In Part 1 of this series, we introduced Mike Caracalas, leadership coach, executive consultant, and author of Ten Strategies to Get Better Results with People, who says that “Right now, you as leaders have only one option: Lead your way out of this challenge.”

We continue our chat with Mike, talking about how to keep things fresh as the weeks go on and how to reacclimate to working “together” in the literal sense when our workplace doors open back up.

TeamSupport: Many workplaces have been “shelter in place” (teams working remotely) for weeks. How can a support leader help keep things fresh as the feeling of being cooped up may start affecting individuals personally, and consequently impact their work?

Mike Caracalas: Don’t be afraid to lighten things up! You don’t have to have your nose to the grindstone all the time or expect your people to. Many workplaces these days are encouraging balance, even have game rooms and nap rooms available—encourage the same at home.

As a leader, you can facilitate fun group things to do together on video conferencing, like: Dress up your pet and choose a team mascot; apply an interesting or silly backdrop in their home workspace; introduce your roommates, or your kids, or significant others in a meeting. Most important, have a few check-ins every week where you don’t talk about business, rather a general fun dialogue.

There is a whole lot more anxiety right now in general, and it’s different from individual to individual: “What if I get sick? What happens to my family?” “Will my kids be set back in their education?” “Will my company survive this?” “Is my job at risk?” Put more focus on mental health, compassion, and understanding, than on work output. Make sure people feel included and heard. The key is to make it safe to either keep things light or express if it’s all starting to wear on you. Simply ask, “How are you doing?” The leader can start! If you express your feelings, then others will feel safe to do the same. Be genuine in wanting to know.

These sorts of check-ins might also allow the introverts on the team to participate more than they would in person. It’s easier to facilitate input from all voices when you’re asking everyone specifically on a video or conference call. This goes for support leaders and leaders in all departments at all levels.

TS: Once we return to our workplaces, what do you recommend for getting back in the mode of “working together” in the literal sense?

MC: Take time to reflect on the overall experience. Challenging times like these are when we learn the most. Don’t miss that opportunity.

Deepen the insight. Ask, “What did we learn about ourselves during this period?” (e.g., we need to continue to find opportunities to connect with each other). Forward the action. Ask, “How will we put that learning into practice?” Circumstances may have forced you to grow, adapt, and do things differently. Embrace the opportunity and keep going!

And remember: Lead People. Manage Things. People are human beings and your impact is through leadership of people. You can manage tasks, spreadsheets, deliverables, and reports. Shift your focus to leading not managing. And apply it from your work office or your living room!

Learn more about Mike Caracalas and how to Lead with Heart.