How to keep the humanity in #WFH

Tips on how employees and their managers can navigate the realities of a COVID-19 quarantine.

I have two big dogs that have gotten used to having me home. Sometimes they even block the exit from my home office! And, from what I’ve seen on social media over the past week, not only are lots of dogs happy to hang out on video calls, but plenty of cats are more than willing to warm up their humans’ keyboards.

But what about the human element? How are we all doing in these times of uncertainty, and how can we be sure to care for ourselves, our families, and our communities? (While practicing all the safe social distancing and other health guidelines, of course.)

I encourage fellow leaders to lead with empathy, solidarity, kindness, and courtesy as we work together through these uncertain times. Let’s be flexible with colleagues who may be working alternate schedules or need a different kind of partnership than usual. Let’s also normalize working from home and acknowledge that it can be messy. In many ways, it’s a glimpse into the personal side of our co-workers.  Laugh when the cat jumps into the frame during your call with C-staff, and wave when someone's child does the same. Or politely ignore my dogs barking in the background!

Empathy means being kind to ourselves, as well. For those on us on work-from-home duty, that means:

  • Hydrate. It’s easy to get busy and forget the simple things that make a huge difference.
  • Fuel up. Make sure you eat. Block time on your calendar and eat healthy to stay energized!
  • Move! Now more than ever is the time to stay active. Step outside for some fresh air. Even taking three deep breaths can have a huge impact. Take that meeting on the phone – while walking around the block!
  • Connect. Make time to connect with your colleagues. Organize a virtual yoga class, a digital happy hour, or just spend 15 minutes on a Zoom chatting about the best #WFH meme you’ve seen.
  • Embrace technology. For leaders, ensure your remote workforce has the full support of technology behind them in this new era. For employees, communicate what you need to stay productive.

Those are the relatively easy things to help manage the day to day. I know there are bigger-picture challenges we also need to navigate. So, what can we all do to show our appreciation for each other, even when we’re not face to face?


Communicate early and often

If you’re facing any kind of obstacle, if you need to adjust your working approach, no matter what’s coming up for you, keep an open line of communication with your manager and your colleagues. Communication is a two-way street.


Get creative: Assume everyone is in the same boat…because we are

People managers model the behaviors they want their teams to live, too. They can encourage team members to take mental wellness time, particularly for those juggling caregiver responsibilities or less-than-ideal work-from-home infrastructure. Share your own struggles – be vulnerable. We are all learning and adapting.

I also encourage employees to work with their managers on coverage plans and encourage managers in turn to lead with a strong sense of flexibility and creativity to accommodate many unique and unprecedented situations.


Empower your team to flex their leadership muscles

This is a pivotal moment in our lifetimes. I remember where I was for tragedies like the Challenger disaster and 9/11. In the same way, I think this pandemic will shape our lives, our work, how we travel, and more for years to come. In times like these, leaders will emerge in unlikely ways. Be brave. Encourage everyone to think a little differently. This helps develop everyone's leadership capabilities, even in challenging times.


Re-up on your appreciation for a stellar talent pool

Uncertain, anxious times aren't often a "buyers' market" when it comes to talent acquisition. Far from putting talent appreciation efforts on the back burner, however, it is even more essential to engage employees in the values that define great companies. Find new ways to encourage and inspire your workforce as a whole.

At ServiceNow, I’m proud of our teams across the globe that have stood up for what they believe in to create new services and solutions that accelerate crisis response for our customers. That same spirit will see us through, as we continue the essential work of ensuring success for our employees, their families, our customers, our partners, and communities.

Purpose-driven, value-led companies, people, and even pets. We’re all in this together. We will emerge stronger and more “human” as a community. Let’s keep “checking in” with each other, sharing our ideas, our best practices, and our humanity. We’ll all be better for it.


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