Remote working; we’ve all heard of it and most of us are experiencing it. For many of us this move to online and working from home happened quickly and with little warning.

Our daily routines have completely changed in less than a month. It’s an unsettling time, and leaders must demonstrate patience to help their employees adjust to their new working environment. 

In a time like we are currently experiencing, we may take for granted people’s ability to manage a particular level of work and level of productivity. 

There has to be a level of patience and recognition that there could be a drop in productivity, and this could be for a wide range of reason such as getting set up at home, balancing work and family, or just not feeling at the top of our game during an uncertain period.

Leaders have to expect it and be aware of it and adjust expectations. This change has been rapid, and we can’t assume that everyone will respond in the same way. Leaders should reassure employees during this time.

Now, more than ever, communication is vital, and the amount of communication has to increase. It ensures people stay connected, involved and feel valued. 

In times of change, people tend to move through three fundamental responses: intellectual, emotional and personal. 

Humans need to understand from an intellectual perspective what is going on. We need to get our heads around the situation. 

We then need to manage our own emotional response to it. It doesn’t have to be a big emotional response it could be something as simple as being surprised when you were sent to work from home.  

Then we need to work out what logistics: Where do I set up my office? What hours do I spend at work? How do I manage the kids? 

Everyone will process these responses differently and we will move in and out of each of them.

One day we might be feeling OK, but the next day we could be dealing with an emotional response that we didn’t expect.

Leaders need to keep reinstating the strategic messages; what are we doing and why are we doing it, so that people don’t lose the bigger picture but also so they understand how changes will affect them personally. 

Be empathetic to your employees, give them plenty of time to process information. 

Patience, understanding and empathy.  What is easy for some, is not for others. It’s a time to be kind and supportive and allow people time to settle into the new way of work we are now facing.

Dr Samantha Johnson is a Lecturer of Public Sector Leadership at UNSW Canberra.