A changing landscape…
In recent months, large business leaders like Google, Facebook and Twitter have made announcements about employees continuing to work from home for 6-12 months or even longer – some (potentially) permanently. Meanwhile, the United States’ uncertainty about schools in the 20-21′ academic year add to the unrest amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic, racial reckoning and the US’ economic fragility. Some organizations are well-suited to continue the work-from-home (WFH) movement, while others (health care, restaurants and more) have limited options.
What does this mean for you? Your business? Your people?
While some organizations are waiting to receive direction, others aren’t necessarily staying dependent on outside forces (government, politics, consumers, scientists, etc) to tell them what to do – Many organizations are creating best laid plans with the information they know right now, and making their own determination for what sets them up best for strategic thinking and short- / long-term planning.
For your organization, what makes most sense? Is it possible to create your own timelines and action items based on what is true for you in this moment, communicate transparently, remain open to the (highly likely) possibility that new information may change your course, and then remain agile enough to adapt accordingly? Perhaps it makes most sense for you to adopt a “wait and see” approach. There is no wrong answer – and probably equally as true, no right answer, in these constantly evolving times.
The elephant in the room…
All that said – If you run a business and ANY of your employees are parents or otherwise live with children they are responsible for, you (organizations, managers and leaders) need to be having conversations with them about their plans for the fall.
Any person responsible for a child is struggling with an impossible series of decisions amidst uncertainty right now: Single-parent households, low-income households and working mothers are likely to be at a severe disadvantage, asking themselves things like: How do a raise/educate my children while maintaining my job/career? How can I manage childcare and keep a roof over my head and food on the table?
These are extraordinary times and will require extraordinary leadership.
Now is the time to up-level your leadership game…
What does that look like?
- Embrace empathy.
- Have open, compassionate, authentic conversations.
- Acknowledge the discomfort, the confusion and the fear.
- Consider creative solutions.
- Collaboratively problem-solve.
- Show your support.
As an organization, can you…
- Change your expectations around when people show up, to how they show up?
- Identify if child care stipends are a possibility?
- Figure out if flex scheduling (or self-scheduling) is an option?
- Hire more staff and shift people who are interested to temporary part time or reduced hours (while possibly maintaining benefits)?
If continued WFH is a likelihood for your organization, how can you:
- Increase communication, community and collaboration?
- Can you get even more clear about your expectations and deadlines while remaining flexible around how/when work gets done?
As an organization, how can you show appreciation and encouragement to your teams? Have you considered:
- More frequent employee public recognition programs (instead of “employee of the month”, consider “employee of the week”?)
- Personalized thank you cards / recognition for going above and beyond
- Employee sponsored lunches or meals once a week for those that must work onsite
- Keeping a stash of small gift cards on hand (ideally purchased from local and locally owned business) to distribute as random acts of kindness and “catching people doing things right” (a win-win – supporting your employees WHILE supporting local business)
- Sponsoring virtual employee education events on topics like ‘stress resilience’, ‘leadership through adversity’ or ‘financial health’, to name a few
- Hiring a leadership or executive coach for your leaders to support them as they process and strategize
- Increasing paid time off or giving incremental raises as able and appropriate
I don’t have all of the answers – I sure wish that I did. As any good coach, I just keep generating more questions…I’d encourage you to ask them. Lean into your team, their ideas, their expertise.
As the wise African proverb notes: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Go far – go together – we need each other now more than ever before. As an exceptional leader and a forward-thinking organization, you already know that you can do nothing without the employees serving alongside you. While the experiences we are having now are difficult and unforeseen, they are not impossible: You can do hard things, I believe it.
If I can help support your leaders, your organization, or your team via Leadership/Executive Coaching, please don’t hesitate to reach out. You’ve got this – good luck!