Australia can tentatively say we’ve made it through the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the future with a genuine push for rebuilding and productivity. There is reasonable confidence that because of strict social distancing, good hygiene and staying home if we are sick that we may avert the chance of a second wave of the virus. The challenge now is how we attend to the massive hit to our economy. As a business, the focus is shifting from managing the crisis to rebuilding, with the spotlight firmly on employee performance and productivity.

This article looks at three areas that can help to encourage employees to remain focussed and productive, perform well in teams, improve manager and employee relationships, and provide training and development in what is for many a new working environment. Worker separation remains in place, many will continue to work from home, and some will have staggered work hours. For managers and supervisors, managing at a distance is likely to become the new normal.

Communicating From a Distance

Managing teams and people from a distance can be challenging, and working from home can be lonely and isolating for managers and employees. As a manager, there are several things you can do to keep the levels of communication open.

  1. Make time to talk to your team. Managers should make a conscious effort to have a non-work chat at the least at the beginning of the working day. Checking in occasionally through the day helps to build rapport with your team members. People crave connection on a personal level, so it’s essential to interact with employees like you would if you were in your workplace.
  2. Encourage respectful communication. When we work apart from each other and replace much of our conversation with online messaging, we must be mindful of what we say. Managers must reinforce politeness, patience and consideration within your team when communicating virtually. Far too quickly, words that are not carefully thought out can be misconstrued.
  3. Use video to communicate. Managers should use video calls regularly to discuss tasks to maintain collaborative and routine work and increase communication. Body language is essential in conversation, and video calls allow your employees to see you.
  4. Be positive. Managers who actively raise team morale and cheerlead their team’s efforts. Championing a team through uncertain times and keeping them feeling positive and motivated will achieve higher productivity.
  5. Ask your team how you can improve as a manager. When managing remote workers, you must clarify expectations, communicate clearly and be assertive. Be flexible because what works for one team member may not work for another. Ask for feedback on how you are doing and make any reasonable adjustments to improve communication. Confusion creates a loss of productivity.

See our article, COVID-19: Safely Working From Home.

Performance Management

Some managers fear that employees working from a distance will be less productive, but this is often not the case. However, as a manager, you need to monitor the performance of your team. There are three steps you can take to improve productivity.

  • Conduct regular one-to-ones. Keeping an open dialogue is key to monitoring your employee’s productivity. Regular one-on-one meetings help you to feel that performance is not slipping but remember autonomy goes a long way. You must let your employees do the work they need to do and trust them to do it well. However, some in your team may require more support.
  • Focus on the performance that relates to where employees are working. If your employees are working remotely, managers should endeavour to seek as much feedback on the process from their team as possible. Managers are likely to gather actionable insights.
  • Encourage self-assessment. Managers need to trust that their employees are completing their work. However, it is not unreasonable for managers to ask employees to account for their time using spreadsheet documents and to-do lists.

See our article, COVID-19: Settling into the New Normal at Work.

Keeping Tabs on Employee Mental Health

Employee mental health has emerged as one of the key concerns during the pandemic and it’s critical that managers get to know how best to support their employees. There are four areas that you should be across to keep employee’s mental health intact and productivity up.

  1. What motivates your employees. It’s important to know what drives your employees, and equally, what doesn’t.
  2. Time management and self-care.  It’s vital that your employees have a structure to their daily routines, and they need to maintain their physical and mental well-being. Managers should regularly check that employees feel that they are cared for and feel safe.
  3. Team dynamics and collaboration. Managers should structure meeting agendas to make sure everyone feels that they “have a voice”.
  4. Information flow gaps. Try to understand what information your employees need and provide it to them, quickly and regularly.

See our article, COVID-19: Reduce Your Employee’s Anxiety.

Managing Training and Development

During the lock-down, many companies have increased their training and development while business was quiet. Others have been incredibly busy managing the continual changes. There are four types of workplace training that companies need to focus on as we head back into growth and prosperity.

  • Policy-based
  • Technology-based
  • Health and safety-based
  • Customer-focused

The COVID-19 crisis has many managers re-thinking their training delivery methods who are:

  • Moving up and re-prioritising annual compliance training
  • Shifting in-person or blended training initiatives entirely online
  • Promoting existing professional development opportunities available through their company
  • Launching new learning opportunities that can lead to competitive advantage for their workforce.

COVID-19 has made eLearning the focal point of most training and development initiatives. Online and mobile-friendly training is where Tap into Safety can help when it comes to safety and mental health training and support. The Platform has a substantial library of interactive, out-of-the-box training, supported by robust GAP analysis reporting, with over 35 courses on high-risk activities and 22 modules on critical mental health topics. Contact Us for more information or try a free 7-day trial.

See our article, Coronavirus: Stop Classroom and Group Training.

How to Build Resilient Teams

The COVID-19 pandemic has made us more resilient as human beings and this is a quality we’d like to see in our teams. here are four steps for managers to build resilient and productive teams.

  1. Walk the talk. If managers show resilient behaviour and thinking, they can spark it in others. Simple ways to do this include promoting optimism about the achievement of goals, celebrating success, and promoting learning from failure. An ability to embrace failure will determine how well team members grow and learn in a high-pressure environment.
  2. Build a culture of support. Maintaining productivity and profitability always remains a crucial priority and even more so as we come out of this crisis. However, instead of focusing solely on results, managers should build their relationship with employees and their company. You need to be transparent about each employee’s role within the company and express why their contribution matters.
  3. Develop a sense of purpose and belonging. Managers are uniquely placed on developing a collective sense of purpose, cohesion and belonging among their team members. Having a shared mission and values will give employees a sense of belonging they need right now.
  4. Know your team. Resilience is not about buckling down and redoubling your efforts; it’s about understanding individual strengths and skillsets and drawing on them as a team.

To Conclude

As the COVID-19 crisis begins to come under control, and we emerge from our cocoons to rebuild our companies and the economy, the focus is on productivity and growth. However, many managers are managing their employees from a distance. Some are working from home, and others have staggered start and finish times.

There are several challenges including communication, managing performance, monitoring employee mental health and that of managers, delivering training and building resilient teams. If we can get this right, we’ll emerge from this crisis productive and back on the road to prosperity once more.

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