Guiding Principles

Within NDR, we believe that our staff is intrinsically motivated. Operating in our “new normal" this year presents an opportunity to implement the principles of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. While there is no one prescription for managing through this time, below are some best practices to promote psychological safety and help our staff work to their potential even with the current challenges.

Have trust

Whether your staff is working remotely or you are taking turns rotating through the office, you are most likely not observing your employees with your own eyes as often as you did pre-coronavirus. For some managers, this feels uncomfortable as working in higher education has generally been an “in-person” enterprise. Research from other industries where remote work is more common tells us that remote workers are just as productive. So, how can we overcome our skepticism and build trust within our teams?

  • Set clear expectations about what you want to have accomplished and by when (see more about goal-setting here).
  • Focus check-ins (both team and one-on-one meetings) on accomplishments and not on “time in the seat.”
  • When someone on your team does not meet a goal, discuss it with the intention of understanding how they got stuck. Inquire about what got in the way of accomplishing the objective. Was the objective or timeline unclear? Was the person missing tools or is there a gap in the person's knowledge?

Encourage well-being

Although students returned to campus and some schools reopened, we are still living and working through a pandemic. Many staff within NDR are facing increased pressure from a variety of stressors; for example, a lack of respite from elder/child care; anxiety about future economic impacts, and more. Remind your staff to take care of themselves:

  • Are your staff using vacation days and time off to recharge?
  • Are your staff maintaining temporal boundaries on their working hours? Have you discussed the importance of “leaving work”/ "walking away from the computer” at the end of the day? Have you modeled not sending email messages at all hours of the day and night? (Tip: You can “Schedule send” messages in Gmail to arrive at 8:00 a.m. or 1:00 p.m.)
  • Whenever appropriate, offer flexibility and allow staff to make reasonable changes to workday schedules in order to enjoy a much-needed walk, take care of family matters, or avoid busier times in buildings. To the extent that the nature of your work allows, offer flexibility (remember TRUST!).
  • Make sure your team members have the tools they need to work efficiently. While working remotely, staff may have been “making do” and not asking for supplies, system access, software, etc. that would make their lives easier and increase their productivity. Ask your staff directly whether they have been able to carve out a dedicated workspace in their homes.
  • With a work computer just steps away and no commute to ease the transition to home life, it can be very easy to work many more hours than before. To avoid burnout, discuss ways to “leave work at the office” with your team.  
  • Consider hosting a virtual game (Check out Jackbox Games) or “Happy Hour” to foster relationships amongst your team members.

Ensure regular channels for communication

Teams can no longer gather around the water cooler to talk about weekend plans or hammer out a small detail on a project. Even as some return to campus, there will be fewer opportunities for informal conversations in hallways and break rooms. We cannot replace these moments, but we can ensure that we have open lines of communication.

  • Prioritize meeting one-on-one with each of your staff members. Scheduling regular meetings provides structure and opportunities for your staff to share what they need to excel.
  • Involve your team in determining the right cadence of team meetings for this semester. Should you increase or decrease the number of meetings you host, now that we know our interim measures will remain in place for the foreseeable future?
  • Reevaluate the communication platforms you have been using the past few months. Are they working for your team? Is it time to pivot away from emails or Zoom?
  • Not all meetings need to be face-to-face or on Zoom. Zoom-fatigue is real, and a phone call is often a perfect substitute. However, video or face-to-face conversation allows you to read your employee’s body language and demeanor, so incorporating this as one of the ways you communicate can give you more insight into how things are going. Staff will also appreciate having the choice of medium.
  • Keep your staff in the loop on information that they may not have received.

If you have questions or ideas for additional resources in this playbook, please contact the Director of Finance and Administration