Writers in Residence | Management tips for lockdown from Bev Thomas

Clinical psychologist and Faber author Bev Thomas shares with us seven tips for line managers adapting to leading a team while in lockdown.

These are testing times for everyone, but managing your team through this crisis can be especially challenging. I’ve been working with teams for over twenty years and have come up with seven tips for managers.

1. MORE leadership and MORE contact, not less. Just because you aren’t seeing your team everyday doesn’t mean they don’t need you. In times of uncertainty, we feel stressed and unsettled and home working can increase isolation. Use different ways to bring people together – such as online platforms, phone calls and emails. Also, set up some spontaneous and ‘unstructured’ online chat, as many will be missing the more personal connection of work.

2. Communication needs to be CLEAR and CONSISTENT. When we’re anxious and distracted, we cannot retain information. Repeat the same message, even if the situation hasn’t changed. Succinct messages and clear expectations are very reassuring. Also, giving feedback on projects is especially important when work life can feel so ‘invisible’.

3. ONLINE meetings will be a whole new ball game and you’ll need to adapt your leadership and structure the conversation differently to make sure everyone feels able to contribute. If you suspect someone is struggling, follow up with a one-to-one call. Stress can exacerbate underlying problems like anxiety and depression.

4. ACKNOWLEDGE LOSS. The pandemic has left us all grieving something: the health or death of a family member; the absence of friends; the cancellation of a holiday or a work project that will never come to fruition. Everyone’s loss matters. Everyone will be sad and disappointed. A ‘hierarchy of loss’ is unhelpful. Try to avoid using upbeat positivity to boost morale. It might help in the short-term, but it can feel like airbrushing away the difficult stuff.

5. Virtual and online meetings invite people into our personal spaces and blur the boundaries between HOME and WORK. It can expose huge differences in our domestic set-ups and possible envy about space and privacy – the chaotic bustle of family life versus the peaceful solitude for those living alone. Try to be sensitive about what this might bring up for different people in your team.

6. ANXIETY affects productivity. Many people will be working while worrying about relatives and friends, money, jobs, health and well-being. These are big concerns to have alongside adapting to new ways of working, especially for those also looking after school-age kids. People simply won’t be able to meet deadlines with the same level of efficiency, creativity and concentration.

7. And last, but not least – YOU. The job of supporting others is exhausting and depleting. It’s so important that you get support for yourself, hopefully from your own organisation but if not, then via online peer groups or through reputable coaching or mentoring organisations.

I hope that’s helpful. Look after yourself – and good luck!

Bev Thomas is the author of A Good Enough Mother, out now in paperback, ebook and audiobook.