Leading with Empathy in the Midst of COVID-19

May 1, 2020 | min

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are grappling with a new normal that we had not even imagined just a few weeks or months ago. From worrying about our wellbeing, concerns for loved ones and teammates, and uncertainty about what the future of our business looks like, we are all braving uncharted territory.

While many of us adjust to working from home and doing business virtually, we are also sharing our space with new “coworkers” like kids, parents, pets, partners or roommates. Together, we are facing uncertainty about our day-to-day and what lies ahead. As an eternal optimist and a true believer in ‘getting comfortable being uncomfortable’ and ‘showing grit’ (two of our principles here at Nutanix), I have been challenging myself to reframe the situation. 

As I see it, there is a silver lining to what we are facing: our shared challenges have been a great equalizer. No one is facing the COVID-19 boogeyman alone—we are all in it together. Our loved ones, teammates, customers and partners are all being impacted without regard to gender, social status or national boundaries.

As our Founder and CEO Dheeraj Pandey said, “Our health, our personal and professional lives, and global commerce are all intertwined for the first time.”

While uncertainty lies ahead, I also see opportunity. Disruption to our norms invites space for change, growth, innovation and new ways of connecting as we navigate this together. 

Here at Nutanix, our People Team has quickly pivoted to create a better employee experience given the rapidly evolving current state of affairs. We are striving to rethink our traditional ways of working and communicating, and to find novel opportunities for support, connection and productivity—from a safe social distance. We do not have all the answers and we do not know for sure what will stick. In light of that, we are thinking big and starting small, piloting all kinds of new ideas from our leaders as well as our employees.

Here are some of the actions we are taking:

  • Dialing up communication frequency to share updates and resources as they’re available through forums like our Company All Hands, podcast and email updates, virtual team huddles and daily Slack updates

  • Deploying a cross-functional response team to field employee questions and concerns, and stay on top of guidance from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control

  • Enabling our managers on the frontlines with tools and resources to lead their teams through change

  • Arming Nutants with technology and best practices for staying connected virtually as this is a new muscle for many of us

  • Tapping into our wellness with fitness challenges and a leader-led mindful meditation journey for our Nutants 

Our Regional Sales Director, Aaron, joined our fitness challenge,
showing us how he stays active while working from home

  • Offering learning and development resources including a Personal Resilience training for our Nutants and their families, virtual speed coaching, remote workshops and DISC assessments catered towards resilience, mindfulness and communication skills, as well as on-demand courses through LinkedIn Learning 

  • Supporting Nutants with tailored resources via our Employee Assistance Program and Rethink, which offers support for parents raising kids with learning or behavior challenges or developmental disabilities

  • Hosting virtual team events like spirit days, Zoom lunches, virtual trivia, .heart donation matching and virtual volunteer activities to benefit communities in need

  • Leading with empathy and patience knowing that we are all facing different challenges as we navigate our new normal together

Nutants in South Africa donated face masks to a charity that will distribute them to healthcare workers.

While these past weeks have been long, I find joy in many of the bright spots that I have witnessed. From seeing kids and pets pop on to video meetings and coworkers inviting us into their homes as we embark on a grand WFH experiment together. The spirit and optimism demonstrated by our team bring a smile to my face. 

Showing off our Nutanix Xs after a resilience workshop for Nutants and their loved ones.

I’ve seen more connection, idea sharing and kindness than I ever imagined. I have watched teams embrace new ways of working, pause for group meditation breaks to stay centered, and show support and understanding when working parents prioritize caring for themselves and their families. I’ve also witnessed our employee-led resource groups humming with activity as people check in on each other and share advice and encouragement.

I do not know about you, but despite the fear and uncertainty we are all currently facing, I am equally humbled and hopeful about navigating the unknown with the support of my Nutanix family. We have got this. We are in this together.

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