Coronavirus has rocked the foundations of our world. From world economy to local businesses like restaurants and delis, everyone is feeling its sting. And as a direct outcome of this mass outbreak, incidents like the unprecedented fall of Dow last month in a matter of a few days, countries going on a lock down and global tourism industry seeing one of its worst spells yet, a lot of panic and uncertainty have gripped the mass population in their talons. Furthermore, as we take to our homes trying to practice social distancing in an effort to stop Coronavirus from spreading any further, we are forced to adopt and make sure that our businesses don’t grind to a standstill as well.
The arrival of Coronavirus has been called the Black Swan of 2020 by Sequoia Capital, an American venture capital company that has survived multiple Black Swans in its almost half century long history. Black Swans are rare and unexpected events that manage to affect global activity, like 9/11 or a sudden missile attack or, as we are seeing now, a disease outbreak that no one saw coming.
Major shifts come to the business world on a daily basis as the situation worsens or improves and this type of volatility is particularly dangerous for businesses because these situations are uncharted terrains; there is no map or any type of game plan, they are on their own and the only companies that survive these turbulent times are the ones that adapt.
So, as we all face a global lockdown most companies have decided to undertake Work From Home (WFH) setup for their companies till it is safe for us to leave our homes. This is the first effort of its kind of this magnitude and naturally there are a lot of challenges that companies are facing at the moment. We are not talking about a team or two working remotely, we are talking about every single individual in a company working remotely and so companies are having a tough time keeping a track of employee work, communicating with them or even forming a profound game plan for the upcoming months.
One of the biggest issues that companies are facing at the moment is a dip in the productivity of their employees and loss of morale. Everywhere they turn there is some new bit of harrowing news staring them in the face and as things get worse, as Jeff Bezos promised his employees they would, it would be quite a task for employers to keep their employees properly motivated and away from separation and isolation anxiety. And keeping all these hurdles in mind, we have created a guide to help employers in keeping their employees motivated during these dark times and boost their productivity.
1. Be blunt but hopeful
In times like these, people look to their leaders to navigate them through the harsh waters and you need to step-up to the plate and be the leader who is open and hopeful. It won’t do you or your employees any good if you hold back any information from them. People are already very panicked and if you relay facts that have rose-colour filters on them or if you hold back any bit of information, chances are it will end up causing more chaos. So be absolutely blunt about the situation, about the ongoing health crisis and about how you are planning to deal with it as a company owner. Don’t shy away from bitter truths; it is better that your employees know them.
At the same time, it is your duty to be hopeful that you and your company are strong enough to take this hit and that you will come out of this storm without suffering too much damage. When people see you sharing the harshest of realities and still smile and tell them that they will all be fine, their spirits will lift automatically and as a result, their faith in you and your company will be restored.
2. Keep yourself Calm
Being a leader, it is your duty to smile and tell your employees that it will all be okay. But, of course, you have your own moments of doubts, too. You feel lost just like everyone else and it is natural that you question yourself and your capability to guide your company through this ordeal. With the way Covid-19 is barrelling through our society and how we can all feel everything crumbling around us, it is only natural for you to be scared as well. But the thing that you need to keep in mind is that the only way you can maneuver your company through this is by keeping a level head and facing the reality. If you panic now, your entire operation will unravel and go up in flames. So don’t lose your composure, break the problem in front of you into packets and tackle one problem at a time and don’t get overwhelmed. Know that you’ve got this!
3. Know your Employees’ fears
With all this uncertainty around us, people have many fears. From the obvious fear of catching the Coronavirus to losing their jobs and their companies going under, there is no shortage of things people are afraid of at the moment. But you cannot pretend that you know all their fears. Some people face isolation anxiety and this time is particularly hard for them. Some people need to be in contact with some of their colleagues and need vital information from them on which their work depends. It won’t do you any good if you assume that you know all of your employees’ fears.
Instead, what you should do is communicate with them, if you can take a one-on-one call with them and listen to their problems and if you have a solution to them, offer your help. But even if you don’t have a solution to their problem, your employees would still be glad to know that you care about them enough to ask about their fears. This will not only lift up their spirits but reinforce their faith in you and your capabilities as a leader.
4. Look for opportunities
Whenever the world crumbles like this, a lot is lost. Structures fall, pillars of various industries that have been there for ages bite the dust and there is utter and absolute bedlam. But there is a silver lining, when something is gone, it leaves a hole, a place that you can fill. This is what you need to be on the lookout for. In the coming months, a plethora of opportunities will come your way, from people looking to get on demand apps built for their grocery stores within 30 days to telemedicine platforms that can perhaps detect the symptoms of Coronavirus, the point is that you need to be there to provide these solutions and make up for all the revenue that you lost by the failure of the previous social structure.
5. Keep your teams motivated
In this time of social distancing, people who are accustomed to the office environment or those who spend a substantial chunk of their days out of their homes, are particularly miserable. Furthermore, people who are really passionate about their hygiene or those who suffer from OCD and are freaking out about catching the Coronavirus, they are in hell at the moment. So it is your responsibility to cheer them up or at the very least try and make them a little less miserable. So on top of keeping your employees informed about all the horror Covid-19 is causing in the world right now, keep them notified about all the minor wins that we are getting against it. Share human-interest stories, uplifting tales of how people are overcoming the fear and trying to live their best lives.
6. Be a ship not a brick in the sea
Yes, this is a bad time for businesses. Yes, there is a lot of chaos in the market and you will have to deal with it. You can either accept this reality and tweak your goals and plans accordingly or you can be stubborn and carry on the way you always have, trying to chase a goal that was hardly even achievable in a normal world now, when things are much worse and destroy everything that you have worked so hard to build in your denial.
The best thing a ship that is stuck in a storm can do is go with the flow and not fight it too much, change its course if it has to, the main task in that storm for a ship is to stay afloat, it is to survive. And that should be your goal as well. So make smaller goals and work hard to achieve them and celebrate when you do, share the news with your teams, let them have their moments and congratulate them on all their hard work. Nobody is saying that all your long term goals are gone for good, they are just on a hold for the time being.
7. Educate and Fight Misinformation
From suggesting people that drinking bleach will protect them against Coronavirus to telling them that all Chinese carry the Coronavirus, social media and the internet have done all in their power to spread misinformation in the masses. Panic is contagious and so as a result, we have seen people hoarding face masks and cleaning out toilet papers and other essentials from stores. Things are bad as they are but toss a bunch of misinformed people in the mix and you’ve got the perfect recipe for chaos.
So as a result, you need to make sure that no false information is relayed to your employees. Only facts validated by medical professionals are to be taken seriously, your employees need to know that. Also, as many companies did before they adopted WFH, you can call for professional help. You can have a big video conference with a doctor and educate your employees about Coronavirus and how they can protect themselves and their families.
8. Revise your work policies
Now that your employees are working from home, they will face many challenges that they didn’t when they used to work in the office. Home environment is not always fit for work. There are many hindrances, from taking care of their children to a lot of other duties can prevent your employees from sticking to your pre-Corona work policies.
So now, you need to revise those policies and make them a little more WFH-friendly. If you don’t, then chances are your employees will get the sense that you don’t care about them but only about the amount of work that they can do for you. Difficult times call for some flexibility and you need to give it to your employees if you want them to give their best.
Given the pace at which the social and business worlds are changing due to the unforgivable and unrelenting nature of the Coronavirus, it could be some time before we are able to return to the way things were before. Post-Corona world will be full of new possibilities and uncertainties; a new world order will be established where we will live, a little wiser, a little more cautious, with the nightmare behind us and only new amazing vistas in front of us to explore.
But before that happens, before we can taste the freedom from our isolation again, we need to make sure that our businesses survive this ordeal. So follow the above mentioned tips, reshape your business from inside-out and make it more of a Corona-era entity that is ready to take on any challenge that is thrown at it.