As many employees continue to work remotely in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of the manager has never been more important.

Although intermittent telework is not a novel concept for employees or employers, this sustained effort of remote work to adhere to social distancing presents new obstacles given current societal stresses and constraints. Employees may be juggling parenting, educating, and caretaking, all while handling daily work responsibilities and battling feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Supporting employees through the COVID-19 pandemic is a tall order for managers, many of whom may be managing remote work for the first time or given additional workload associated with developing new methods to maximize staff efficiency from home. Managerial responsibilities currently transcend task-related guidance or oversight; instead, managers are a crucial lifeline and stabilizing force for employees during this uncertain time.

During remote work, there’s no better way to ground employees than by providing timely, empowering feedback. Most employees are eager to contribute to their team. Without casual desk interactions, break room conversations, or other in-person luxuries, employees could be missing the informal cues that helped them maintain a pulse in the workplace. Consistent feedback provides the opportunity for managers to clearly communicate expectations, address areas of growth, and provide employees with the tools they need to be successful from home.

Unsure of where to start? Here are several strategies to guide feedback conversations with employees.

  • Set the tone. Establish the forum and cadence for providing feedback, such as weekly check-ins. Help employees feel more at ease by reminding them that these are two-way conversations intended to celebrate accomplishments, identify opportunities for development, and establish expectations to achieve continued success.
  • Acclimate to Zoom. Though Zoom meetings can be challenging and Zoom fatigue has set in, giving interpersonal feedback over video is incredibly important. Pay close attention to body language—both the employee’s and yours. It can be easy to miss context clues without face-to-face interaction, so be as explicit and verbal as the conversation calls for. Spend time actively listening and encouraging back-and-forth communication.
  • Celebrate good performance. Show appreciation for employees who are engaged and working hard, and don’t just save it for performance reviews or milestones. Think about how the employee has demonstrated resilience, teamwork, and a capacity to adapt during these challenging times—and acknowledge and reward these behaviors. Praise can pay greater dividends than ever before in the current social climate, where external interactions are limited.
  • Be constructive. If you’re discussing an area of growth or misstep, give as much detail as possible. Focus on observations, rather than assumptions or judgment. Finally, be constructive. Frame your feedback using a growth and development mindset, and help employees set actionable goals for future impact and success.
  • Stay consistent. After delivering feedback, summarize what you discussed with employees and set a plan for follow-up. Offer regular support and assistance to promote positive behavior change. Meet regularly with employees to ensure you’re providing timely feedback surrounding performance.

As employees continue to work remotely, constructive feedback is a crucial element of maintaining engagement, motivation, and normalcy. Managers should work to initiate feedback conversations with their teams and communicate a virtual open-door policy. This culture shift can set the stage for a deepened manager-employee relationship, which can in turn help employees feel valued, confident, and psychologically safe—during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Looking for more resources for effectively managing teams? Reach out to the Greater Human Capital team today to explore.