The COVID-19 crisis may prove to be a major tipping point for how organisations connect and engage with their employees. It has compelled companies to impose mandatory work-from-home policies almost overnight and left many employees uncertain about the adverse impacts of the crisis on their jobs. Undoubtedly, working lives have been disrupted and upturned.

We asked some of our own people to share how they are managing their teams and engaging with their colleagues during these unsettling times. You may find their experience helpful.

Keep it real! Strangely being apart physically has seen our team share much more personally. Zoom videos are on. Real answers are given to the question, ‘how are you?’ Active listening without judgement given in return, even when the answers suggest things are actually a bit tough, or emotional.  Children on Zoom calls, pets being properly introduced to the team and background images playfully shared have comforted. For light relief, 15 min daily themed Zoom check-ins – not compulsory, and not about work – continue to bring a smile to each face. Let’s continue keeping it real, it’s better than before.”

Rebecca Bose, Senior Principal, Australia

“As soon as the crisis broke, we put a strong emphasis on transparency of what happened, what actions the firm was taking to ensure business continuity and to mitigate risk. In the first week, it was all about communication and adapting to the new ways of working. Not everyone was comfortable to interact remotely or confident with the required technology. After the first week, the dust settled, and we are all successfully operating in the new normal.”

Satya Radjasa, Chairman & Managing Director, Indonesia

“It’s important to build trust during uncertainty… you need to walk the talk. The walk should cascade via senior colleagues and enable and empower people to do the right things. Set procedures for work-from-home, provide clear directions and most importantly, look beyond the current crisis as this will eventually end.”

Dr Mana Lohatepanont, Managing Director, Thailand

“Our team has recurrent meetings every Monday and Wednesday and on Friday afternoon we have a virtual drinks session. We select a theme for the occasion and choose a Zoom Virtual Background to match the topic i.e. a celebrity, movies, etc. The team is also using other virtual tools such as Mural, which is a subscription-based visual workspace that helps remote teams collaborate with digital whiteboards to explore complex challenges and collaborate across locations.”

Tomas Salomao, Senior Principal, Australia

“In times like these, the need for being inclusive as a leader isn’t just a “nice to have” it is an imperative! So I would really encourage you to talk to your team as much as you can. It’s important that nobody feels left behind. Make sure everyone feels like they are part of the same community. Experiment with different channels. WhatsApp may work best for some but give Teams, Zoom or Google Hangouts a try. I also strongly encourage the use of video.”

Tamara Sigerhall, Market Leader, ASEAN

“Before working from home became compulsory, I gave my team the choice to work in the office or work from home and that there was absolutely no pressure to come into the office if they did not feel comfortable doing so. My subordinates are living with their elderly parents, as such I felt they were concerned about this. I believe this gave them a feeling of relief and trust. Secondly, we have a daily video call at 9.30AM to go over how we are coping, current assignment, expectations and small wins. During the day we communicate over Skype, whatsapp or phone. To be honest, we are not engaging that differently and just like with “omnichannel”, I am trying to create the same experience both online and offline.”

Tania Bergers, Market Leader, Thailand

“I’m making sure that my communication with colleagues is frequent and authentic – I’m genuinely interested in how they are going personally and how they are feeling.  It’s important to balance the communication and not just focus on the “work” element 100% of the time.”

Adam Harris, Senior Client Relationship Manager, Australia

“Yammer has been helpful. We are using it to share tips and ideas with each other. The most popular post so far has been our top Netflix/Stan recommendation list.”

Cyrus Cavina, Senior Client director, Australia

“The COVID crisis has given us the opportunity to see leaders in action – some have risen to the task and others have been absent. True leadership has illustrated where an entire country has saved lives by going into lockdown early (New Zealand) or where the decisions have cost the lives of many people (USA). Clear and consistent messaging seems to be the key – never has clarity been more important.”

Debbie Wiggan, Senior Principal, Australia

“Even with the physical distance, as a team, we are more connected than ever – conversations are no longer at a surface level – and ‘how are you has deeper’ meaning in this new normal.  We have a Microsoft Teams site and are regular users of Zoom.  We have shared watch lists & recipes, tried a tik tok challenge, and deliberately set time aside each week to connect on a personal level outside of normal work conversations (individually and collectively as a group). Everyone is experiencing the situation differently, from those coping with new family care responsibilities and home schooling, to those not used to working from home, and those worried about what the future may hold.  Each person needs a different level of support and response and we can each learn from each other and lean on each other  when needed.”

Rachael Finnemore, Partner, Head of Advisory, New Zealand

Watch on-demand: Our engagement experts share their insights on how to keep your people motivated in times of crisis.

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