article banner
Belfast Telegraph

Social Distancing and Staff Engagement

Social Distancing.  An expression that none of us had even considered before a few short weeks ago, and yet now it has become the central tenet of all of our lives.  Family relationships and friendships are now conducted remotely, and no matter how hard we try, the quality of our virtual engagement with each other will undoubtedly be lesser.

As leaders, we are also rapidly having to adjust to new ways of working and how we lead our teams.  In this new reality what can we do to keep our people engaged when face to face interaction is either severely curtailed, or not happening at all?

Keep managing performance.  Work together with your team members to agree new goals, recognising the new working environment.  Make sure that you continue to stretch people, but also ensure that the goals you agree are still realistic and achievable. 

One to one meetings. Make sure that your regular meetings with your people still happen, or if you haven’t been doing them, take this opportunity to get started.  Structure the meetings and make sure they aren’t all about performance. Make time on the agenda to discuss your peoples’ development, and also if you feel able to, talk about their wellbeing – emotional, physical and financial. A simple “how are you doing?” can mean a lot. Your team will welcome the opportunity to spend time with you and learn from you.

Use spare capacity as an opportunity.  If you are able to, financially invest in your staff to help them attain qualifications or accreditations that will be valuable to the business.  If that’s not possible, identify free online learning resources to help build the capability of your team for when things get better.

Virtual team meetings.  Don’t use the difficult working environment as an excuse to let meetings drop out of the schedule.  Use technology effectively to regularly connect your people together and ensure they continue to have a shared purpose.

Have fun.  To a greater or lesser extent your people will be missing the connections and social belonging that comes from being in the workplace and being part of a team.  Organise virtual quizzes, virtual team drinks and all of the other social activities you normally do, as best you can.  If you’re not great at that kind of thing, find someone in your team who is (every team has one) and set them loose. They’ll love the challenge!

This will undoubtedly be the most challenging period most of us will face in our working lives.  You can either succumb to it and allow everything to become too difficult, or use the opportunity to get your team fit to ‘burst out of the starting blocks’ when the race gets started again.