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Coronavirus: How to be a great boss during a crisis

Lydia Smith
Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
German chancellor Angela Merkel. Germany started testing earlier than other European countries and was able to both contain and cut down on fatalities caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Michael Kappeler/DPA//Picture Alliance via Getty

It’s not an easy time to be a boss right now. Over the last few weeks, the way we work has transformed and adjusting to these changes has taken its toll on everyone. Many people are suffering from stress and burnout as a result of juggling working from home with childcare. And with the future of many businesses and industries looking uncertain, anxiety levels are high.

Being a good manager is essential to keeping employees engaged, productive and healthy. And now, more than ever, it’s important for leaders to be adaptable, resilient and empathetic in order for organisations to weather the COVID-19 crisis. So what can you do to be a stand-out boss during a crisis?

Stay in tune with your employees’ needs

It’s always important to be attuned to the various personal needs of your employees, but it’s even more essential during a difficult time. People are dealing with new challenges at the moment, whether it is coping with health problems, caring for kids or vulnerable family members or money worries.

When we work from home, the boundaries between our work and personal lives are blurred too, which can make it hard to switch off and relax. As a result, employees may feel stressed, exhausted and overwhelmed.

Everyone is reacting to the current situation differently. Some may thrive while working remotely and find it easy to manage their own time and schedules. Others may find it far harder and struggle without an office environment.

READ MORE: How to disagree with your boss without falling out

With this in mind, it’s important for managers to put themselves in the shoes of their colleagues and employees to better understand their emotions, thoughts and views. Research has shown that taking another person’s perspective – and  being compassionate – has a range of positive consequences for managers and leaders, including helping them be creative and solve problems.

Check-in regularly with workers to find out how they are doing and ask them how they need to be supported. Be available if they need to talk things through or need advice.

Adapt your expectations

During a time of crisis, managers need to recognise that employees are still adjusting to a routine and new work environment. Now is the time to be patient and flexible with your employees and to support them through difficulties – rather than crack the whip.

Schedule time to have discussions with people about realistic expectations and goals, as well as how best to meet these under the current circumstances. Rather than enforcing 

Flexibility is key. Rather than enforcing the usual 9-5, people may need to divide up their working day to accommodate childcare needs – which may mean changing their hours or working different days. Employees may not be able to attend every virtual meeting, or they may have to delegate if they are struggling to keep up with their usual workload. Therefore, it’s also essential for managers to be adaptable too.

Be transparent

Nobody really knows exactly what the future holds for some industries and businesses, but keeping employees in the loop as best you can is important. Considering the economic uncertainties workers and employers are currently facing amid the coronavirus pandemic, transparency is crucial.

According to a recent survey of more than 1,100 managers and employers by Paychex, a majority of employees (75%) think it’s important for employers to share bad news that affects the entire company. However, only 45% said their employer was moderately or very transparent – and three in four employees want more transparency from their employer. 

If there is a likelihood of lay-offs or pay cuts, it is only fair to give people time to prepare and look for other employment options. Communicating clearly with your employees is also important to help alleviate any worries they may have about what is expected of them, or about changes to the workplace because of coronavirus.

Encourage self-care

A recent survey of 700 adults by the global preventative mental wellness platform Modern Health found that almost two-thirds (61%) said that the Covid-19 pandemic has made their day-to-day life more stressful. In fact, over half (57%) said that they have felt more stress and anxiety during Covid-19 than any other time in their life. Half of those polled said they felt Covid-19 would likely have a negative impact on their career and income.

READ MORE: Five apps to help you work from home during the coronavirus crisis

Encouraging employees to take a break from work and look after their emotional needs is essential. Make sure people take regular breaks, lunch breaks and time off away from Zoom meetings, emails and Slack messages.

Create an open environment where employees can talk about concerns or problems. Ensure people aren’t overwhelmed with work and deadlines - and point them in the direction of mental health support is necessary. Remember, looking after your employees won’t just help them – but the business too.

Careers Clinic