How to Lead and Manage Effectively During COVID-19
by Audrey Nassal Johnson

Management has its ups and downs. What I love most about it is the opportunity to empower people, to help them learn their strengths and how to enhance them so they can grow and succeed.  Working for Affirma has been life-changing for me. In my previous jobs, I still loved helping people, but I held myself back and did not feel empowered like I do at Affirma- we are like a family here.

In my career, I’ve experienced several challenges and growing pains. I went from a Senior Customer Support Representative at my previous company to a Senior Lead Analyst and Team Manager here at Affirma. I’ve mostly grown out of my fear of public speaking, and I’ve gained a sense of confidence I didn’t know I had. It is through the challenges, conflict, and adversity that I have learned so much from. As I continue to grow both personally and in my role here at Affirma, I feel like I have a purpose and that I am making a difference.

Be Flexible

You probably don’t need me to tell you that we are living in strange times- particularly with the global pandemic that is causing illness, death, creating panic and fear all over the world. It has also presented significant challenges to businesses, changing how we are expected to work. Affirma was already flexible and understanding before, but when Covid hit, their flexibility and understanding grew even more. They have offered guidance, help, and tips on how to achieve a healthy work-life balance. They truly care about their employee’s mental health and look for ways to ensure we maintain a healthy work-life balance. At the end of the day, yes, we have a job to do, but we should not take work with us when we leave our desks or allow it to consume us in our personal time.

I’m going to be honest, with the state of the world, I struggled trying to manage people virtually while simultaneously trying to take care of myself. There were days when I would barely leave my desk even though I was working from home. I would work so hard and sign off later than I should have, with a headache and anxiety about all the things I still had to get done.

Slow Down

But I slowed down and reminded myself that the work will still be there tomorrow and that it’s not going to all get done in a day. With the help of family and coworkers, I slowly learned that it’s okay to get up from my desk and take breaks. To step away from the work for a few minutes and take a brief walk outside with my dog, allowing my mind to take a break from work as well. Strangely, I feel lucky to be able to do that since I would normally be at the office. Getting that healthy work-life balance was hard and there are still some days I am not at my best. The key thing I’ve learned is that it’s okay to have days where your best is not your 100% best and to remember that tomorrow is another day. This does not mean you are a failure or terrible at your job. I encourage this practice with my team and encourage everyone to give yourself some grace and look for ways to do some self-care.

Strive for Empathy

My advice to managers would be to communicate and check in with your employees, don’t just assume they are okay or don’t need anything if they are not reaching out. I’ve learned that 1:1s are important and to have some sessions where the employee drives the conversation, even if it’s not all about work. We all want to feel validated and heard and we each have different perspectives of what that entails. Listen to understand rather than listening to speak.

My advice to people who are not managers would be to make sure you speak up when you need a break, feel overworked, or aren’t feeling or doing your best. Life happens, we all experience loss, grief, adversity; we all have families and pets. If you have an understanding manager that supports you this will be an easier thing to do. But if you don’t feel supported, speak openly and constructively about it to your manager. Sometimes you may think we are too busy or don’t care, and while we are always busy, most of us do care but may not have learned your communication style or your preferred method of how you would like to be managed.

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