How the Pandemic Can Make Your Team Stronger

It’s often remarked that adversity breeds resilience, creativity, and character. This holds true not only for individuals, but for teams and organizations, as well. Certainly, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought its fair share of adversity, including disruptions to productivity; shake-ups to team dynamics; ongoing mental health concerns, including anxiety about contracting the disease; and beyond. Yet many teams have already seen how the “new normal” may in fact make them stronger, more productive, and more innovative than ever before.

How about you? Have you found that the pandemic has caused you to jettison old habits or dated practices that were holding you back? Has your team developed some new rhythms and processes that allow you to work more efficiently, to deliver superior products, or to be more supportive of each other in the workplace?

In truth, there are many ways in which the pandemic might make your team stronger. Let’s take a closer look at just a few of them.

How COVID-19 is Strengthening Teams

1) Increased agility.

With more and more employees working remotely, and with a high level of uncertainty even in the most stable of work environments, many teams have learned to be more agile, nimbler on their feet. For example, rather than having lengthy in-person meetings, companies are adopting shorter check-ins over Zoom. Rather than plan all their projects for the next 12 months, teams are focusing more on one- or two-month “sprints,” prioritizing tasks according to urgency. This increased agility is something many teams will benefit from even if/when we return to some semblance of pre-pandemic normal.

2) Greater collaboration.

You might assume that the shift toward mostly remote work environments would cause teams to become more siloed. Actually, a lot of the businesses we’ve worked with have expressed the opposite: Their employees feel more freedom than ever before to collaborate across departments, finding it easy and comfortable to do so in quick Skype chats or Zoom breakout sessions. This propensity toward collaboration is definitely something for teams to hold onto.

3) More empathy and understanding.

Have you had the experience of one of your children wandering into the middle of a big Zoom meeting, or a howling dog disrupting a conference call? Here’s the thing: Most of us have been there. We’re all just trying to do the best we can, making the most of this strange new work environment. And as such, most of us are more willing than ever to extend grace and compassion to the folks we work with.

4) Trust and accountability.

Many team leaders have wrestled with these issues; if everyone is working remotely, how can standards of accountability be enforced? The good news is that most employees really seem to have figured out how to stay on-task autonomously. They know that they’re accountable for the effort they put in, and that failure to do their job can impact the whole team in an adverse way. Also note that leaders and managers are getting better and better at clearly articulating team goals and individual expectations.

5) Increased candor.

One additional way in which teams are getting stronger is in increased candor. In small group Zoom calls and one-on-one Skype meetings, employees feel empowered to offer honest feedback, including constructive criticism they may not have voiced in a more traditional work setting. This is great news for leaders and managers, who can use this candid feedback to build their businesses better than ever.

These are just a few ways in which we see teams getting stronger, tougher, more flexible, and more productive. We hope to see many of these trends continue well into the future.

Any questions? We’d love to talk with you. Reach out to WhiteWater Consulting at your next convenience.

Onboarding During COVID-19

In recent weeks, news headlines have painted a fairly grim scene of the U.S. employment landscape; unemployment remains a significant issue, and while the economy has added back many jobs, progress hasn’t been as robust as many had hoped. And, with the virus still surging, it’s hard to predict short-term or long-term fallout.

And yet, we know that there are still companies recruiting, hiring, and welcoming new team members into the fold. It is a most unusual time to be onboarding new employees, to say the least. Many in the HR world are struggling to effectively welcome and train employees, even in virtual work environments.

We’ve got just a few suggestions for ensuring a smooth onboarding process during the coronavirus pandemic.

Onboarding in a Pandemic: Our Tips

1) Be adaptable.

Onboarding processes can be complicated and multi-faceted. You’ll need employees to sign some paperwork, to be briefed on rules and policies, to receive task-specific training, perhaps even to be paired with a mentor.

Those things are all well and good, but the pandemic means your timeline may be a little bit looser, and some of these steps a little harder to accomplish. So, what we recommend above all else is flexibility. Spend some time thinking about the non-negotiable aspects of your onboarding process, and how you can address them as expediently as possible. Also think about the things that add very little value to the employee experience; some of these items you may wish to jettison altogether, just in the interest of a nimble and workable process.

In other words: During these unprecedented times, don’t be afraid to rethink some of your tried-and-true onboarding practices.

2) Embrace technology.

By now, most companies are well aware of the technologies available to them to enable remote work; conferencing and communication tools like Zoom and Skype, and file-sharing tools such as Dropbox.

These same technologies can be invaluable to your onboarding process. In fact, it may be smart to devote your employee’s first day to getting their technology setup in place. Be sure you have an IT person who can walk them through any needed software downloads and configurations.

Certainly, technology can help you collect the paperwork you need without asking your new hire to come into the office; have them scan and email their forms, or use DocuSign as needed. You might also get an HR representative to join them in a Zoom call, clarifying any questions they have about the new hire paperwork.

Finally, consider some of the learning management systems (LMS) available to provide virtual training for your new hires. This will require your HR team to create and upload some company-specific training content, but in the long run, this can be a great investment in a flexible and automated onboarding process.

3) Don’t forget the social component.

Finally, it’s important that new hires be given an opportunity to meet people and feel like they’re part of the team. Again, video conferencing software can make this possible, even during quarantine. Consider using video conferencing to set up mentor meetings or small group hangouts. A few low-key, low-stress socialization opportunities can go a long way toward bolstering team morale.

Questions About Effective Onboarding?

The onboarding process can pose challenges even in the best of times; in the midst of a pandemic, those challenges are compounded. If you have any questions, we welcome you to reach out to WhiteWater Consulting directly.

Creating Safe Workplaces After COVID-19

As business owners consider the long and challenging process of re-opening in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a central question that must be addressed: How can we begin growing the economy, and resuming some semblance of normal productivity, while still promoting the health and safety of employees?

It’s a question that may not have an easy answer, and yet one thing is clear: Prioritizing workplace safety is very much the right thing for business leaders to do. It’s the right thing ethically, it’s what’s best for employee morale, and it’s really the only way to sustain business growth in the long run.

While many employers may have outstanding questions about how they can build safe workplaces, and while there may not be any “perfect” solution, there are a few guidelines that should be taken seriously.

Creating Safe Workplaces Post-COVID-19

Some of these recommendations include:

  • Create a culture that is more fluid and permissive with regard to remote work. One of the best ways to minimize exposure to coronavirus, and to provide employees with the freedom to make their own healthy decisions, is to create a culture in which working remotely is permitted as much as possible. While some positions or projects may require employees to be physically present in the workplace, employers should make it clear that employees have some flexibility to perform their work from home whenever it makes sense to do so. (This also means implementing a technological infrastructure that facilitates remote productivity and collaboration, something most companies have invested in during the quarantine.)
  • Change your workflows. It’s also important to minimize contact between workers, and to ensure that if an employee can safely do their job alone or with just one other person, that they have the space to do so. Business owners and HR teams are encouraged to be creative in reconfiguring their existing facilities, using break rooms, closets, or unused offices to provide a little extra workspace for employees. If you have workers who are not able to maintain the recommended physical distance, ensure there is a sanitized, impervious barrier between them.
  • Limit exposure between team members and customers/clients. During the quarantine, many businesses have shown their resourcefulness by implementing “no contact” delivery, curbside pickup, and similar solutions. Maintaining these provisions can be a good way to protect not only the customer, but also your team members.
  • Continue providing hand sanitizer to workers. Advise frequent hand washing, and make sure that employees have both the time and the physical access to wash and sanitize as needed.
  • Don’t overburden your cleaning staff. Maintaining a sanitary workplace is naturally going to require a more frequent application of disinfectant, as well as rigorous standards of workplace cleanliness. This may be a significant burden placed on the cleaning staff, so support them as best you can with additional staffing or by asking your other team members to help with some of the cleaning work.
  • If you know there is a risk of infection, supply employees with PPE. In some office environments, it will be a necessity to keep masks and gloves on hand at all times, ensuring that your employees know their wellbeing is a foremost concern.
  • Be attentive to mental health. As employees return to work after the quarantine, many of them will struggle with anxiety, uncertainty, and other mental health conditions. Make sure your people are all aware of the mental health resources available to them. And, as best you can, be flexible in allowing your team members “mental health breaks” and leave.

In the coming months, business owners will be figuring out how to adapt to a new normal, and much of it will be through trial and error. Throughout the process, ensure that employee wellbeing is your North Star.

With questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at WhiteWater Consulting.