10 Ways to Manage Team With Social Distancing at workplaces

Currently, the world is grappling with the “Great Lockdown” and ‘change’ seems to be the only resort. The entire system of working be it the corporate or business sphere, (in order to sustain the economic and social blow) has to crop up new policies. These policies must strictly be in compliance with the biggest weapon we have against this pandemic – social distancing at workplaces.

As a reliable solution after remote working, social distancing at workplaces is the single most effective and rampant exercise. It is the panacea that we have against such a contagious virus at loose. HR managers and professionals are constantly revising their role and responsibilities in accordance with the new way of functioning and managing human resources with social distancing at workplaces. 

With every passing day, the urgency to strategize a post lockdown plan or a contingency roadmap to mitigate the loss becomes severe. An overhaul of the newly accepted way of working is dire. A crucial component to infuse into workplaces is social distancing. A fairly new modus operandi like it, should be erected into practical and feasible measures. This calls for brainstorming and exhaustive research by HR managers, as the need to revise their workplace policies and methods has arisen. 

We have expounded on the new normal that social distancing is. This is supplemented with 10 ways to manage social distancing at workplaces. 

Social distancing- The New Normal? 

Social distancing at workplaces or an office is the practice of operating at a 6ft / 2m  radius from each person. This calls for the workforce and the superiors/managers alike to adopt an attitude of a healthcare worker while handling his/her responsibilities at the office. Something this drastic and avantgarde has to be reinforced regularly without fail. Besides workplaces have to scan their environment to execute social distancing. Not only at infrastructural but also at the operational level, all the workplaces ought to accommodate changes. These changes are pivotal as

reports by the workplace analytics team, headed by Dr. Shrikant Sharma at Buro Happold says,

social distancing at workplace.

“The current workplace model is not conducive to social distancing”. 

Companies need to amp up their game in order to normalize social distancing at workplaces. The role of managers and HR professionals has become utterly significant now. This hour of stress and storm, calls for a strategic, empathetic, and steadfast approach. 

“Social distancing might impact an organization’s culture and its employees’ productivity and engagement. But taking preemptive steps to address these implications by developing an effective employee communication plan and enabling managers to handle employee needs and responses will help minimize the impact,”

 Gamika Takkar, Principal, Research, Gartner.

Given below are exhaustive 10 ways in which a manager can flawlessly manage his team with social distancing at workplaces.

1. Communicate Seamlessly

A major change brought about by social distancing is in the manner of communication. The comportment of communication normalized previously (at the workplace or otherwise) is thrown right out of the window. Politer gestures of a handshake or a hug or la bise is unacceptable. The entire phenomenon of communication is obstructed by social distancing. But as our only hope against infection, social distancing at workplaces is unavoidable. Therefore it becomes the liability of managers/HR departments to establish new, improved, and accepted ways of communicating. Regular communication is all the more required in times like these.

Along with this all managers mustn’t drop connection with their team or individual members at any point of time. A solid communication network is a requisite to build a feeling of community and belongingness. All the safe ways to communicate like 

  • telephonic calls,
  • video calls and conferences ,
  • text messages, 
  • chat boxes, 
  • social media have to be brought to judicious use. 

Regularly checking in on employees is a part of the stress scanning process too. It greatly reduces the chances of a  communication gap which results in extraneous stress. In times like these communication is central to collaboration. 

prevention while maintaining social distancing at work place

2. Continue the Learning Processes

Social distancing is becoming a bizarre but widely accepted practice of workplaces around the globe. Therefore it shouldn’t be seen as an obstacle in any or all processes of an institution. This implies that organizations must carry on their continual process of learning. 

Every manager is well acquainted with the benefits of enthusiasm and eager to learn members on a team. The same enthusiasm mustn’t die out in such critical times of change. For this to happen every workplace should carry out learning and developmental activities for their workforce. At this juncture,

  • proper learning, 
  • developmental programs,
  • care, 
  • counselling and guidance should necessarily be imparted by organizations. 

Regular training of employees will contribute to their success. Learning and development programs are a great way to engage the employees as well as to enhance their abilities along the way. Moreover this will also cast an impression of a driven, empathetic, motivated, optimistic, and focused managerial presence. 

All in all, for the execution of successful training and learning processes with social distancing at workplaces, specific classrooms, conference rooms, or assistive technology has to be brought in action. Both on-site and remote working population can become a part of such learning processes. It is in chaotic times like these that one can resort to learning and plan for the future. 

3. Adopt an Optimistic Outlook

The seriousness of a pandemic and grave economic crises at our hands cannot be emphasized enough. To row through is the only way out and forward. A manager’s duty is to mentally and physically equip his team with the best tools for the same. Physical tools of continued learning and development are foolproof. But this has to go together with mental tools like optimism. 

Every manager or superior has to instill (in his team and himself) the virtue of optimism. Especially with social distancing at workplaces, an optimistic attitude will lead to normalization and acceptance of this new way of functioning. Optimism or positivity at workplaces is equally stimulating like motivation. Not only does it battle fear but it also promotes confidence. Leaders with an optimistic disposition are better able to 

  • steer their teams
  • imbue the feeling of purpose, ambition and goal orientation
  • provide momentum for growth 
  • lead people to a better future. 

4. Engage and Involve

ideas for social distancing at workplace

The need to engage employees into meaningful activities is higher than ever. HR departments must focus on building a sense of mutual existence, especially in these times of crisis. 

One can utilise these activities to solve twin concerns. Firstly, they can serve as a reliable way to infuse a feeling of harmonious coexistence and social support. With social distancing at workplaces, a key ingredient of ‘belongingness to society’ is withdrawn. This can give rise to feelings of isolation, stress and anxiety. It becomes a manager’s duty to protect the mental well-being of his workforce by contributing to their psychological safety. 

Secondly, involving employees can help assess and rate their stress levels. A great way to engage the employees are – 

  • Learning and development programs
  • Meetings and conferences
  • Question/answer sessions
  • Group activities or collaborative projects
  • Office celebrations
  • Team projects and competitions

The only element that needs to be kept in mind while involving employees in any such activity is abiding to the norms of social distancing. 

5. Scan Stress Levels

stress at workplace

“We’ve found that the more isolation that employees experience or perceive, that has a negative impact on a number of important outcomes… their satisfaction with their work,” said Bell, a professor of Human Resource Studies at Cornell University.

“I think it can certainly lead to stress. It can undermine wellbeing.”

Alleviated uncertainties, anxiety, and panic is making waves among the workforce worldwide. The role of managers is to address any and all queries while actively assessing workplace stress levels. This responsibility is doubly magnified with remote working and on-site population working simultaneously. 

At such a crucial juncture, every employee is counting on the management and is ready to cooperate. Managers have to reinforce that the top priority for them is the well being of their workforce. This requires the utilization of tools that evaluate the stress levels at work. Make use of 

  • questionnaires, 
  • counselling sessions and 
  • group exercises to assess the ground reality of persisting stress. 

More importantly, managers will have to utilize their observational skills and get insight into each employee’s behavior through their engagement and involvement. 

6. Time for Increased Transparency

Desperate times call for desperate measures. It is these desperate times that managers have to take up roles beyond their official job description. This calls for resolving and making decisions based on pure psychological evidence. The retraction of ‘society’ from a social animal’s environment can prove to be devastating to the workforce. There is a demand for increased transparency levels here. A leader should make use of his astute senses of observation and track employee behavior.

Through various measures of activity and involvement listed above, a more exhaustive analysis of each employee’s behavior is provided. The lack of face to face interaction has considerably reduced the chances of reading body language and employee disposal. But the presence of proxy indicators calls for their close scan. These indicators include 

  • language (both written and spoken) used for communication for calls,  
  • emails or text messages
  • gestures made on video calls

The tone of communication, any recent development or shift in pattern, etc cannot go unnoticed with close monitoring by a manager. 

‘You want to be sympathetic to people’s positions. But you don’t want to be so sympathetic that you put yourself out of business.’ 

Shawna Floyd

7. Mutual Support is Key

Currently the workforce is drenched in fear of the uncertain. The idea of social distancing at workplaces seems alien and unnatural. There is an urgency of community support and collaboration at workplaces. Today managers have to be answerable, assistive and collaborative more than ever. But with social distancing in action, the process becomes complex and impractical. The smoothest way in which a manager can be omnipresent is by assigning teams with mutual support. 

This approach calls for a division of responsibility. Here the workforce has to be divided into sensible power pairs, with one member assisting and coaching the other. Consequently, this creates a second layer of mutual support. The execution of this approach will allow the managers to focus on more pressing matters and this wouldn’t compromise with employee support or guidance. 

8. Familiarize with Flexibility and Practical Expectations 

Unprecedented times (like these) are exactly like strange waters. These are the waters that corporates and businesses are currently exploring. The only life jacket in these turbulent tides is flexibility.

Flexibility is a highly combative weapon that employers can wield. Due to quarantine, social distance, remote working, stress, and uncertainty in the air, it is unlikely to keep up to rigid deadlines or work in collaborative teams. Here employing flexibility to both on-site and remote workers is cardinal. This involves the usage of various dependable tools. A highly beneficial tool for managing remote working teams is the CuteHR. It is currently the single most successful human resource management system (HRMS). Its surpassing project management system is the one-stop tool for all managers. CuteHR has been the preferred choice due to the following benefits – 

  • It allows for multiple project assignment and management
  • It facilitates stupendous project allocation to various teams. Additionally, CuteHR provides resources to supervise team members. 
  • Gives room to managers for the successful creation of timelines for all ongoing and future projects. 
  • Helps to track employee or team progress and contribution with its project-wise time tracking system. 
  • Enables communication across teams and with clients to improve collaboration.
  • Its client portal grants a route to oversee client demands and requests by improving communication, which increases transparency. 

Managers must adopt such an outlook intertwined with managerial strategies which yields the maximum work with diminutive workload or burden. All supervisors ought to understand the significance of family life, work breaks and holidays at such a perilous phase. This time must purposefully be utilized to define a new way of working post a pandemic. 

With managers embracing a flexible approach at work, the necessity to omit impractical and extravagant expectations ensue. As a manager it would involve you giving your workers the mandatory freedom to execute work or project. Moreover, being an excellent support system in such times will be equally rewarding and supportive of work. 

9. Synchronous Efforts Matter

Currently, workplaces have acclimatized themselves to remote working. This flexibility will benefit them with the in office operations post lockdown. Functioning with only indispensable numbers at the office, remote working will still be operational. 

Here the managers ought to harmoniously bring together the two methods of operation into a rhythm. The synchronous efforts of remote and in house workers will become the ultimate method of functioning. Their flawless execution will render useful not only to the organization but will pave a way for new methods of functioning at crisis stricken times. 

 10. Involve Technology

Many companies like Amazon are resorting to the many gifts of artificial intelligence (AI) for aid in these exceptional times. They have judiciously roped in artificial intelligence and machine learning to utilize their ascendency. Technology is serving as ‘eyes’ to many organizations and has proved to be a great surveillance tool. In fact, the face of workplaces will undergo a thorough renovation as this marks the onset of touchless technologies like automated doors, voice commanded devices along with hands – free switches. Such technologies are accessible and viable to large conglomerates as of now. 

However many architectural changes will also be assistive to launch social distancing at workplaces. For example introducing one way traffic in offices, cafeterias and washrooms. Re-designing and re-allocating office furniture will help to a great extent. 

But all these attempts will reap benefits only when the practice of social distancing is instilled in all the employees like a routine. Arbitrary placement of furniture or a lethargic attitude towards social distancing will expose everyone to the risk of infection

Conclusion

We have tried to give a general breakthrough of the ten most efficient ways to manage your team with social distancing in operation. All these strategies given above must be carried out with due consideration of every safety measure against this pandemic, laid down by the World Health Organization and local authoritative bodies. From here onwards, the broad agenda of any strategy at a workplace should primarily revolve around employee safety. This can only be determined by abiding with social distancing ardently. An organization should necessarily devise it’s plan of action considering this variable. 

Life after lockdown will undergo tremendous changes and modifications. This involves the usage of masks, regular sanitization and scanning, sensitization, awareness, increased regards for health standards, etc. Without a doubt, the managers play an active role to introduce social distancing at workplaces as the new normal. 

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