Beginning yesterday, me and all of my colleagues in the library transitioned to working from home in response to a University-wide closure to try and stop the spread of COVID-19. This is my first experience working remotely, and I have a number of concerns about how to be the most effective leader I can be when I’ve lost the in-person/face-to-face contact with my team. I’m trying to see this time as an opportunity to strength the connection my team feels to one another. Below are a few initial lessons learned:
It’s important to be patient with yourself, with your colleagues, with your boss, and with the technology. This is a stressful enough time without adding to it by getting frustrated with things outside of our control.
Bring my whole self to work:
As a naturally reserved person, I find it challenging to share aspects of my personal life and sometimes my opinions with my co-workers. I try to be there for them, but always feel there’s this imaginary wall that’s there anytime I try to ask about how something is going, like a relative’s recovery from surgery, or someone’s son starting a new school. I tend to feel uncomfortable.
Over the past week, as my team has made the transition to remote work (I was one of the last to leave the library), I’ve started every conversation with: How are you doing? And I end each conversation with: How is your family? Those questions provide the other person an opening to talk about nearly anything that’s on their mind. I thought I’d feel uncomfortable, but instead I feel like I’m learning far more about the members of my team and myself during the past few days than I have in several years of conversations with them.
We’re all feeling a bit raw and vulnerable right now, and I’m trying to lean into those emotions to be there as a source of support for my team. I’m sharing too. I have a Baby Boomer parent living outside of New York City and other family members with pre-existing health conditions. The wall I’d previously felt when talking with my colleagues about my personal life has largely gone away, which I’m grateful for. I’m not sure if it’s just the situation in general, or the fact that we can now through our screens see into people’s home lives when video conferencing, but I’ve noticed a real difference.
Do one thing at a time: Given the levels of stress most people are experiencing right now, I’m trying to do one thing at a time. What that means for me is, when I’m making my morning coffee, I’m not also writing an email as the water boils or checking Twitter. I’m trying to be present and just enjoy those low-stress moments. While waiting for a meeting to start, I looked out the window for a few minutes to take in the beautiful spring landscape around me that I can now see since I’m working at home and not below ground at the library (the common life of an archivist).
What are you doing to be a source of support for your team and yourself during this time?