We’re living through an unprecedented time in our country. Our personal and professional lives have been significantly impacted for the foreseeable future by the Coronavirus. The strain on the economy and local business has been unlike anything we’ve seen. There is collective anxiety felt by employees everywhere and understandably affecting productivity. To effectively manage an organization through these hard times requires empathy for staff, leading by example, and making decisive choices that can sustain a business.

Here are some suggestions on ways leaders can navigate these difficult times and weather the storm.

Communicate Openly

Being authentic and transparent with employees is the hallmark of good leadership during times of crisis. Using a grounded and reassuring tone with employees will instill confidence that you are taking appropriate actions. Convey empathy and kindness, so staff knows you are taking their well-being into account. Distressed employees need to feel they can approach management with concerns during these challenging times. Empower people by being a symbol of consistency and compassion.

Have Patience

Productivity for most businesses will likely take a hit. The interruptions from mixing home life and work-life will be unavoidable. Mistakes will happen. By setting realistic goals and clearly defining expectations, leaders can show they understand the extenuating circumstances. Of course, there will need to be accountability, but it’s important to recognize there will be some setbacks as employees acclimate to this “new normal.” Offer support in whatever way you can and delegate responsibilities according to what best suits the business objectives.

Stay Agile

Leaders need to focus on what is achievable during downturns. Goals and revenues should adjust as demand changes. Running a leaner-than-normal operation while staying focused on customers is crucial. Reorganize priorities and focus on cutting unnecessary costs, finding new revenue streams, and enhancing your existing customer relationships. Now is a great time to strengthen the fundamentals of your business, while making adjustments that can serve both the short and long term goals. 

Remain Positive

Providing stability while being optimistic will assure employees that things are under control. Create the most structured environment you can to keep a sense of normalcy. Stay connected to employees by hosting daily video calls and be readily accessible for your team when needed. Dropping a quick note asking if everything is okay, and expressing appreciation will also go a long way. And try to find creative ways for employees to unwind, such as an online happy hour or a show and tell using items from the remote “office.”

Plan for the Future

There are still opportunities for growth even during downtimes. Proper planning and strategizing for the future can help clear the fog and remind employees that better days lie ahead. Remind them that businesses do regain losses. Take time to reevaluate your business continuity plan and recognize gaps so that when or if something of this scale happens in the future, your business is ready. 

Striking a balance between caring for and encouraging staff can be tricky. Recognize that emotions will be running high and that mental distractions are normal. Be sure your team knows that you value their efforts and express gratitude freely. Align expectations to our “new normal,” and expect performance, not perfection. After all, we’re only human.