Dealing with COVID-19 is new territory for us all and the NZ government has now instructed non-essential workers to work from home. For many people though, working from home is a whole new experience. So, how as a manager, can you keep your people engaged, connected and productive during this time? Here are some tips.

1. Prioritise your own wellbeing

Before we get into talking about your team, let’s talk about you. Your wellbeing matters, too.

What are the physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual things you can do to be prepared for this time? It’s kind of like putting your own oxygen mask on first.

Self-care is about knowing what you need to do to feel good and function well. Perhaps it’s getting in a morning walk, perhaps it’s setting up your workstation better so you can focus, or maybe it’s checking in with your family. You’ll be in a better place to look after your team if you prioritise your wellbeing too.

“You can’t pour from an empty cup”

2. Keep people informed

Lack of information leads to increased uncertainty which can then lead to anxiety. So try and keep your staff informed about things by regularly checking in.

Use credible and reliable sources such as the Ministry of Health and the New Zealand Government to stay up-to-date on the latest information.

Understand too, that it is okay not to have all the answers. Keeping people informed doesn’t mean you need to know exactly what is happening at all times – remember, these are unprecedented times. Saying “This is what I know, this what I don’t know, this is what I am doing to find out for you” is okay, too.


Set up some rules of engagement for working from home. This is a way of putting some structure in your team’s workday so everyone knows what they are doing.

3. Foster belonging and connection

Social isolation is a problem when it comes to working from home. Think of ways to continue to foster a sense of belonging and connection by using tools such as email, phone and video conferencing – things that really remind
people they are still part of a team.

Schedule in both formal and informal ways of connecting – such as daily conference calls to start your day or an end of the day round-up to reflect on the highlights. Build in ways people can chat informally – telling jokes, doing the daily quiz or sharing a virtual lunch.

Look for free tools and apps that help keep people connected, such as Google docs,
Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook.

4. Provide practical support

Research shows when it comes to keeping your people safe during distressing events, practical support to prevent on-going stress is really important.  Think about the personalities in your team. If someone is detail oriented, then send them an email set up with sub-headings and related bullet points, as opposed an essay type request. Likewise, if someone is more big picture focused start with a conversation where you can verbally brief them and answer questions, then follow up with the written request. Or it might also be suggesting new ways of interacting with clients or helping to readjust deadlines and expectations.

5. Focus on what you can achieve

‘Collective efficacy’ is the belief that together you can overcome the challenges you are faced with. People handle stress better if they feel they have support around them and the resources to overcome the challenges.

You can promote a sense of collective efficacy by discussing what you can achieve, goal setting as a team, keeping people updated with progress, and providing practical and emotional support. It’s not simply saying ‘hey team, we’ve got this’, it’s acknowledging the challenges, acknowledging the struggle, and reinforcing that you are all in this together.

Invite your team to be active in overcoming challenges together. Support collective problem
solving and encourage innovation and supportive behaviours.