If Kevin Eikenberry had his way, we wouldn't be using the phrase “social distancing” these days.
As we “shelter in place” to reduce the potential of being infected with the coronavirus, Eikenberry prefers to think of this new, but prevalent practice as “physical distancing.”
It's crucial to stay socially connected, even for workplace colleagues despite this growing work-at-home, stay-at-home world.
Eikenberry shared that thought during an hourlong webinar offering tips on how leaders can be effective while overseeing and managing teams remotely.
The act of social distancing – remaining 6 feet apart amid the global COVID-19 pandemic – is now the norm.
Thousands of businesses have closed for at least two weeks or more and sent employees home – to work. Many people are still adjusting to the abrupt mandates that have come in recent weeks, several of them under the orders of governors such as Indiana's Eric Holcomb. Indiana became a “stay-at-home” state, except for businesses considered essential services, Wednesday.
Many workplace and leadership experts have said this will be a tipping point that leads to increased acceptance of working from home. Still, some managers worry – or should I say know – that not every employee has the discipline to handle it.
Eikenberry, an author who is based in Indianapolis, runs The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a leadership and learning consulting company that provides training. He is a co-founder with Wayne Turmel of the Remote Leadership Institute and the two authored the book “Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.”
Eikenberry offered seven tips during his March 20 webinar for leaders transitioning to remote working – even if temporarily.
• Thoughts and feelings first. Leaders should ask employees how they're doing before focusing in on tasks that must be accomplished, Eikenberry said. It's about building genuine connection.
• Be a model. You could probably say “enough said” after hearing this concept. But being organized, focused and even using new technology to communicate and accomplish work is part of this.
• Set clear expectations. This is a communication concept. It's not always easy – there's sometimes a disconnect between what is said, what is meant and what the person on the receiving end infers. But the more specific leaders can be about what they want, when they want it and perhaps even how will help those who report to them.
• Be supportive. Working at home is new to many people. You can expect some adjustments with work flow. You can also understand that some employees may have interruptions or distractions, particularly if parenting children who have been forced out of classrooms to the learn-at-home atmosphere with teachers providing online lessons. A dog or cat may even be moseying around, looking for attention.
• Encourage webcam use. This is a great visual way to connect. Eikenberry recalls even having a visual lunch meeting where colleagues could see each other and catch up – from home.
• Grant everyone some grace. Transitions, especially when made quickly, are not always easy. Some workers could struggle with adapting to the new tools and technology they've been asked to use. That means forgiveness, patience, understanding and kindness, Eikenberry said.
Empathy goes a long way.