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How to Lead a New Workforce Shaped by a Global Pandemic

The best leaders are using their platforms and resources to save lives and offer bold solutions to ensure the survival of their businesses.

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We are all adapting to a new reality. The coronavirus epidemic has upended the corporate model, forcing executives to make difficult decisions about everything from workflow coordination to possible layoffs. Now, more than ever, businesses require strong leadership to ensure their survival.

The best leaders right now are using their platforms and resources to save lives while offering bold solutions. They recognize the severity of what’s happening, especially regarding the loss of human life. Whether it’s Jeff Bezos donating $100 million to Feeding America, or Jack Dorsey pledging a third of his net worth to COVID-19 relief, now is the time for concrete actions.

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Here are some important things to keep in mind as you navigate a new workforce shaped by a global pandemic.

Take Care of Yourself First

This first point seems obvious but cannot be emphasized enough. The separation between work and home life balance is shrinking as executives are expected to be on-call constantly from home.

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However, anxiety and stress will be the first thing your team notices. Make sure you are taking care of yourself first, whether that entails getting more sleep or forcing yourself into some basic workout routines.

Put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others.

It’s also important to create boundaries while compartmentalizing what falls into the “work” category. Rather than using the dining room table as your station, dedicate a separate room for conducting business; this way, there are less interruptions and you are able to step out for time devoted to family—giving them your undivided attention.

Remember: Put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others. Just as doctors are focused on leveling the curve of COVID-19, leaders should level the anxiety curve amongst employees within their company.

Remaining Nimble Is Key

Every industry is undergoing massive change right now. The most successful companies will be able to pivot fast and respond to world events in real time.

Consultants and micro firms have never been more important. Bigger firms are often defined by a large amount of bureaucracy, with junior staff tasked with execution. It can often take days to even schedule a preliminary call with the right person at large consulting groups.

With boutique firms, you often work with the owner and partners. You are directly involved in the decision-making process and can count on them to drop anything at a moment’s notice to conceptualize and execute.

Brush Up on Your Tech Skills

When you reach a certain level, there is a tendency to designate workflow tasks (i.e., setting up Google Calendar invites, inputting data into Microsoft Excel, etc.) to assistants. If something goes wrong, it is easier to call IT rather than figure it out for yourself. As a result, you can easily get rusty at navigating the underlying infrastructure that your company is built upon.

Resources are precious in the current climate, whether due to budget cuts or layoffs. It’s crucial to ensure you are technologically fluent with industry-standard software and understand how the transition to work-from-home will impact your day-to-day schedule. When setting up virtual meetings, remember that you’re going to be on many more calls than you would face-to-face meetings; there will be a tendency to schedule back-to-back calls that are 30 minutes or 60 minutes in length without any breaks built in. Instead of a 60-minute meeting, try to schedule a 45-minute meeting with a 15-minute buffer in between calls. You may find yourself being much more productive during that time, and you’ll also have some precious minutes to take a break and tend to any family matters that come up.

If Layoffs Are Imminent, Offer Them Voluntarily and With Dignity

With a historic level of layoffs happening, every company is bound to run into this problem eventually. If you are put into this difficult position, explore the possibility of voluntary layoffs.

A voluntary layoff is when a worker decides to take a severance package on their own instead of being selected by management. Voluntary layoffs can have the same financial benefits as normal layoffs without all of the headaches that can come from holding a traditional event.

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They also help a company’s staff; some employees may be ready to take a severance package and change roles, although they were unwilling to step down because they didn’t want to go broke looking for a new job without support. Voluntary layoff incentives can allow those workers to identify themselves and make their switch, helping the company, and them personally, in the process. The downside here is that an employee that you may not want to lose will take the package. The way to think about this, however, is that the employee was probably thinking about leaving anyway.

If you are forced to oversee involuntary layoffs, send a company-wide email that every employee will be required to meet with their manager via video conference. The objective here is to give laid off employees the news in appropriate settings, rather than springing it on them in a group conference call. It is crucial to have a script, severance documents and everything in place before breaking the news.

Remember, these are extraordinarily difficult times for everyone. It is crucial to remain human and empathetic while signaling leadership.

Raymond Lee is the founder and CEO of Careerminds, a technology-enabled outplacement and retirement coaching company launched in 2008. He has over 18 years of human resource, outplacement and career consulting experience.

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