Processing the impact of Corona Virus – the People Stuff Part 2

Some reflections and thoughts about the impact of Corona Virus immediate and longer-term work practice:

A month ago I might have written about blockers to change.  Now the change has just happened.

It feels as though we have experienced a decade or more of change in the space of a couple of weeks

All the things which a month ago were still in the “nice to have” category – positive working culture, robust relationships, effective team-working – are thrown into relief.  Everyone is working in overload.  Understanding each other, helping each other to navigate responses and make effective decisions is crucial.

If businesses are expecting people simply to replicate in-person working practices in a virtual world they will be wasting their energy

As businesses focus on implementing contingency plans, colleagues are struggling to care for children, find quiet space and time to work and trying to keep themselves together in mind and spirit.  In many two income households both parties are vying for workspace and bandwidth.

We need to accept that we will not work as effectively, and we may not be able to work at all, in this transition phase and give ourselves and our colleagues permission to be human.

As we shift to exclusively digital working, we need to draw on the practices which connect people most

In person, in the office, we can read body language and gauge the tone and energy of events.  The flow of information is constant; we are aware of our own work and how everyone else is getting on.

Online, the context of our work effort changes.  We need to take time to share the human stuff, as well focus on tasks.  Trust people to do their work as best they can.

Colleagues will remember how they are treated at this time for the rest of their lives

As a leader (and we are all leaders right now), acknowledging our own predicament and our own feelings is important, even for a moment.  That will help us to focus our efforts to support others.

Remember, leading with empathy means offering positive help AND listening.  Coaching skills come to the fore here.  Ask open questions which invite people to contribute their responses, such as, “How is X affecting you?”.  If you ask a question like that, make sure you really listen to the answer.

As we come through the initial shock we will establish new ways of working which will shape our working lives for the foreseeable future.  There is a great opportunity here and the challenge is to remain open to that possibility as we process this reality.