Maintaining your office culture is only a wise move if your culture is healthy to begin with. But even then, should you maintain it? Or should you take this opportunity to transform it?

These are questions every leader must ask — and right now in particular, everyone must lead. But more about that in a moment.

Let’s talk about the “right now in particular.”

As of this writing, the whole world is under a pandemic we can’t begin to comprehend. We may be coping, but we’re also overwhelmed. We’re concerned, if not petrified, and many of us are grieving — grieving for our vulnerable loved ones, grieving for our unknown future, grieving our illusion of control.

But we don’t have to stay stuck.

Regardless of where you are on the healthy culture continuum, here are several actions you can take to transform your culture into one you’ll be proud of, long after the current crisis has passed:

Acknowledge the elephant in the room.

One of the cruel ironies of grief is it doesn’t always bring us together. Especially if it never gets acknowledged. Even if you’re not a formal leader, you can start to change this. And if you are a formal leader, you must.

How? Check in on others, respectfully, to see how they are doing. Offer a listening ear. Keep confidences.

If you manage a team, start meetings with a check-in. Build this into your agenda so that no one has to worry about taking up the group’s time. Let people voice their fears, frustrations, challenges, and yes, their victories.

The goal here isn’t to get everything resolved. But as you acknowledge the enormity of what is happening and allow your team to be heard, you will release a great deal of tension — and allow the team once more to focus on their work.

Being able to refocus on our work just might be the thing that saves us all. But it takes acknowledging the hurt before that’s possible.

Filter everything through “I choose to take the high road.”

This is another way of saying, “Choose how you want to be remembered.” How you lead is how you’ll be remembered.

For example, as you may have noticed, patience these days is in short supply. This is all the more reason to embrace the high road at every turn; for example, whenever you are

  • Communicating with clients, members, staff and vendors
  • Making decisions that affect their future
  • Holding a meeting, especially when it involves unfamiliar technology
  • Giving constructive feedback — and taking feedback (even if it’s not constructive)

Taking the high road is what we all must do right now. We may not do it perfectly, but we will do it better for having done our best.

Inspire and require leadership from those around you.

You inspire leadership by your example.

If you’re in a formal leadership role, let your team know you trust them and you have their back — but also let them know you need them to take initiative. This is crucial all the time, but especially when it comes to working well remotely, especially during a crisis.

If necessary, help your staff shift their mindset from putting in a fixed number of hours to producing excellent work with far less supervision. Your top performers have been working this way all along.

Become a model of good self-care.

Self-care was never meant for caregivers only. Taking care of yourself — physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually — is something you must tend to every day. The more hats you wear on the job and off, the more you must prioritize your self-care.

Yet too many of us regard self-care as indulgent or optional. It is neither.

Moreover, most of us underestimate the amount of effort it takes. But the return on investment is staggering. In times of a pandemic, our efforts may be lifesaving.

If you’re not sure where to start, start with the three pillars of physical well-being: sufficient sleep, proper nutrition, and physical activity: strength, cardio and stretching. Please don’t leave out stretching — it can help you wake up in the morning and help you sleep more soundly at night. Sound, sufficient sleep changes everything.

Finally, in times of crisis, be careful who you make the hero.

Recently I received two separate emails from two airlines I often fly (or did). Both emails were from the airlines’ respective CEOs — both were heartfelt and well-written. But I noticed one major difference: While one airline exulted the actions of the company, the other emphasized appreciation for the customer.

Thankfully, it was the one I liked.