at the office. Make sure that anyone coming into the office has sanitation supplies readily available so that they can keep themselves and other team members safe. There should be a full clean of each area at the start and end of each day, as well as consistent wipe downs as the spaces are being used. If your business does not have the means to sustain these levels of sanitization, there are always alternative options. Renting space in a flexible workspace, such as The Professional Centre provides, will take care of these needs for you.
It is time to reconfigure the expectations for being in the office. It is important that everyone in your team has been educated on the public health policies in place, what to look for in terms of illness, and what the procedures are in the office. Supervisors and team leaders should be trained in these fields to therefore set an example for team members to follow.
If employees are going to be spending time in the office, there should be measures in place to ensure they can remain a safe distance from one another. Two metres is considered best practice. With social distancing being a key feature of flattening the curve, this approach needs to be applied to your team members who are still coming in to work. Some suggestions are:
– Staggered arrival and departure times, and staggered break times.
Ensuring employees are coming and leaving at different routine times will allow for less people in the office at one time, which lessens the risk of exposure.
– Alternating day shifts to allow employees to work from home more often.
Having flexibility in assigned office days will reassure employees that they have the option to stay home if they feel unsafe. This will boost morale, as it lessens some of the fear of returning to the office.
– Reduced in-person conferences, meetings, and non-essential travel.
This builds trust, as employees will then know they are not being expected to put themselves at risk for any business that can be conducted virtually.
What does a leader need to show in order to gain the trust of their employees?
– Pay attention to what your employees are telling you.
Most people are being bombarded with new information every day. Your team might, understandably, be feeling anxious or conflicted on what they feel comfortable doing. It is important that you explain how work will be carried out in a calm and decisive manner.
– Explain the policies put in place, the safety measures being set for everyone’s benefit, and the procedures that everyone should follow.
Coach your team and make sure they are prepared for the changes that will inevitably arise.
– Encourage open communication.
Understand that employees’ needs and desires will change, and therefore there should be open communication between higher ups and their teams. Keeping people in the know will lessen the sense of uncertainty that is so prevalent these days.
– Avoid false promises.
In listening to your employees, you will want to remember that you are being looked at to guide the way forward. It is important not to make promises that you know cannot be kept or that do not align with how the company is moving forward. Try to be transparent about how you can help and about where the boundaries lie.
Do not forget you are a leader. You want to be empathetic and flexible to people’s concerns and stresses, but you also want to take a strong approach to work in order to maintain a universal work ethic. It is important to have guidelines on time management and to set deadlines. Set the order that your employees need, and do not lose sight of why they look to you as a leader. People work harder when they know someone is holding them accountable for their actions. Projects still need to be managed as normally as possible, despite how separated a team might be. If your team is dispersed and working both in the office and remotely, you can look towards project management and productivity apps to help rally a distributed team. This is also helpful if you are avoiding holding too many meetings. We have even compiled a list of the best programs to use.
Overall, remember that everyone is navigating the current world climate and subsequent changes to their lives at the same time, including yourself. These are uncomfortable and uncertain times for everyone, and we are all constantly adapting. The priority for everyone is their safety, and with that comes the need for open communication. We will all get through this together.
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