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Empathy Keeps Your Remote Team Productive and Future Bright During a Crisis

By Angelica Fierro on

So what separates the most successful businesses and teams from everyone else when we're living in a perpetual Twilight Zone like the coronavirus pandemic? Well, as I've said throughout this series on remote working, technology plays a massive role. But so does communication. And productivity. As essential as all of these are, though, it's really a genuine sense of empathy that serves companies and their people best when times are tough.

Yes, I concede that empathy – understanding and sharing another person's feelings – is important under any circumstances and economic climate. However, it shines brightest when people are scared and looking for answers, unsure of what the future holds for them. And I don't know about you, but that sounds like a pretty accurate description of both employee and customer experiences during this COVID-19 crisis – or any crisis for that matter. So to wrap up this series, let's take a closer look at the power of empathy, why it's so important, and what it means for business success.

Your Employees Need a Leader

I'm going to assume that most business leaders and owners didn't foresee having to lead an emotional and psychological triage unit as part of business operations. But, lo and behold, that's what many companies and supervisors are looking at right now – using soft skills to guide a team of overwhelmed employees when those supervisors themselves don't know what's coming or going.

But here's the thing. There's no official handbook for being empathetic to others, nor is there a YouTube video to learn all about it. And that's okay. Because being empathetic isn't like learning how to recharge the A/C system on a 2012 Kia or figuring out a Metallica riff. If someone is an empathetic leader – and most are to some extent, even if they're not overtly the touchy-feely sort – then it's already ingrained in the relationships they form with their people, in the connection between supervisors and employees.

Empathy and Remote Team Members

But what does that have to do with remote working, you ask? Plenty. If your team is new to working from home, they probably already feel like a fish out of water. And when you throw in all of today's other stressors – health concerns, financial worries, no toilet paper at Kroger, amongst others – things can go sideways quickly.

However, if you, as a leader, owner, or coworker demonstrate an understanding for their point-of-view, concerns, and show that you care how they feel, it helps them go through a process psychologists call normalization. Put another way, it lets them know their experience is shared and "normal," at least relative to what everyone else is going through.

Now, fast-forward a few months to the point where this pandemic is hopefully under control. Employees will remember that emotional intelligence and leadership, how simple active listening and providing your full attention helped them feel a greater sense of security at a time when everything seemed upside down. Or how you embraced technology that helped them be productive in a new work environment – their homes – and took deliberate steps to ensure that teamwork, camaraderie, and culture remained strong. That's what breeds loyalty, stronger employee engagement, and, if properly cultivated, a more robust bottom-line as well.

Last Thoughts

This experience is new for all of us. Throughout this series, I've honed in on insights we've picked up here at Creative Cave on utilizing remote teams, but there's obviously a lot more to it than telecommuting, Zoom meetings, and Slack messages. Sure, my immediate goal has been to provide businesses and their people with simple tips and bits of wisdom that can help them quickly and seamlessly adopt a remote working model.

But I'd be lying if I didn't say that there's been an additional goal in mind – to help people feel some sense of ease at a time when everything feels like gale-force winds. So in that way, this is Creative Cave doing its part, as tangential as it might have seemed at times, to help companies and their teams keep on keepin' on.

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Now, did I discuss our prowess with inbound marketing and website design much? Nope. But no harm, no foul. We'll get back to our regularly-scheduled programming at some point soon. For now, let's just focus on washing our hands, maintaining physical – not social – distance from each other, and being good humans. This too shall pass.