COVID-19 leadership lessons: 5 ways to help your team recharge

Our team was heading toward pandemic-fueled burnout. These five guiding principles help people be intentional about managing time and energy
363 readers like this.

done on purpose; deliberate
a determination to act in a certain way : RESOLVE

Anyone who has worked with me knows that "intentional" is a favorite word of mine. Deciding what to do in a given situation and taking an active role in the outcome is an important part of both my work and personal life. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and many of us moved to working from home I lost sight of this mantra: Life seemed to be happening to me rather than me actively participating in it.

In March, we were getting used to the whole team working from home - doing things like setting up a “temporary” space to work and adjusting our meetings to make sure they all had a video conference set up - tactical things to adjust to our “new normal.” My leadership team also communicated to our team that we knew things were going to be challenging and that we would work together to make it as smooth as possible for everyone, remaining flexible and focused on doing our work while avoiding burnout.

However, as we moved into months two and three, we saw that despite what we had told our associates about flexibility and burnout, they were working longer hours, juggling more activities at work and home than we ever imagined, struggling to find a rhythm, and as a result, quickly moving toward burnout.

5 guiding principles: How to be intentional

So, reflecting on my “intentional” mantra, we took a more active stance on how we would work together. Rather than communicating in generalities, our leadership team created “guiding principles” with deliberate behaviors in the areas of personal productivity, meetings & engagement, and connection & mindfulness. These principles included:

  • Be intentional with your schedule. Don’t assume that you’ll magically complete all of your work in between meetings. Block your calendar with time for specific tasks and treat those commitments with the same respect as appointments with others.
  • If you have a need to work during off-hours, consider using the “Send Later” feature so the email is not received at night, creating an expectation that the person responds to it at night.
  • Consider whether a video call is required (which can be exhausting if you are on them for long periods of time). Can you agree to not expect video participation for some meetings or portions of the meeting? Will a phone call work as well, allowing people to get up and move around while meeting?

[ Want to improve video calls? Read also: Zoom tips: 6 ways to make meetings better. ]

  • Set a timer or use an app to remind yourself to get up, stretch, get some water, talk to your family or pets - something to disconnect your brain from work for a few minutes.
  • Consider creating a Shutdown Ritual - specific actions you take at the end of the day to signal to your brain (and others) that work is over for the day. This can be as simple as turning off your computer (more than just shutting it down), moving to another room in your house, or taking your dog for his nightly walk. All of these help you create the habit of completing your day and creating a barrier between work and your personal life when there is no physical distinction in your surroundings.

3 changes I made personally 

As I focused on being intentional, here are a few things I’ve changed:

  • I’ve reviewed my “standing meetings” and have adjusted some to be shorter, others have moved to shared status docs rather than meetings, while others have been extended to make sure critical items are addressed.
  • My Shutdown Ritual includes one last look at my list for the day to see if there was something critical I missed, checking to see what my day looks like tomorrow, and then physically putting my computer and notebook in my backpack (just like I used to do when I left the office!).
  • My team has shifted to “no meetings Fridays” (as much as we can) to allow time to catch up from busy weeks, give ourselves time to be strategic, and frankly, have some flexibility to catch up on personal things as well.

While some of us are returning to the office, and others are continuing to work from home, things are certainly not back to normal. So, take time to think about what you can do for yourself and to help your team thrive - be intentional!

[ Culture change is the hardest part of digital transformation. Get the digital transformation eBook: Teaching an elephant to dance. ]

Stephanie Welsh has been at Red Hat for over five years and is the Senior Director for IT Strategy and Enablement.  In this role, Stephanie leads a team focused on enabling the business of IT to accelerate Red Hat’s overall strategy.  Her team includes portfolio management, financial management, enterprise service management, enterprise digital adoption, change management, process imp