Acknowledge and address uncertainty
Talk directly to ECRs about the things that you have control over. State clearly whether funding and deadlines can be extended, for how long, and under what conditions. Advocate for clear institutional policies when needed. Work with ECRs to develop alternate research plans or timelines for pandemic-related research disruptions and lower productivity. This may include changing research projects to activities that are feasible during the pandemic, or an “exit strategy” for when labs return to more normal operating procedures.
Clearly state how your expectations have changed due to the pandemic, especially for those with childcare and caregiving responsibilities. Offer positive feedback and constructive criticism to encourage ECRs, and clarify these new expectations. ECRs want to know when they’re performing well – positive feedback is motivating. When needed, work with ECRs to plan short-term progress goals (e.g. next week, in two weeks, in one month).