Regardless of industry or leadership level, everyone with a job needs to know that they are being heard and accounted for by their employer during this tumultuous time. You can be the voice of reassurance for your direct reports by doing these five things asap:

1. Check-in with everyone, one-on-one, privately.

Use the following agenda as a guide:

  • Reiterate your company/org’s stance and plan regarding coronavirus (COVID-19). Ask your direct report if they understand; make sure they do.
  • Ask “How is this impacting you outside of work?” Listen and take notes in a secure, confidential place.
  • Ask “How can I be supportive at this time?” Listen and take notes. Be honest about what you can and can’t do, and what will require more investigation by you.
  • Thank your direct reports for their patience and flexibility and reiterate that channels of communication are open.

2. Remember HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) basics. In short, everyone has a right to privacy about their medical information. If someone shares with you that they have a compromised immune system, for example, do not share that information casually with anyone. Check with HR about how they are keeping track of individuals’ health situations and follow those protocols closely.

3. Advocate for your employees to your manager and to leadership: Take what you learned in part 1 and communicate it to your manager. “My team is worried about the following things. These are their questions…” List them without attribution (remember #2). Ask your manager for a commitment about getting back to you with answers even if the answer is “we still don’t know.” Communicate answers back to your direct reports promptly.

On a systemic level, advocate for the following:

  • Paid Leave
  • Extended leave for people in caretaking roles
  • Extended bereavement days

4. Stay informed by following reputable COVID-19 news sources. Be a responsible source for your direct reports by getting up to speed right now. Here are a couple of recommendations:

5. Take care of yourself. This is that “put your own oxygen mask on first” concept that you learn on an airplane. You’re not helpful to others if you run yourself down. Model excellent self-care by washing your hands, getting rest, staying hydrated, and whatever other self-care rituals are necessary for you to stay well.

→ Coming soon…more advice for brand-new Remote Managers. See the basics in “Crash Course on Remote Management” video here (hosted by me and Cate Huston).

Nicole Sanchez is the Founder of Vaya Consulting, co-creator of, and an expert in organizational culture. She spends her time at the intersection of social impact and tech. Nicole is based in the SF East Bay, were she was born and raised.

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