Pep Talk RVA IV: Managing and morale boosting in the time of coronavirus

This is the fourth installment of our Pep Talk feature, letting leaders of local companies – business owners, CEOs and managers – tell us in their own words how they and their employees are faring, what they’re hearing from their workers and clients, and, most importantly, things they’re doing to boost morale, allay their fears and maintain some semblance of normal productivity.

Alex Nyerges

Alex Nyerges, director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

“During this time, it is also important for us to communicate regularly with our members, friends, donors, and community supporters, and so we have created a new weekly email series, ‘Bringing the Art to You,’ where we provide updates on the museum’s operations and share links to videos, learning activities, audio tours, and more.

“I personally communicate with the entire staff regularly to update them and express my appreciation. We are giving our employees the support they need and encouraging them to telework, if doing so is possible. Our dedicated staff is continuing with planning and preparation, making sure that, once it is safe to reopen our doors, visitors will again be able to experience the permanent collections and special exhibitions.

“History tells us that art has the power to communicate, document, engage, inspire, console, uplift, and unite. I have been heartened to see that, especially in light of the physical distance people are enduring to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Even now, or especially now, they are sharing works of art, music, dance, theater, and literature through social media, from their balconies, or their backyards. They want to connect and uplift each other and their communities, and they know art has the power to do that.”

Susie Fife

Susie Fife, CEO, Red Orange Studio

“Last Wednesday I woke up and realized I had a decision to make. I could obsess over our PPP (Payroll Protection Program) loan or post a bunch of content to social media or deep dive into projects that needed my weigh-in. All important things, very important. But nothing seemed more important than choosing to spend four hours in the car with my daughter, delivering quarantine care kits of sorts to my amazing team. The curbside conversation and just seeing their faces in the sun instead of on the screen was amazing. They’ve been adapting and adopting to new workflows each day and I’m so proud of them.

“As a staff, our team has stayed connected while working remotely in various ways … virtual scavenger hunts, creative prompt exercises and weekly COVID recovery plan updates from my business partner, Theresa Ceniccola. We’ve also explored involving a business therapist who can create a safe space for the team to talk about their concerns without Theresa and I involved.

“These times somehow remind me of my high school pottery class. I feel like a piece of clay that’s been just thrown on a spinning wheel. But I have to believe that there is purpose in the spinning as I get stretched, molded and formed into a better business owner, a more impactful community leader and a more patient mom. One day at a time, my hope is to just become a better person.”

Brian Haug

Brian Haug, regional manager, Long & Foster Real Estate

“We’re doing virtual meetings, we’re using Zoom. Where we would have 30 or 40 people in a sales meeting in an office, we’re doing that online. And on Zoom, you’re actually able to see everybody. We’re actually having twice or three times the attendance to our meetings right now, because people want to be with other people. We’re all trying to self-distance, but they still want to be connected.

“We have (virtual) coffee talks going on right now. Some of our brokers will get their office together and have coffee in the morning and talk about the business, what’s going on, what is everybody doing to help their clients out, talk about best practices. It’s actually increasing, and we’re doing a lot to stay motivated, listen to them, but also educate them.

“We have Facebook Live sessions from our senior leaders that are going out daily about updates in the market. People actually want to be connected more now than they did before, to be honest with you, and I think everybody is motivated to try to work together to weather the storm.”

Catch up on previous installments of Pep Talk:

Episode I     |     Episode iI    |     Episode III

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