Managing Employees Remotely During the Pandemic

Employees doing online pizza class

Many great business leaders share a common belief: Employees are the main contributor to an organization’s success. These leaders know that when they hire great people and treat them well, these employees will provide clients with an excellent experience, and help the business thrive.

In 2012, I started  Pepper’s Personal Assistants, with this same approach. I focused on building a culture of “togetherness.” While our assistants work directly in client homes, we hold in-person meetings and social events throughout the year to continue building on our solid culture. There’s certain energy we gain from these face-to-face gatherings, and it reminds us that we’re all part of one team that likes to share successes, solve problems, support one another, and have fun.

Covid-19 forced us to cancel these meetings and shift to Zoom and other online forums. We truly miss connecting with each other in person. Our business faced many challenges, as our assistants were unable to perform work within client homes for nearly three months. As we worked to create a path forward for our team and our clients, we continued to focus on our core approach. Our employees needed support and not just at work, but for the uncertainties, they were facing in their personal lives as well.

I was honored to be included in this Wall Street Journal story: Battling Pandemic Blues: How Managers Can Rally the Troops. Here are a few additional thoughts I have on how to manage effectively and keep your focus on employees:

  •  Show grace – This is an unprecedented time, and employees are facing a number of different fears and uncertainties – for their own emotional and physical health and that of their families; stress from their children’s online learning; and isolation for those living alone or facing loss. Focus on supporting each employee as a whole person, not just a worker. Be patient and kind, as you may be the only source of stability and understanding in their lives right now.
  •  Continue offering pay and benefits – During the time when we could not visit client homes, we were fortunate to be able to continue paying our employees and offering benefits, thanks to many of our clients generously continuing with reduced packages.  This helped alleviate worries about financial stability during the shutdown. Team members were grateful and wanted to be productive during this time. We scheduled a number of online training sessions so they could build their skill sets in different areas. Our team also helped clients with tasks remotely, like doing online research and preparing children for remote learning.
  • Get in front of issues – Before the governor issued shutdown orders, we were already creating a plan and talking with employees and clients. We did the same when we were allowed back into client homes with safety protocols. Being transparent with my team is a central part of how I manage the business. Sharing challenges and approaches also means I’m open to the team’s input, ideas and support, all of which are integral to success as we move forward.
  • Provide a sense of purpose – Give team members projects that will stretch their skills and enable them to contribute in a meaningful way. One of our household managers, for example, is an excellent cook and gave our team a Zoom training on cooking techniques during the shutdown. Everyone loved it and learned from it. This employee gained new skills in planning and presenting a training to the team. She’s also now the “go-to” expert for questions on recipes and meal prep.
  • Hold meetings that aren’t focused on work – We’ve held Zoom meetings focused on self-care, with each employee offering a tip to their colleagues. I call employees regularly without an agenda, just to check in and ask how they’re doing and how I can support them. I want my team to know that I genuinely care and want to help them through this time, even if it’s just to listen or provide some encouragement.

This continues to be a challenging environment, but I’m proud of how our team continues to work through uncertainty and support one another. Communicating frequently, being transparent and treating your employees as people first will help keep your culture strong. Investing in your team will bring huge benefits: Once the pandemic is behind us, you’re likely to have a stronger and more cohesive team than ever before.

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Pepper’s Personal Assistant Reviews

See what it’s really like to work with a Pepper’s personal assistant!

Deep Gratitude!

“The first week with Vincent has gone exceptionally well! I have no questions or concerns, only deep, deep gratitude for the difference he has already made.”

W.W.

11/10!

“My PA is incredible—an 11 out of 10—really thoughtful, thorough, intuitive. She is professional but friendly; she has just been great. A couple of times because of things going on with her calendar, Kandis has been flexible—coming 15 minutes later to drop the dog off at puppy play. She has been really great.”

Libby

Thoughtful and Detail-Oriented

“My PA is a thoughtful and discerning assistant. She pays attention to details in our home and makes great suggestions for how to improve and optimize our lives. We trust her judgment, and she communicates proactively and frequently. She is always on-site on time and patient with my unpredictable schedule. We communicate frequently, but she’s also very efficient in how we communicate. Great work!”

Client

Super Happy!

“[I] really do think Kandis is setting the bar! Having a new person come into your house can go either way. [I’m] very grateful for the time and energy and people that Pepper’s has. It’s a big step; no suggestions around onboarding. [I’m] really happy that we were able to board Kandis quickly; super happy for the West Seattle support.”

Libby

Organizing Superhero

“My PA is really good at organizing; it’s one of her superpowers. Some of the simple reorganizing things that she has done have made a big impact. She organized all the cat stuff in the garage and took the initiative on her own. She’s bright and cheery—no moaning, whining. Very great.”

Emma

One of the Best Decisions I’ve Made

“I just wanted to take a few minutes to tell you how much I have appreciated working with all of the Pepper’s staff. My assistant is so generous and thoughtful — she brings value to every interaction. I can’t remember a time when I’ve hired anyone with such a professional and high standard of customer service. Working with you all has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in a very long time!”

Libby

10/10 for Sure!

“Missa is a 10/10 for sure! She has been wonderful, and we check in regularly. I’m comfortable communicating with her about questions or requests, and she’s always been very responsive and also seems comfortable checking in if she has any questions for me. [The] biggest help remains pet care and household chores support, plus the help with one-off projects that come up. Missa has all kinds of skills she brings, (e.g., she’s currently putting together a ‘cat highway’ for the living room rafters).”

Homeowner

My Quality of Life Has Improved

“I used to spend every weekend and every evening doing chores and running errands. Now, I’m able to spend the time that I need to on my business, and then I get to enjoy my home and my life and the precious unstructured time that I have. The truth is, my quality of life has improved by having a Pepper’s household assistant here.”

Libby

Takes Initiative

“I want to mention what a fantastic personal assistant Billie is to me. We were on vacation last week, and she managed my household and vendors flawlessly. I even had her redecorate my office, and I gave her very little direction other than just to make it nice and functional, and, my goodness, did she ever! She takes initiative in my house in so many other ways but does not overstep or overspend. To strike that balance is really something unique and special. I feel really lucky to have her.”

Anura

I’m Blown Away

“[I’m] blown away by how much better the house looks already :)”

Graham

Kind, Caring, and Proactive

“My PA is a very caring person. I was incredibly ill last year, and my PA connected the dots that the washing machine had a lot of mold and thought the black specs on my clothes were from that. On her own time, my PA sent me an article about the impact of mold/washing machines. It was so kind of her.”

Emma

Goes Above and Beyond

“My PA has gone above and beyond. She’s organized my laundry room while keeping on top of laundry, which made it much easier to stay on top of stuff. She’s always ready to jump in and tackle items. It made this holiday season way less stressful.”

Andrea