The Round Up is a regular offering by The Manager’s Boot Camp of various key resources with tips, tools and ideas to help you manage and lead through the pandemic crisis.

Resources shared this week include:

  • Managing People – The powerful link between empathy and motivation in the workplace.
  • Managing the Work – Consider what changes you want to keep after the pandemic.
  • Managing Yourself – Establish a routine to help you stay resourceful and resilient.

Managing people – the powerful link between empathy and motivation in the workplace

As part of The Manager’s Boot Camp workshop section on motivation we ask the question: “What fulfils you?” Invariably someone asks: “Do you mean personally or at work?” Our response is to say, ‘yes to both’. The lesson is for managers to recognize themselves and their staff as whole people, with motivations that are both career and home driven. With the insight gained from understanding someone’s root sources of motivation, the manager can better coach staff to develop in a way that links to their personal goals, and helps the manager help staff when dealing with their performance issues. However, it is common for people to separate the two spheres.

Have you noticed we are all getting a peek at the home life of our colleagues since the use of video conferencing has soared during the pandemic? Intermingling work and home boundaries during video conferencing may provide some insight into the person as a whole, and encourage us to be more empathetic with the total of what motivates them. Yes, you often see the immediate surroundings of their room: what is on their bookshelf, their style of décor, what art they have on the walls, do they have a green thumb or not, and have they been able to sequester themselves from pets and children? The background view of someone’s personal home setting may incidentally give you greater insight into who they are beyond their work persona.  To actually check-in on how staff are doing add a little chat time before the meeting begins. One suggestion is to ask people to share something they are enjoying about their social distancing, something they are finding frustrating, and one coping mechanism they are using.

For a good overview of the power of empathy as a management tool check out this article by Bryan Robinson in Forbes, Workplace Empathy Packs a Powerful Punch: Discover the Jaw-Dropping Results.

Managing the work – Are you uncertain of what a new ‘normal’ workplace will be like? Consider what changes you want to keep after the pandemic.

As cities, towns and provinces begin implementing plans to gradually re-open work and recreational activities, have you thought yet about preparing for changes in how your staff will work?

In an article in the Human Resource Director Canada magazine, the author, Rachel Ranosa, cites a Robert Half survey of Canadian workers about their return to the workplace:

  • 73% of employees now plan to schedule fewer in-person meetings
  • 61% will reconsider attending in-person business events
  • 59% will reconsider going on a business trip
  • 59% are afraid it will be more difficult establishing strong friendships at work
  • 46% are afraid to work in close physical proximity to their colleagues
  • 75% said they will “go back better prepared to support or cover for co-workers who need to be out of the office”.

Asked about which measures employees think their employers should take in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis, respondents cited the following:

  • 85% should allow employees to work from home more frequently
  • 73% should have better cleaning procedures
  • 68% should hold fewer in-person meetings and training sessions
  • 48% should stagger employees’ work schedules
  • 40% should change the office layout
  • 26% should require employees to wear masks

This survey was conducted during the pandemic when people are more prepared to look at past work practices with new eyes. They’ll especially be open to changes where there are clear incentives to lower costs (less business travel), mitigate risks (better cleaning procedures), and reinforce trends already started before the pandemic (staggered or flexible work schedules).  Also, be mindful to look for increasing ways for people to maintain social bonds at work as long as physical distancing is required.

Taking time to engage your staff in considering changes to workplace practices will help prepare all for new ‘rules of engagement’. The survey results above indicate that people will differ in their expectations and priorities, so be open to ‘piloting’ some new, and possibly fun approaches; in Europe, for example, some people are trying out tapping the toes of their shoes rather than shaking hands or giving hugs.

Managing yourself – What is most important to keep in or add to your routine in order to stay resourceful and resilient?

Life during the pandemic has been called unprecedented and unchartered. There are so many unknowns about its potential full impact and duration, and how people will behave under such uncertain conditions. I’ve taken some guidance in how to prepare for the unknown from my experience of volunteering for two years with CUSO in Nigeria as a physiotherapist. Prior to leaving for my assignment, CUSO provided a week-long orientation to prepare volunteers to experience new cultures and living conditions, and the many challenges we were bound to face.

The theme that was discussed during orientation that stood out for me through my experience was to identify and embrace the ‘reinforcing factors’ in my life; that is, the rewards or supports that enabled me to maintain a state of resourcefulness and resilience. Everyone will have their own: a time for meditation or exercise, a favourite inspirational book, or writing letters by hand to send by post rather than through e-mail. In Nigeria, I took my favourite music, rode my bike to work for exercise (which was acceptable for women, whereas running in shorts and tank tops was not), and found a place to buy the British weekly, The Guardian, that told me what was happening in the world (my experience happened before the Internet was available!).

Think about self-fulfilling activities that work for you and make sure to schedule three on a regular basis. You deserve it.

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