We all love to have role models: someone to look up to, whose behavior we can emulate. In the strange new world we are in, this has never been more true. As a manager in the workplace, people look to you for guidance and to be an example of great behavior.

Now, aside from encouraging questionable novelty socks, how can your at-home routine encourage and empower your employees to manage their new world? 59% of employees across the United States report an increase in anxiety as a direct result of COVID-19. To help combat this and its inevitable impact on work and productivity, I’ve looked to share ways I’ve found to set the right example for my team as a team manager at HiBob to allow them to continue to be their best selves at work (even if that is through a video screen).

1. Managing the WFH work/life divide

One of the biggest things we hear about working from home is how difficult it is to differentiate between the “work” and the “home.”

As a manager, it’s your responsibility to set the expectation when it comes to how your people manage this distinction. A recent study found that in many countries people are working an average of two extra hours every day. Couple this with a WHO study that found that workplace burnout costs the US alone $125 billion a year, and you have quite a dangerous cocktail.

For the lack of a clear boundary between “work” and “not work,” it’s important for you to set the right expectations for your team about work availability. While you may feel extra diligent sending emails to your team long into the evening, but how does that leave them feeling?  

Instead, encourage your team to actively disconnect from anything work-related outside of work hours. I’ve found encouraging teammates to disable phone notifications to be a big help in creating a divide, along with avoiding your workspace (if possible) outside of work hours.

Not only will this help your own mental fatigue as a manager, but it will also allow your team to manage their own mental health and anxiety in a far more sustainable manner—which is vital as this epidemic looks to rumble on.

2. Communication

Businesses are widely encouraged to have open communication and response plans to the changing work and economic environment we find ourselves in. For many employees, their line manager is the mouthpiece of the business from which they hear this news, rather than just company-wide emails.

However even despite this, according to a Gallup study over half of employees feel their manager hasn’t informed them of how their organization is being affected today.

How can we do a better job? The buzzword for this right now is to aim for overcommunication. Gartner claims it talks sharing news at least ten times to get the point across—which may feel impractical, but should be incorporated into company policy and direction.

What I’ve found successful in recent months has been through the daily stand-ups we have as a team, as well as weekly large-scale updates. At least once a week we’ll have an open update to the team on where we are as a company and the direction we are heading towards—even if there hasn’t been a notable change in policy.

Additionally, taking time for 1:1 conversations and taking the time to clearly align what we are doing day-to-day with larger business goals helps draw a clear direction towards success and satisfaction. 

It’s important as a business to provide direction at this time, and you shouldn’t underestimate your role as a leader to communicate and reinforce this message.

3. Empathy

As we’ve established the importance of communication, how do we create an environment encouraging employees to speak openly?

A manager’s ability to empathize and connect with their team has never been more important than now. People everywhere are grappling with this new challenge, and as a leader feeling comfortable and open to share your own challenges can go a long way to enable your team to do so as well.

This has been tough on all of us. Simple pleasures like going to the gym or a bar to blow off some steam seem like the realm of some long distant past (plz help). Reminding your team that you’re human too goes a long way to building a culture of trust and transparency within your team.

Feeling cabin fever and have to go for a walk? That’s fine, and your team should know it is for them too.

This way you can ensure that when something has really got one of your team down, you can have a real conversation to understand what’s on their mind and how you can support them.

As a team manager you really are the first line of defense for employee well being—and if you don’t know, how can you help?

What leadership looks like

Although it’s been true for years, the role of a team manager also acting as a HR and people manager for their team has really come to the fore in this dispersed environment.

You may not even realize how you’ve been providing this support for your team already to date—but the biggest way you can help them right now is to lead by the right example.

Abiding by clear work boundaries allow your team to do the same. Be that when you’re available or not, how best to contact you and even reaffirming what your responsibilities are. By the same stroke, sharing the same experiences you and your team are going through and overcommunicating direction and actions being taken will encourage reciprocal behavior.

In a time where we can’t use physical cues to read our teams, it’s imperative that you provide people the platform and confidence to let you know how they feel right now.

Adam Phelps

From Adam Phelps

Originally from London but now finding his way around New York, Adam juggles his time between sports, travel and building a super team to grow the HiBob footprint in America.