The sudden transition to remote work has psychological impacts on working and business leaders need to adapt to help their employees stay productive and enjoy their jobs, says Surinder Kahai, associate professor at the School of Management at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

“Leaders should be aware and acknowledge that this sudden shift to virtual work is likely to be quite stressful,” says Kahai. “To form a boundary between home and work time, consider creating a ritual, perhaps by dressing differently, doing a particular exercise at the beginning and end of the workday, or taking a walk.”

“Besides acknowledging that this period is different and stressful, leaders should model desired behaviors. We know from our own research that telling people to do things differently does not necessarily work; what works more effectively with others is role modeling. This means that, as a leader, you should not work really long hours, send emails late in the evening, and then tell your staff to take a break.

“Sharing your own struggles with the adjustment to remote work can be incredibly helpful. You may want to create time and space for your staff to share stories on how they are coping with this change. Stories and self-disclosure are not things we are inclined to do naturally in a virtual environment; we may feel we don’t have the time or think our own story is too warm and fuzzy and wonder why someone should listen to it. Yet, stories are powerful and help us relate and connect to others.

“Finally, consider other ways you can help people manage their time and reduce anxiety and stress. For example, you could assign buddies or mentors to help those with less tech fluency master a new technology. You also could give more time to get tasks done or adjust your performance management systems. At our university, we are offering students more pass-fail options to help alleviate the pressure they feel.”

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