It is a challenging time for all of us at the moment. COVID-19 has changed how we work, live and relate to one another.

With many of us working remotely, certain challenges can arise, from social isolation to financial anxiety, balancing family and home life to adapting and pivoting as a business in these times dubbed “the new normal.”

At our webinar last year with Graeme Cowan, leadership resilience expert, author and R U OK? Director: “How to build resilient, caring and inspired teams,” 27% of respondents cited “loss of income” as one of the biggest challenges they are currently facing as a result of COVID-19, with “pivoting as a business” and “trying to balance work and home life” following a close second at 19%.

So, how can you get through these times together as a business and come out on the other side stronger? Particularly with teams so dispersed? According to Graeme, it all starts with care – and there are three elements to this:

  • Self-care
  • Crew care
  • Red-zone care

It’s about care for ourselves, care for others and being able to identify when someone needs help. Graeme believes that when we focus on all three of these elements of care, it promotes growth, increases resilience and reduces risk.

“The more connected we are with one another, the more we feel like we belong. The safer we feel, the more we are encouraged to be open and honest with one another during these times (i.e. there are no idea killers!), and when we work together towards a shared future, we feel more empowered,” says Graeme.

How to build resilience and connection with your teams

Great teams have a sense of purpose, complementary strengths, they are collaborative and supportive and there is psychological safety – it’s a safe space in which to share ideas, says Graeme.

According to a quote from Amy Edmondson, Professor of Leadership and Management, Harvard Business School the secret to building more resilient teams lies in having: “a team climate characterised by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.”

“There are many ways you can stay connected with your remote teams, one such way is through daily check-ins,” says Graeme. This can be as simple as doing a daily virtual stand up and asking your team members the following four questions:

  1. R U OK? What are you grateful for?
  2. What did you get done yesterday?
  3. What is your number one goal for today?
  4. Are there any impediments to you achieving your goal?

Make sure everyone has a chance to speak and that they answer each question openly and honestly, says Graeme, as it’s a great way to stay connected and grow together as a team.

When it comes to building resilience as a team, it’s about:

  • Facing down reality
  • Finding meaning
  • Being resourceful and acting on it*.

*Building Personal and Organisational Resilience by Harvard Business Review

How to support a teammate in distress

Another key factor in building resilience in a team is identifying when someone is in distress and needs help. Graeme calls it the: “Red Zone Care”. This can be particularly challenging when we’re all working in such remote environments and missing that face-to-face contact every day. But there are certain signs we can look out for and ways we can support someone in need. Graeme calls it the: ICARE philosophy:

  • I: Identify. Is your teammate acting differently? Have they been sad, moody or down lately? Ask them: R U OK?
  • C: Compassion. Put yourself in their shoes and show support. It could be as simple as having a casual chat in a private environment. Listen to their concerns and encourage them to seek help. Check in on them a few days later to see how they are going.
  • A: Access experts. If your teammate confirms they are struggling – let them know what support services are available. Lifeline, their GP or their work EAP.
  • R: Revitalising work. Working and staying connected with the team can aid in their recovery.
  • E: Exercise. Inspire your teammate to start moving with enjoyable activities. Set small goals. Create daily exercise rituals.

 “Be caring. Be helpful. Go for the growth zone.”

To learn more about Graeme’s work, you can visit

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