I Started a Vlog to Offer My Team Transparency in the Time of Covid. Here's How It's Going.
I've tried to recreate the sense of community we once found around the water cooler.
In addition to my day job as a software entrepreneur, this pandemic has turned me into a vlogger. When things hit the fan in March, I didn’t hesitate to send everyone home to work remotely. I knew Slack and Zoom wouldn’t be enough to keep everyone connected, I began, for lack of a better name, "Quarantine Corner."
In the beginning, I focused mainly on Covid-19 and its effects on our business. Once it became clear that the business would be OK, I started mixing in peeks elsewhere. I pulled back the curtain on our marketing projects and financial deals and even offered an update or two on my home garden (We're all giving our hobbies extra focus, right?).
To my surprise, I got feedback like "Quarantine Corner is the best show on TV!" and "My husband and I look forward to Quarantine Corner every night!”
When I asked my team what they like about it, I heard one word again and again: transparency.
Now, I didn't set out to be super open on these videos — it's just who I am. That got me thinking: I’ve always been transparent with my team, so why were they so thankful for it now?
I’m not typically one to lecture about leadership. But through my crash course in crisis leadership, I’ve learned a few things about transparently managing a team in times like these:
1. Address the elephant in the room
Your employees want to know: Are their jobs safe? Will they get paid this month? Should they start looking for a cheaper place to live?
Be upfront about how your company is performing. Think not just about the pandemic, but about whatever economic and social situations might be affecting your team right now.
Better yet, show them. Dig into the data: Have you seen a decline in sales? An increase in cancels? Your team will respect you for peeling back the layers.
Every day, we send a company-wide email with our daily stats. If something looks iffy, we explain it — including the impact on the team and their jobs.
If you have employees whose work doesn’t translate well to a remote setting, talk to them individually and identify solutions. For example, we’ve assigned new tasks to a few facilities team members to keep them employed. The point is, transparency shows that you care about your employees as people and are doing all you can to support them.
2. Take frequent temperature checks
Society of Human Resource Management data shows that COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on employees’ mental health: More than four in 10 now feel burned out, used up or emotionally drained by their work.
We’ve seen this internally, with our HR team and managers taking on more of a “therapist” role than they had before. That’s a good thing: The pandemic has affected everyone, and we need to talk about it.
In our first remote all-staff meeting, I talked about how this is going to be a difficult time for everyone. I shared what I’m doing to cope — weekend hikes and daily beach walks with my wife — and asked for others’ input. By sharing my own experiences, I showed them it’s OK to open up.
I also made it clear that, while most of us aren’t taking the vacations we’d planned, we still need time off to recharge. Since then, people have been less hesitant to say “Hey, I need a personal day.”
Creating a trusting, comfortable environment is tough. Simply showing team members we care about them and understand they may be affected has gone a long way.
3. Connect beyond business
The most popular episodes of “Quarantine Corner" are the ones in which I show off my garden or talk about my struggles parenting my two teenage daughters. I suspect they’re hits because they’re funny and relatable. Regardless, they’re the closest thing to those “water cooler” conversations we’re all missing right now.
One of the biggest worries I have about working remotely is we’ll lose our tight-knit culture. Zoom conversations don’t quite cut it, and I can tell people are clamoring for anything resembling casual conversation.
Figuring out how to keep cultural continuity is on the minds of many businesses right now. The lines between work and home life are bleeding together. While that comes with challenges, it’s also an opportunity for intimacy that wasn’t possible when team members only saw one another’s “work side.”
Maybe you’re not a vlogger, and that’s fine. Just don’t let the Zoom screen keep you from having those “real” interactions. Show your team who you are, and they’ll do the same — and in doing so, everyone will feel that much better about our current situation.
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