COVID-19 is affecting all of us in one way or another. Whether our children are home from school, our favorite restaurants are closed, our communities are struggling, or we are forced to stay inside and away from friends and family. This pandemic is also impacting America’s workforce as millions are now working from homailto:media@anrlaw.commailto:media@anrlaw.comme. A new study by personal finance website WalletHub ranked states based on how well residents are able to work from home. According to the research, North Carolina ranked as the ninth best in the nation. Experts looked at aspects like how many people are working from home, the share of potential telecommuters, household internet access, and cybersecurity.

As North Carolina makes its way into the top ten list, I want to take a moment to share some information for employees and managers who are currently remote. As an attorney, expert in conflict resolution, and mediator, I’ve spent a lot of time in my professional career helping others through conflict. Of course, as most of us know, conflict can easily happen in the workplace. Conflict can still happen, and could be even more prevalent, as employees are working from home. Here are some suggestions for everyone when it comes to preventing and handling these types of situations in a remote environment.

  1. Recognize your coworker’s life at home:

    While some companies encourage us to stay professional and avoid personal questions, it may actually be helpful to know some personal things about your coworkers. This could include their family dynamic and what they’re dealing with at home during this time. If they have children who are home from school, they may be distracted and need extra time to get work done. Maybe their spouse was furloughed or laid off. If that’s the case, I’m sure the financial pressure is really on your coworker right now. As a divorce attorney, I also know that millions of Americans experience separation and/or divorce every year. If your coworker is part of that statistic, they may be struggling. If so, try to be understanding of the additional conflict in their life.

  2. Don’t take it personally and give grace

    We all have bad days and sometimes we say things we shouldn’t or things we don’t actually mean. During this time, the probability of those actions may increase. If it’s something small, don’t take it personally. This time of uncertainty and extreme stress is scary for all of us. Let’s give each other even more grace than usual.

  3. Limit communication through text

    If you’ve ever been misunderstood via email or text message, you probably can relate with this one. As someone who often talks with her hands, uses facial gestures, and varies the tone of voice, I get this. Sometimes it’s not what you say, but how you say it. The words you type in an email may not be taken well, however; if you say those exact same words via phone call, they could be taken much better. Utilize the technologically-advanced world we live in and suggest video conferencing for team meetings. Offer a video chat rather than phone call with a coworker. Seeing one another on camera will allow for more interaction and a better overall conversation.

  4. Offer support to your coworkers

    We all handle conflict differently. If your coworker is balancing a lot with their personal life and professional life, try to help them. Perhaps you have the ability to jump in and assist on a project or take a call for them. Maybe they just need some extra encouragement. Try to be that person, because you never know when you may need it too.

  5. Talk to management if there is a problem

    If you truly feel like the conflict generated from your job is out of control or unnecessary, talk to your boss or human resource manager. Now is definitely not the time to try to handle it yourself or approach a coworker about potential issues.

If you or your management team is interested in learning more about handling conflict in the workplace, I’m here to help. I’m currently offering consultations for businesses on how to best manage conflict during this time. Reach out to me via email: