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Line managers: Creating a new normal for your team during COVID-19

26 Mar 2020 - Blog, Covid-19, News

Our inboxes are full of #COVID-19 information (and disinformation). In the last few weeks we’ve had to make enormous adjustments – transitioning our teams from occasional to full time working from home, trying to balance the day job with rearranging, rebudgeting, reforecasting our work. We’re called upon to listen, to direct, to decide, to calm fears. The kids are at home, there’s not enough screens, desks or snacks for everyone and we’re already getting tetchy.

It’s exhausting isn’t it?

We humans are adaptable creatures. Our new ways of working are already becoming familiar. At People Insight, we’ve established new routines and behaviours to keep us going through this time. Here’s our advice for line managers trying to develop a new normal.

Creating a new normal during COVID-19

Firstly, line managers; stay safe

Firstly, look after yourself. This is a tough time! Take the NHS advice, and talk to your own manager for guidance and support.

Get as much clarity as you can

No doubt you are inundated with questions from your team. Answers from your leaders or the government might not come as fast – but when they do, make sure you are clear on actions you need to take and communications you need to share.  You are the conduit between ‘front line’ & senior leaders and as things are moving so quickly, keep the information flowing.

Communicate a lot – but keep it organised 

Spend a little time planning out your different communications – formal, informal, compulsory and nice to know. What do you need to get feedback on and pass back to other colleagues? 

Have you noticed we’ve all got much more used to informal video calls? There may be kids in the background, we might not look as groomed as in the office, but we’re pulling together in ways we haven’t before. 

Here’s what we’re doing at People Insight

Internal communication whilst working from home Channel
Non-urgent but important communications about the COVID-19 situation Workplace – Coronavirus Channel
Urgent announcements about the COVID-19 situation WhatsApp group to current and furloughed workers
Support, advice, work questions Microsoft Teams video calls to buddies, line managers and colleagues
Group conversations, meetings, problem solving Microsoft Teams video meetings
Thanks and praise, fun stuff, tips and hacks for working from home Workplace – various channels
Personal queries Phone call / Microsoft Teams video call with line managers or HR representative. Furloughed workers can call when they wish.
Round-up of business and people news People Insight internal email newsletter

Check in frequently with your team

Right now checking in with your team members frequently is important to:

Online meetings 2020
  • Listen
  • Clarify priorities
  • Set a positive tone
  • Reduce uncertainty
  • Combat isolation
  • Check on wellbeing

We advocate checking in daily. The amount of change we are experiencing daily almost dictates it. This is probably way more than we are used to, but in establishing the new normal it feels like the right thing to do.

Here’s what we’re doing at People Insight:

WFH check ins Purpose
Daily Microsoft Teams video chat between line manager and each team member. Listen
Set a positive tone for the day
Check on wellbeing
Flag any issues to management team
Daily virtual video team lunch at 12pm on Microsoft Teams. It is very informal, with no work discussion.

We rotate running a quiz, with topics such as: Celebrity pets, Belgian beers, Disney, Name that tune.

Kids, pets and family members are all encouraged to join. It’s not compulsory, but participation is encouraged, and it has brought a real sense of camaraderie to the team.
Opportunity to get together with colleagues
Combat isolation
Raise the spirits
Make sure everyone is taking a break  

Brush up on online meetings effectiveness

Informal video chats are one thing, but switching to more formal online meetings with lots of discussion takes a bit more work. Engaging people you can’t see is tough, as audio meetings can be interpreted as a licence to multitask & not engage, with one or two people dominating the discussion while others sit back & tune out. Video really helps cut through as everyone can be seen. Revisit ground rules – such as getting there on time, use of mute and chat boxes, not talking over each other, and strong chairperson skills all come into play.

Use your leadership behaviours

Trust is critical right now. Your team need to trust you are sharing information quickly, and you need to trust that they are working well and not taking advantage of the situation. If you are not tracking work with tools such as Clicktime or Hubstaff, establish a routine of everyone sharing what they’ve completed that week. Not only does that make the team accountable to each other, but gives an opportunity to congratulate achievement, and ask for help.

Be realistic. With the best will in the world, we’re not going to be as efficient as in normal circumstances. Whether your team are juggling childcare, supporting family and friends, worrying about vulnerable relatives or trying to source loo roll, it’s a worrying time.

Listen. If you have realistic expectations, you’ll make time to listen, and show empathy and emotional support for your team, whatever their concerns, which builds trust. You might not be able to solve everything, but just spending a few minutes actively focussing on each individual will make a difference.

Lead with positivity. As line manager you set the tone for your team. There are many reasons to be positive despite the circumstances. Celebrate acts of kindness and wins – however small.

Watch for burnout

It is well known that when we work from home, the temptation is to do more, not less work. Without a commute, and in order to feel a sense of routine and control, this may become a problem. If you are checking in with your people daily, you’ll be able to keep an eye on this. Some great advice to help people step away from the desk includes:

  • Agree working hours between team members and don’t be tempted to communicate outside those hours.
  • Establish a morning ‘commute’; get up, breakfast, then go for your 1 approved out of the house fresh air walk in the morning (following the distancing rules) before coming back to your desk.
  • Use the established ‘Pomodoro’ technique to enforce breaks
  • If you are using a ‘work’ device, don’t have notifications on your home devices. That means when you walk away from the work device, you are not tempted to dive back in.

A round up of our favourite advice to share with your teams

The internet has exploded with Covid-19 and working from home related content. Here’s our edit of our favourite pieces of advice, which we’ll be adding to weekly.

How to stay focused and productive when working from home (Thrive Global)

Ice breaking games for remote teams (Miro)

How to manage ‘Coronanxiety‘ (Shelf Help)

Tips for working from home (Sky)

Working from home with kids at home – webinar (Blaire Palmer)

Working from home with kids at home – blog (Blaire Palmer)

Gaining strength and resilience from the current situation (Thrive Global)

There are some great groups on Facebook offering support, search:

  • Home Working
  • Covid-19 Working from Home with Kids at Home

Employee engagement during Covid-19: More resources  

  1. Survey results: How to manage working from home according to our employees
  2. Free question set: employee engagement during COVID-19
  3. Free question set: consult your employees about returning to work
  4. COVID-19: How organisations are preparing for the end of lockdown
  5. COVID-19: How organisations are adapting
  6. Should you be surveying during COVID-19?
  7. Line managers: Creating a new normal during COVID-19 
  8. Support for HR: Keeping employees engaged and motivated during COVID-19
  9. Our favourite wellbeing content to get us through Covid-19 lockdown
  10. Not alone but lonely: How to tackle workplace isolation and improve wellbeing at work

Looking for an employee survey at this time?

To find out how People Insight can help you listen to your people during these unprecedented times, contact us here.


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