We can all agree this is an unprecedented time. An illness we have little true understanding of has completely changed the way we currently live and interact. People are stressed, fearful and uncertain.
While all of those things are true, there are other truths that also hold at this time, ones we would do well to remember.
- People want to work because they want to be the right kind of tired. I once heard someone use the term “bureaucracy tired” to describe the feeling at the end of a day of back to back meetings. Other people immediately agreed it was the worst feeling; weary but not genuinely physically tired. And certainly not the kind of delicious tired that you fall into bed with and slumber peacefully. When people are out of their routine, it is easy to become the wrong kind of tired – depressed and low energy.
- People want to work because they want to contribute. Countless studies have shown that people are at their best when they are engaged and working in their strengths. When we are able to create, produce or develop things we care deeply about, our souls sing.
- People need community. Whatever you want to call it (tribe, team, family, squad, or village) we all need to be part of a group of people who see us and value who and what we are. They help us with growth, prop us up when we feel low and cheer along when we win.
Although these truths remain, others are also self-evident. Layoffs and closures are occurring, meaning people may not be able to contribute where they once could and both their community and being the “right kind of tired” are threatened.
So, what can we do (as leaders, managers, friends and associates) to help ourselves and others during this time?
- Explore ways to help others find meaningful work to do. If people aren’t used to working out of the office or remotely, they may need some help figuring out how to structure their day and what tasks to focus on. In my experience, some people are just naturally more adept at working remotely than others. I know this because I am one of those people who prefers the hum and structure of an actual environment. My favorite days are the ones where Kerri and I are in the same space working together. It helps me stay focused and purposeful. It is statistically likely that someone on your team is like me and needs that, so go ahead and start a conversation about it! Don’t make it scary. Ask how people plan to spend/structure their day and openly discuss the work that you want to accomplish. Brainstorm all the aspirational projects or “we just haven’t had the time to do…” type of things. Have everyone share their best practices and favorite resources. This not only helps people have meaningful contribution, but also leads to the kind of tired that comes from a day well spent.
- Explore new ways to connect. There are plenty of technologies that can help with this, so take advantage of those. Have a lunch date over Zoom or Face Time – you both eat wherever you are but enjoy the conversation and comradery you would have if you were sitting together. Reach out to people that you are overdue to check on, send a text, make a call, you could even jot off a physical note and snail mail it (talk about a way to brighten someone’s day). This is a great time to touch base with every single person in your network. Connect with one or two contacts a day, find out how people are, what you can do to support them, what they are working on, their best ideas for productivity, whatever feels right for you. You aren’t “bothering” them, you care about them and you are tending your community. Don’t be offended if it takes them a bit to get back to you. Some people are so freaked out they can barely function right now, but they will still value that someone cares. Your job is to reach out, not to control the outcome.
- Explore ways to contribute. As humans, we desire to be part of the solution. Identify ways that you can volunteer your time or resources to help others less fortunate than you are. Do some neighbors need help? Is there a local organization who would benefit from your expertise or resources? We can be socially responsible while practicing social distancing.
Even though it feels hard to believe, this will eventually settle down and some kind of normal will prevail. Decide how you want to look back on this time – were you #crazypantsbananabonkers or did you stay true to who you want to be? Although there are obstacles, we have an opportunity to show up for ourselves and others in a new way.
Let’s choose that and make our future selves proud.