As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps across the globe, the world has had to rapidly adjust how we live. We’ve had to restrict activities we enjoy, find ways to maintain healthy relationships, manage the pressures of working from home and even learn how to homeschool our children.
According to the World Health Organization, the main psychological impact to date is elevated rates of stress or anxiety. These sudden changes in circumstances caused by isolation and quarantine have had a detrimental impact on many people, with levels of loneliness and depression on the rise.
While lockdown restrictions may be partially lifted, the reality is that many businesses may continue to run operations from home in the long term to ensure staff safety. So, how can business leaders help their teams stay connected, motivated and happy while working from home?
Protect your team’s mental health
‘Like many businesses, our world transformed almost instantly’, says Melanie Astbury, HR Manager from Cartridge Save. ‘Within a few short days, our in-house team was working entirely from home and our warehouse staff was adapting operational output, while adhering to distancing protocols.
‘We were launched into isolation, and removed from our routines and colleagues. Combined with the fear and anxiety caused by COVID-19, it’s understandable that many people have found the adjustment difficult.
‘As business leaders, our aim is to ensure our team has appropriate help and support; that their worries and concerns are listened to, and that we help alleviate their fears where possible.
‘As a management team, we have done all we can to create a culture of compassion and understanding. Our colleagues know we’re here for them if they need to talk and that we are doing all we can to create the safest working environment for them.’
Giving your team the support they need should always be your primary concern, but you also need to recognise that it can’t be all work and no play.
For many people it’s the liveliness of the environment they work in, their colleagues and the fun they’ll be missing, so how can you ensure your team stays connected and still has fun while working from home?
Top tips for boosting morale while working remotely.
Stay in regular contact
At a time when isolation and quarantine is an unavoidable part of everyday life, we need to make sure we keep talking. These measures can help show your team that you’re here for them and can help reduce feelings of isolation:
- Keep regular meetings in the diary and switch to video chat. This will help maintain structure, and is a great way to keep in touch and grab some face-time with your team.
- PDPs (personal development plans) and 1-2-1s are still important. It may feel like the world has stopped, but helping your team achieve their goals will help them stay focused on their development.
- It doesn’t always have to be about work. Giving someone a call to see how they’re doing on a personal level can really boost their mood
- Create connections. We’re all missing those funny, daily connections that we have with our work mates, so if their job allows, they can create an office atmosphere by keeping video chat running in the background while they work
These are difficult times and, while it’s important to acknowledge that, a sense of humour is important for building solidarity and lifting people’s spirits.
So many businesses have taken to social media to show how their injecting fun into the mundane, including:
- Fancy dress Zoom calls. We’ve seen dozens of people sharing their homemade costumes. Holding your own fancy dress day is a great way to show how you are willing to go the extra mile to inject some fun into your employees’ days spent in lockdown. Just make sure you don’t get your meetings confused and turn up for an important client call dressed as a Power Ranger!
- Dress up Fridays. Dress down Friday doesn’t mean much when people are living in their pyjamas. So why not re-brand to ‘dress-up Fridays’? You can don your most glamorous attire, end the week on a high and even share a post-work drink together.
- Quiz nights. Quizzes are a fantastic way to inject some fun into the day, whether you’re having a lunchtime Kahoot session with your teammates or a full company quiz night. They’re super easy to organise and are perfect for bringing people together.
Rewards and downtime
Small gestures go a long way for improving people’s moods and reminding them they feel valued. Things like remembering people’s birthdays and hosting the occasional virtual party at the end of the week will ensure that all employees feel cared for.
‘We’re a very close team, says Astbury. ‘It’s important to us that we’re able to maintain a sense of community, friendship and support during this time. We may be apart, but we’re certainly in this together.
‘The first thing we did was to send each team member a box of chocolates to say thank you for being so accommodating as we moved into lockdown. We also had a big party planned, so we decided to change our ‘Spring Night Out’ to our ‘Spring Night In’ and bought takeaways for our team and their families to enjoy. We encouraged everyone to take pictures having fun at home and created a photo album to share with our team.
‘While life is a little miserable right now, we want to stay connected and share memories of how we came together during this time, so we have more isolation garden parties and events planned with our team. It’s a great way to spark laughter and conversation, and give us all something to look forward to and to stay connected during this time.’
Recognise small wins
Having your efforts noticed and appreciated by a manager will always boost morale. It’s even more important when you’re working remotely, as it can be less obvious to colleagues what their teammates have been working on. Without anyone there to say ‘thanks’ and ‘well done’ it can easily feel like hard work has gone unnoticed.
Never miss an opportunity to recognise your staff when they’ve done a good job. While you can do this over email, they are sure to feel more appreciated if you take the time to give them a video call so you can say thanks face-to-face.
If you have any communication platforms, such as Slack, shout out their achievements in a group so everyone can see what has been achieved. Not only will this boost the individuals morale but will help remind staff how valuable their work is to the success of the business.
With many workers struggling with anxiety, motivation, and practical considerations, such as childcare, it is important to be flexible and let staff find ways to adapt to the new normal.
People are bound to have good days and bad days and no two people will experience lockdown in the same way. Making sure you are in tune with your team’s mental well-being will allow you to manage demands and expectations of them.
Remember, these are not ordinary circumstances and everyone needs time to adjust. Make sure you work with people individually to find a way to schedule workloads and discover a way of working that suits you both.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg.