The times continue to progress with volatilities, anxieties touch new heights everyday and ‘normal’ ways of doing business look like a distant past. Among all this upheaval, almost every business is pushing hard to adapt new technologies and methods to remain afloat. Nobody will take the chance to predict the recovery timeline out of this (still raging) pandemic. Managers, most of all, have to deal with this predicament which was absolutely unheard of a few months back. Despite the relentless pressure from every direction, CEOs, managing directors, department/division heads and team leaders have to play the role of a captain of their ships in these troubled waters, be it boosting the employee’s morale,paying heed to their insecurities (both financial and psychological) and keeping full track of the rapid changing situations.

The true test of leadership is how well you function in a crisis ~ Brian Tracy.

As per the recent research published in ‘Behavioural Science Journal’, the lead researcher Prof. Roshni Raveendhran of University of Virginia Darden School of Business and co-researcher Matthew Perrigino of Iona College have laid out a ‘framework’ for managers specifically affected by Covid-19 crisis.

The framework named “assess-create-support” proposes the following major features and strategies:

  1. Assess: First and the biggest challenge for managers is that they not only have to be thorough and objective with their own preferences but also assess the preferences of others in this unusual ‘work-from-home’ scenario. Some people are “separators”- they prefer to adhere to a 9-to-5 shift and tend to maintain an ideal balance between work and home life as much as possible. On the contrary, some employees are “integrators” who prefer more flexibility, taking afternoon breaks but are willing to work late or odd hours. Their work routines have no fixed start or stop points.
  2. Create: Next step is to create routines and practices that enable employees to manage boundaries (both time and psychological) in the order and manner of their preferences. Here, hundreds of collaboration and communication tools like Slack, Zoom, Google Meet, Cvent Connect Webex, email, phone call, whatsapp, text messages etc. come handy. A “Separator” invariably will prefer to have control over when they connect and might get irked on getting calls or messages at odd hours of course, in some rare instances of urgency. On the other hand, “Integrators” have no qualms responding in real time to any instant messages. They are ready to attend any communication which falls outside the typical 9-to-5 shift.
  3. Support: The last and most crucial part of the framework, managers must dedicate their energies and most importantly model their behavior in complete compliance with the plans & policies already framed and communicated among the staff members. If promoting flexibility and work-life balance are your priorities then avoid to ping employees with last-minute requests except in urgent situations. Plans and their implementation must move in complete tandem, any diversion or mixed-messages from the management will lead to confusion and inefficiencies. As the situation stands, the majority of the employees do not have many alternative cues to comprehend what is new ‘standard or norm’ in this pandemic-driven normal.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place ~ George Bernard Shaw

Upon observation of “assess-create-support” framework, we derived the following tips and techniques which may prove useful to the managers managing teams and divisions either located at one or scattered across various time-zones:

  • Be transparent, consistent and empathetic in your communication.
  • Address compensation (cuts in remuneration, late disbursals, advance salaries, etc.) and employment issues ( relocation, heavy workload, furloughs, unstable wi-fi, etc.) with alacrity.
  • Layout the rules in crystal clear terms regarding the risks to employees and options available with the management for their mitigation.
  • Avoid assumptions and unfounded biases towards work-from-home employee productivity and resource wastage.
  • Do not let the ‘monitoring software/wearables’- if mandated by the company to be intrusive rather use it for more informational purposes among your employees.
  • Encourage non-linear/non-traditional ideas and experiments to achieve the desired outputs.
  • Share your own personal issues and challenges to build social connection and psychological safety.
  • Act as a mentor and re-orient employees towards the mission and vision of the organisation.

The above list is by no means exhaustive, however the underlying message for the role of open and honest communication in this unusual work-from-home environment is indeed undebatable.