As we continue to navigate these uncharted waters, I thought I should share some thoughts and best practices for seeing your people through these tough times.
Personally, my own emotions and anxiety levels have been up and down as I watch the news, talk to friends, family members, clients and colleagues. I imagine you feel much the same. Whatever you’re feeling now is natural. Still, your job as a leader of your firm is to remain positive and forward-thinking. Don’t try to take on every problem and issue right now – it’s all just too big. Control what you can control and take care of your people. If you’re calm, your people will be calm, too. Calm people are capable and productive.
Knowledge is power
There is a lot of information coming from government agencies, news outlets, social media, and word of mouth. Whatever information your people are getting, try to vet it and distribute only accurate information among your team.
Talk to your people about the importance of checking information – especially that which seems serious or alarming – against trusted sources. One of the best things you can do is make sure your people know where to get trustworthy, up-to-date and accurate information.
Communication is critical
Over the next few weeks and months, talent leaders and firm executives will have to make a lot of difficult decisions. Your office may already be closed while people work from home. If there will be further restrictions, cancellations of firm events, closings, or even layoffs, people need to hear it from you – not other employees
Manage anxiety and stress
Your firm’s HR team must work to manage your team’s anxiety and stress. This would be a lot easier if everyone had the same reaction at the same time, but you likely already know that’s not the case. Everyone is different. Some people are very concerned while others aren’t concerned at all. Others are somewhere in the middle. You need to have different plans and resources in place to manage different reactions on different timelines.
Some of those resources might include:
- Employee assistance plans. They do a great job of providing education and a safe place for people to talk about their feelings. Make sure your people know this resource is available.
- Counselors. Some firms we work with are hiring counselors and talk therapists, either in person or paying for access to apps and other resources.
Working from home works
We’ve been pushing remote work options for years. Right now, firms are being forced to act on that advice. When you talk to your team and your clients, it’s important to push the message that you’re continuing to operate as usual, even if you’re doing it in an unusual way. Working from home doesn’t mean the work isn’t getting done. That’s a positive message for everyone to hear.
Support your community
A lot of people are and will be in a tough place right now. Someone on your team might get sick and not be able to work. They might have children at home with them now and no options for childcare. Depending on the size of your firm, you may be able to establish an employee relief fund. This allows employees to donate some of their own PTO to others who are unable to work. This is inexpensive for the firm and goes a long way toward building employee relationships.
Beyond your own team, people in your community are being impacted. Kids aren’t getting meals at school, and other groups are facing various challenges. What can your firm do to support the community? You might be able to sponsor meals for kids who aren’t in school, sponsor a daycare center for parents who don’t have anywhere to take their kids. Spend time thinking about others instead of worrying about ourselves can improve anyone’s outlook.
Travel is shut down, education isn’t
Many of the accounting profession’s conferences and other events have been canceled. But just because travel is shut down, educational opportunities don’t have to be. Many meetings will be held virtually, and people can register for webinars and other online learning opportunities. Get a good business book and read it. This is a great time to look into these resources.
Peer communities can also be an excellent opportunity to learn and share best practices for dealing with our new reality. We created a special MightyNetworks community for members to share plans for dealing with the challenges of COVID-19 and how they’re working from home.
Perhaps most importantly, encourage everyone in your firm – yourself included! – to take care of themselves. Take breaks from the news and social media. Take a walk outside or do a workout at home. Get enough sleep and connect with friends and family members over FaceTime or Skype. This is an unprecedented time, but no matter how closely you’re following social distancing guidelines, you’re not going through it alone.
About the Author
Sandra Wiley, President of Boomer Consulting, Inc., has been lauded for her industry expertise in human resources and training. She is often called the “go-to person” for solutions to the profession’s staffing crisis, citing her wise advice on hiring – and keeping – employees for the rest of their careers.