Akash Marwaha, Hays managing director in Scotland, suggests that compassion is an increasingly important leadership component at this very challenging time
“Being a compassionate leader doesn’t mean ‘going soft’ or constantly being at the beck and call of your team. It’s more about you, an employer or leader, doing everything you can to ensure that your team is managing this unique and challenging remote-working environment as well as possible.
“Of course, a lot of what’s happening is out of our control. People are anxious, uncertain and out of their comfort zone. But as a leader, you can control how to respond, react and guide your workforce so that, hopefully, when this is over they will emerge as positive and productive as before.
“There are some simple steps you can take which can make a significant difference.
“Your use of words and the way you express yourself are important. If an important deadline is approaching, instead of saying “…are you going to get it done in time?”, ask them “… the deadline is next week, do you have everything you need to get it done on time?”
“You can also use language to show your understanding of how your team feel in this unprecedented situation: think empathising, instead of merely sympathising. We’re all in this together, so saying “…I know this is frustrating”, or “…let’s see if we can solve it together” is a way of showing your team that you’re sharing their frustration, not just understanding it.
“Undoubtedly the flow of work will be very different, and previously close-knit teams who are now having to work remotely will find the new way of working frustrating and unsettling. So it’s worthwhile agreeing how best you’re going to manage the work flow. Get everyone’s point of view on how best to do this, so that you see situations from the perspective of your team. This will help build an inclusive team culture, while helping you understand what the team need from you to adapt to change and solve problems.
“Errors and mistakes will happen. This is to be expected, but avoid chastisement. Instead, ask how you can learn from them and refine the approach for next time. Protecting workplace mental health is about creating an environment where everyone feels empowered and supported to try new things and take moderate risks, even if things don’t always go as planned. Compassionate leaders know this.
“Providing regular feedback is another important element of compassionate leadership as this helps people understand how they can adapt to make improvements or become more productive. Now more than ever, it’s important to make sure that every person on your team has what they need to thrive, no matter where they’re based.
“Finally, make compassionate remote working not just about work. Grab a virtual coffee, make time to chat informally and show an interest in their personal lives. We’re all human, aren’t we?”