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Strengthening Connections with Employees

By Jeanne Blake

Social connection and a sense of belonging boosts overall well-being. In the workplace, this translates into higher levels of engagement and productivity. Clients describe a common challenge as they lead through Covid-19: How to help employees who work remotely feel less adrift. Being heard, valued and engaged builds connection. That’s why leaders I work with focus on these efforts. Here are their suggestions: 

Stay in touch  “We needed structure,” one leader said. A continuation of our daily ‘Good morning. How are you?’ So we’ve scheduled a 9AM call to check in, accomplish a bit of business and stay connected.” 

Communicate throughout the organization  One leader schedules individual 15-minute Zoom meetings with each member of her leadership team and their direct reports, who typically don’t get 1:1 time with her. “I ask how they’re holding up,” she said, “how their lives are going, and whether they have work concerns. The response is very gratifying.”


Project calm  We are wired to mimic others’ behavior. We all have brain cells called mirror neurons. They respond the same way whether we’re doing something or watching someone else do the same thing. Before calls and online meetings, park your own stress to create an environment and set a tone that motivates rather than shuts down your team.   

Show appreciation  This motivates and builds connection. One CEO told me he goes out of his way every day to thank his team for doing little things that keep the business moving forward. On the last call of the week, he expresses his appreciation, acknowledges their stress and reminds them about the importance of their work. 

Stay nimble  Despite the demands of dealing with Covid-19, you have a business to run. It’s impossible to predict events day-to-day, sometimes hour-to-hour. One leader explained that to keep things on track, he and his team make the best decisions possible with the information at hand and remain ready to pivot. 

Ask questions and listen closely  It’s no longer business as usual. Some pre-Covid-19 initiatives may no longer be a priority. Regularly invite everyone to contribute ideas. Listen carefully to discover new ways of doing business. One CEO carefully manages his responses: If an idea offered won’t work, he thanks the contributor and explains why. So far, ideas – some of them great – keep rolling in. 

Be sensitive to individuals’ situations  Everyone’s lives are turned on their head. Many are without childcare. Others worry about elderly parents. Employees living alone struggle with isolation. An effective leader is sensitive to each person’s challenges and finds ways to demonstrate empathy and support.  

Take care of yourself  Many leaders described working harder than ever – with no clear definition to their days. Be disciplined about taking breaks. Take a walk, meditate or just be. This provides valuable white space needed to think clearly and creatively. Encourage everyone in your organization to do the same.

Jeanne Blake is president of Blake Works, a leadership communications consulting firm.

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