It’s not uncommon for many of us to feel a sense of uncertainty given our current environment being primarily controlled by COVID-19. Just a few weeks ago, the current shifted rapidly and we were given no other choice than to adjust our sails. Although we can’t control the rough waters ahead, we do have control over the path we take.
Adjusting your sails does come at a cost, however, it’s mentally and physically challenging and I feel confident in saying we are all in the same boat. We may have a tendency to go straight into survival mode, but hopefully these tips below will help you thrive, rather than survive, in uncertainty.
Take Care of Yourself
We all know you can’t pour from an empty cup, so my first tip for thriving is you must take care of yourself.
1. Choose to Move
Exercise and movement play a major role in many of our lives. We know it makes us feel more alert and puts us in a better mood than before. In our current environment, we don’t have access to our normal facility, exercise equipment or even our normal regimen. But remember, some movement is better than no movement. I encourage you to access the many resources available online to still be able to exercise in your current environment.
Pro Tip: In “No Sweat” written by Dr. Michelle Segar, she provides a lot of research on how just a little movement can improve our bodies and our minds. As a matter of fact, now is a great time to read that book; check it out on Audible or wherever you get your audio books.
2. Get into Your Groove
Routine is important even when it’s not your typical routine. Try to set a schedule of going to bed, getting up, eating a nutritious breakfast and starting your day with some type of moment. Finding routine in times of uncertainty can be challenging but keep trying. It’s a trial and error approach, but once you find what’s right for you, you will know it.
Pro Tip: “Batch” your projects and emails while working remotely. Batching means you focus on one project or task for a set amount of time such as 30 minutes. Check your email for only 30 minutes at a time and only twice per day. Check your email sometime in the morning and sometime in the afternoon, but avoid starting or ending your work day with it.
3. Nurture Social Well-Being
Social well-being is crucial to our ability to thrive. In fact, Gallup addresses it as the second most important element right behind career/purpose. For many of us, our environment has changed and we don’t see everyone in the office or around a lunch table. It’s important to still find ways to focus on your social well-being during this time.
Pro Tip: Use your morning team chats as a time to replace “water cooler” talk. Chat about topics that aren’t just related to your work itself. When possible, turn your videos on during your virtual meetings and use fun virtual backgrounds. Perhaps even get with some friends and colleagues and host a virtual happy hour and everyone BYOB.
Take Care of Your Team
1. Remember They’re Human
First and foremost, remember your team members are human. Think about how you feel in this time of uncertainty and imagine what they are feeling and experiencing as well. Many of your team members are now having to balance working remotely but are also serving as a parent, educator, and creating solutions for students and faculty/staff.
Pro Tip: Willie Ehling, the director of Campus Recreation and Wellness at East Carolina University, recommends having your department phone list in front of you and reaching out to at least two of your team members per day to see how they are doing and to do a well-being check on them.
2. Trust Them
I will keep this one short and to the point. If you are unable to trust your employees, then the issue lies within the hiring process not the individuals themselves.
3. Help Them Set Boundaries
Many of your team members will try to use this time to produce and prove themselves. Remind them you trust them and you are there to support them. Ask each of your team members how you can best support them as an individual. Help them set boundaries using the same tips listed in the section above.
Pro Tip: In a time where people have a tendency to glorify how busy they are, create a departmental challenge to encourage the opposite. Poll your team and see what would motivate them such as a movement or meditation challenge.
Leverage Technology to Thrive
We are lucky to be living in a time where technology can work for us during COVID-19.
1. Devise Your Communication Plan
Although we didn’t have a lot of time to adjust our sails, we still need to plan. For many of us, our immediate reaction was to respond and to respond quickly. We must prioritize what needs to be done first, then we can work on a communication plan that works for the majority of your team. There’s no need to rush; I have a feeling we will be telecommuting for quite some time. Break it down and analyze what, how and when you will communicate to whom.
Pro Tip: Check out the playback of a recent webinar I led on Tips for Telecommuting.
2. Use Systems for Success
One of the most important steps for your communication plan is how you will communicate. Avoid communicating with unnecessary, ineffective or an inappropriate amount of emails. Use free systems like Trello, Asana, Monday, etc. to manage projects and use messaging systems such as Teams, Slack and Voxer to communicate. If you want to use this time to explore automation systems further, look at ways on how you can create rules with Butler or zaps with Zapier to do the work for you.
Pro Tip: Check out this Systems Template I created; then find what works best for you.
3. Capitalize on Existing Resources
Leveraging technology doesn’t have to be expensive. Your institution most likely provides enterprise access to many systems for you. When I accepted the opportunity and decided to step back into collegiate recreation in a full-time role, one of the first things I did was look for what enterprise systems the university provided so I knew what resources I would have access to for my team and myself on my arrival. Outside of your enterprise systems, there are many free, open-source solutions available.
Pro Tip: Use this as an opportunity to task and poll your team on what resources and solutions they would like to try out. If they help come up with the solution, you have a higher chance of adherence.
In a time where you are affected by many things out of your control, I encourage you to focus on what you can control. How you treat yourself, how you treat others and how you respond with solutions is in your control. Be kind to yourself and others. Working remotely for me isn’t new; I did it completely for three years, but I do remember how I felt the first week I worked remotely. It’s new. And if it’s new to you, I know that can be uncomfortable. Know and accept you won’t get it right the first time, but will you rise to the challenge or raise the white flag and surrender?
When we return to “normal,” don’t revert back to your old ways. Look for opportunities on how you can still be flexible with your work environment. Take this time to define what it means to work for your department because this may be our new normal, and perhaps, the Office of the Future is now.