6 Engagement Strategies to Adopt In Times of Social Distancing
With all the grim news going around when the world is crashing to a halt, a lot of uncertainty is in the air, and it’s hard to be optimistic, especially when all decisions rest on your shoulders. It’s true — the virus is deadly, and the number of people succumbing to it is alarming, not to mention the drastic long-term effect it is going to have on the economy. It may forever alter how we approach life and work. But with millions of us across the world facing isolation, and social distancing to stem the spreading of Coronavirus (COVID-19), one of the most important things we should hold on to is positivity.
Here are 6 strategies that you must follow to keep up your spirits and that of your teams.
1. Tap into the power of human connection:
This is probably the first time in our lives and careers that we have to keep away from our workplace and social engagement for so long. In such times it’s even more critical to reach out; even if you are an introvert or reaching out does not match with your style of leadership. Engaging with people fills us with positivity and a sense of well-being. One way to do it – and most of us do seem to be following it – is to stay connected with friends and family through social media, and regrouping with them at regular intervals to check-in.
Why not do the same, without an agenda, with your teams too? This is not just to make sure that the team morale is up, and ensuring the work is getting done. It is also to find out how others are coping and sharing how you feel. Being a part of a group and a community helps us feel safe. Another great skill to hone at such times is deep listening. It builds lasting relationships as we all thrive on human connection. It will help us learn more about ourselves and our teams.
2. Take charge, spend time constructively to keep anxiety at bay:
Several mental health experts are advising to limit exposure to negative and depressing news if it causes anxiety. It is important to take charge. Feeling a sense of achievement and accomplishment helps us feel purposeful, and will keep us going. We can include some small things in our routine to remind us of this. Make it a point to acknowledge simple or small achievements that your team is making. Start an appreciation trend.
If your company isn’t working on a critical deadline or target this could be an excellent time to have a check-in conversation with the teammates to assess career goals and see if they are on the right track, if they need to upgrade their skills or step up on something. Lastly, it is also important to have an aim – encourage your team managers to write out small goals for the next day and share it on a common platform to keep everyone motivated.
3. Virtually huddle to draw up a business continuity plan:
It seems to be getting more and more real – with so many days of disruption; business is bound to be affected. During such a unique situation, I’m sure you have this at the back of your mind that every organisation needs a contingency plan to continue their business operations. Chances are the whole year or more could go in setting the business back on track. And as a leader, it is your responsibility to keep the business afloat during the tough times.
Put a virtual team together to draw up alternate practices to continue daily operations, start looking for alternatives and back-up suppliers where required, prioritise business operations, and customer demands, and regularise work from home plans. If necessary you could even consider assigning additional ad-hoc responsibilities to enable team members to ensure that business processes run smoothly. Connect with this group often, brainstorm and tap into their resources to make realistic and well-informed decisions.
4. Focus on upskilling during isolation:
Let’s face it, we expect so much from our teams but are unable to pull them out of everyday work to be better at what they are doing. Whether it’s a manager who needs to improve team management skills or a salesperson who needs to up his/her negotiation skills or a bunch of employees who need to learn time management; should you look deep, you may find many urgent skill gaps that can be filled in now, when there is time at hand. Depending on the size of your organisation or your team strength you may have to approach this idea strategically, keeping your future goals in mind.
This is an unprecedented time, and staying at home for an extended period is a lot for anyone, both physically and mentally. It can take a toll on your employee’s self-confidence too. And learning something new can always be exciting. There are several online courses on offer that can help enhance your work repertoire and skills, and even general knowledge. There are several free and paid courses offered by websites like Coursera, Udemy, and Upgrad. If a highly enthusiastic employee fancies it, he/she could even learn a new language on resources like Duolingo.
You can also take this idea to the next level through a skill exchange programme. An employee who learns a new skill can pair up with another colleague and to impart the learning so more employees can benefit.
5. Offer time for virtual volunteering:
Volunteering can be incredibly satisfying and benefit mental health as the feeling of connection to the community is more important now than ever, when we are isolating and social distancing. But, currently, we’re caught in this unusual situation where we can’t even step out — when you know the situation is grim and demands volunteers, but you can’t be out there and do anything physically.
With technology at hand, we can volunteer effectively even virtually! Though this seems farfetched there is a real possibility for it. Several volunteering organisations are advocating it too. It’s a great time for employees to use their professional skills to aid NGOs. A simple example would be to create content for an NGO website or newsletter. Or help create educational material for schools for the coming academic year. Or check in with the elderly in your neighbourhood. There will be several ways. The situation may not be pretty, and using this time effectively rather than idling time can go a long way.
Remember, a happy employee is far more productive than the one that just delivers work on time.
6. Spend time in self-reflection:
The Coronavirus has forced many individuals and institutions to reconsider their purpose. Everything we do needs a purpose – from our faith and believes and values, to work, how we spend our lives and engage with our families and friends.
Whether you work in an office or, now, at home, think of what you spend most of your time doing. The way we are doing things has changed. In a normal world, we wouldn’t have the time to sit down to self-reflect. But this may be a good time to do just that – reassess where you are, where you have come from and where you want to go from here. It’s a great exercise to conduct with team managers; and will prove to be a productive leadership lesson in itself.
A great start to this exercise would be to focus on learning from past experiences. Penning down thoughts and learnings and experiences can be a great resource, and learning material – a mine-house for future reference. Once you refine it, you could even share it with others, which can give a direction to your collective goals.
The idea is to conduct activities that expand our skills and emotional capabilities to feel and remain productive.
Finally, this is going to be testing times for businesses. Everybody fears a sharp economic slowdown, and companies and human resource teams will be faced with many tough choices – how to rationalise expenses, how to manage salaries, should we freeze increments (which may be inevitable), and it is uncertain how things will pan out going forward.
In such times, companies need to take a humane approach. Handling employees well will make all the difference in such times. When the business slowly limps back to normal, how you treat your employee now will determine in what shape do your employee return to work – deflated or motivated?
Yellow Spark can help you design effective protocols to ensure continuity of work following the lockdown. To know more write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Profile: Deepam Yogi is an adventurer at heart, socially conscious in her gut and professionally a strategic consultant. She co-founded Yellow Spark to support organisations to build workplaces that people love being a part of. Deepam describes herself as a shy yet opinionated writer and firmly believes that most answers to complex issues lie in simple communication.