A routine “how are you doing?” is a workplace staple as you pass by a team member at work. The answer is usually met with a vague “fine, you?” and both parties move on with their days. However, “how are you doing” has become a loaded question — sometimes too complex for a one-line answer. Amidst the COVID crisis, many of the everyday formalities we’ve taken for granted have been replaced. This has implications on us, as coworkers, friends, family members, and leaders.
Arguably, every business leader has heard a speech or read an article that preaches the importance of compassion and empathy in the workplace, but oftentimes, those “soft-leadership” skills are thrown out the window then there are hard deadlines, investor demands, and product development timelines. Or, in an attempt to maintain an air of calm, leaders are tempted to be even more controlling towards employees, to show that there’s nothing wrong and it’s business-as-usual.
Of course, if 2020 has taught us anything, business is anything but usual. It’s impossible to ignore the emotional and mental needs of your team as they will inevitably seep into the workplace. Now, more than ever, it’s time to practice what we preach: workplace compassion.
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Fostering Compassion through Consideration
The first way to foster compassion as a leader is to be considerate. How would we define “being considerate”? By taking into account each team member’s unique situation. We’re often taught that we should treat everyone equally (which in certain cases, is undoubtedly true), but in a crisis, each team member has unique needs that may not be met by a one-size-fits-all policy. Instead of practicing equality, practice equity by distributing resources and making policies based on individual needs. For example, if a team member is caring for a sick parent, perhaps your sick-day policy needs to be revised for the particular situation.
Flexibility can also mean compassion
There’s a tendency to want to maintain control during a crisis. Some leaders may even be tempted to start imposing specific “on” hours, where employees need to be on-call during a window of time. For other leaders, this may be a result of inexperience with managing remote workers. While general policies are good-to-have to establish a work culture, flexibility can also be an example of compassion. Your team members may need to take time during the day for a COVID test or to unexpectedly care for a child at home. The reasons why your team members need flexibility are endless — and as long as they’re able to deliver results, it shouldn’t matter whether it’s an hour later than expected.
Respect workplace boundaries
Like any good relationship, boundaries between you and your team members are key to keeping them healthy and happy. In the remote work world, it’s easy to send an e-mail at midnight asking for immediate feedback, But during COVID, it’s vital to respect those boundaries. Instead of treating every project as an ASAP need (if everything is vital, then nothing is vital), prioritize projects with team members. Through clear and compassionate communication, your team can still accomplish goals while respecting workplace boundaries.
As a startup founder or leader, it’s crucial to think about your organization’s long-term development, which includes people development. By practicing compassion during COVID, you’re investing in your team and showing that your organization is a place where employees can grow. If you’d like to continue learning about InfraCode, and the resources we offer startup founders, we encourage you to visit www.infrastructurecode.io.