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Five Great Ways to Ease a Stressful Work Culture During COVID-19

By: Scott Seroka According to many news outlets and the mainstream media, the world is pretty much over. The second great depression is just around the corner, the toilet-paper shelves are empty, millions will be unemployed by tomorrow, and there’s no hope in sight. Yes, COVID-19 is horrible and can be devastating – experts say it’s ten times as deadly as the flu. While social distancing is necessary to level the curve and hopefully keep more people healthy, it is taking its toll on many businesses – some having no choice but to throw in the towel. The fact is, we will get out of this mess – though some will suffer far more serious consequences than others. But this, like everything else, will eventually pass. This constant, relentless, non-stop sensationalizing of COVID-19 is making all of us nervous and edgy, and as the owner or CEO of your company, it’s no surprise that your employees are distracted and concerned not only about contracting the virus, but by whether or not they will have a job tomorrow, or next week, or whether or not they will be able to recover from sudden, substantial losses in the market. This inevitably leads to a decrease in productivity and attention to detail, compromised temperaments and the inability of employees to perform at their best. Apple Podcast Link   There are five things you can do TODAY to ease the stressful culture in your organization…
  1. First, communicate with your people every day, even if there is nothing significant to report. Whether it’s through a GoToMeeting video or simple email, let everyone know how things are going at your company. Tell them how sales are going, your projections, good things that are happening and how important it will be for an all-hands-on-deck approach to muscle through this pandemic. Make sure to close your daily messages on an optimistic note. Remember – one of the primary reasons you are a business owner is because you have an optimistic disposition. If you didn’t, you would never have rolled the dice to start your own business. Share that optimism with your team.
  2. Don’t dwell on this crisis, or any crisis for that matter. State the facts and move on. The more it is talked about, the more it preys on everyone’s mind. Busyness is a welcome distraction and will serve to optimize everyone’s focus. Also, and this is huge, maintain a sense of humor.
  3. This is the time to become as flexible as possible. With so many schools shut down, parents need to juggle their work responsibilities with making sure their kids are successfully and effectively adapting to online learning ─ something that is new to nearly everyone. Major disruptions like these will impact engagement and performance. Also understand that something needs to give ─ meaning your employees also need time to breathe, sleep and reboot before the next day. Don’t go into orbit if you don’t get immediate replies to your emails.
  4. Try your best to maintain a business as usual culture even though your people may be working from home. Communicate expectations, hold people accountable, don’t cancel meetings and do the same things you’ve always done. In times of stress, people need to be able to grab onto things that are normal, comfortable and familiar.
  5. Lastly, check in with your people every few days to gauge their stress levels, hear their worries and empathize with their concerns by being the best possible listener you can be. Your people are smart enough to know that you cannot fix this uncertainty and chaos. But if you serve as a good sounding board, they will feel better and your time will be most appreciated.
Many CEOs believe the most effective thing they can do as a leader is to regularly meet with their employees. Some spend upwards of 70 percent of their time doing this to build relationships and maintain a healthy culture. If you typically hang out in your office, now is the time to get out of your chair to walk your floor and chat with anyone still coming in each day. Also, start to schedule phone calls and video chats with those quarantining at home. Ask people if there is anything you can do for them. They will appreciate these gestures more than you can imagine. A good friend of mine said he got a call from the owner of the company he works for and said he made it clear he’s not calling about business. He was simply calling to ask how he was doing. He said it was the nicest thing he’s ever seen the owner do. If you would like to discuss culture strategies for your particular business and your particular situation, simply email me at scott@seroka.com You got this.
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