Employee morale is one of those talent management factors that can be difficult to control yet has a huge impact on a team. In times of uncertainty or change, such as the current public health crisis we are all facing, morale can take a hit. And it stands to reason why. We all have a lot on our minds right now. Many employees are dealing with a disruption to the way they work, shifting into a remote work capacity or getting used to new tools now needed to do their jobs. They're probably feeling disconnected from their team or adrift with being stuck inside every day. All of that stress can all combine into a drop in team or company morale. So while times are tough, what can you do to help support your team and give morale a boost, even if it has to be done remotely?
Keeping morale high is more important than ever
Employee morale, like employee engagement, has a direct impact on productivity. Morale often encompasses the overall feeling of job satisfaction, attitude, and confidence an employee feels at work. However, the COVID-19 crisis has probably shaken a lot of that confidence right now. It's hard to feel positive at your job when everything around you is negative. And when morale declines, it can be hard for employees to focus or put their best effort forward. Now we'll give you some tactics to try and help with this problem but it's also good to bear in mind that life is challenging in many ways right now. Employees may just need flexibility and compassion rather than a push to be as productive as they normally would be. Let your team know you're in this together and that their managers can be a resource to support them in any way they need.
Eight ways to improve employee morale
What can you do to bring that employee energy and positivity back up, especially with everyone working from home? Let's explore a few options.
1. Above all, over-communicate: For better or (often) worse, there’s a lot of gossip and rumors that swirl within an organization. So-and-so might be leaving. So-and-so might be getting promoted. We had a bad month. We had an amazing quarter. People talk about all these things before they are actually announced. If you want to get out in front of some of these topics, you need to build open communication -- and trust! -- with your employees, which keeps morale higher. If there are any changes or challenges on the horizon, share it with your employees sooner rather than later since they're probably already worrying about it. Better yet, send all-staff emails of encouragement and support even if there's nothing else to report just so your remote team feels more connected as a company and less alone.
2. Let employees work on change-related problems: If the business model is shifting, or there are generally “down times” right now, let employees work on solutions to the problems the business is facing, regardless of rank. Letting employees shape a near-term strategic approach is a huge way to boost morale. It helps them feel like their working on something important and it allows them to potentially think about other topics than their day-to-day workload. Better yet, it can help them tap into their own creativity which might be running low these days.
3. Increase flexibility: A lot of parents are home with their kids at the moment, trying to figure out how to balance their work days. It can be helpful to move away from a strict 9 to 5 schedule and let employees know they can work to a schedule that better fits their day so long as their main tasks and projects are being completed. You can try a rule that everyone needs to be reachable by phone or email during normal business hours but if an employee needs to write that report in the evening rather than in the morning, let them do it. Just make sure to set clear expectations about what still needs to be accomplished, regardless of what time it happens.
4. Virtual hang outs or happy hours: You might have team events throughout the year in the office, why stop now? These virtual events are actually all the rage for team-building these days. Set up a time to get the whole team online and don't talk about work. Instead, let the team get to know each other better outside of the physical spaces we normally work within. Show people your hanging kitchen garden or give them a tour of your apartment. The idea is to build camaraderie and connection even in a remote capacity. These events can be done during the day as a virtual coffee break or in the evenings as a happy hour.
5. Unexpected rewards and recognition: Who doesn't like feeling appreciated? Try different ways of showing employees their efforts are noticed and recognized even through such challenging times. E-gift cards are always a safe bet to be a crowd pleaser but it can also be smaller tokens like personal emails of praise or maybe ending a little earlier on Fridays. Show employees that they are succeeding as a team, even if it can’t always be financial or bonus-driven.
6. Non-work events on video: Odds are, you have a lot of talent on your team you might not even know about. Let an employee teach yoga or knitting or home brewing or whatever else they might be skilled at. Some companies have been doing this, globally. Trello has been doing this on Fridays for a while, actually -- knowledge-sharing on non-work topics -- and has seen a large morale boost too! This can be a fun way to help your team bond and you might even learn a new skill or two.
7. Dog party (or cat, or assorted pet): This is a great thing to do once we're back in real offices too. Set up pet days where employees can bring their dogs to work. In a remote setting, you could have a pet friendly meeting where everyone lets their cats parade in front of the video camera or has their rabbits cuddled in their arms while presenting their work. Everyone loves animals and they can be a good way to help decrease stress and improve humour.
8. Shared Spotify playlists: When you're all alone every day, music can be an important tool to keep your spirits up. Let people work to certain music and add to those playlists for their co-workers. They can either share their own personal lists or it can be a team building activity where your team builds one together of everyone's favourite songs. This fosters a shared responsibility and helps people get to know each other’s working styles even better. And you never know, you might discover a great playlist you want to keep even back in the office.
Morale might be shaken but it can be repaired
Change is rarely fun for employees and sometimes, like right now, it can be down right frightening. Everyone's work environment is shifting and low morale is a common symptom of that kind of disruption. It's important for managers and team members alike to boost their compassion and empathy right now in order to support each other through these challenging times. Try to come up with outside the box (or inside the house) ways to let your employees know they are still a team and no one is alone. Keeping spirits up and resilience high will serve you well even after the health crisis has passed. So spend some extra time letting your team know they are all in this together. Even if that support has to come at a distance.