With stay-at-home restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic still very much in place, companies of all types and sizes continue to operate in remote mode. But many weeks in, the novelty of being able to work remotely has largely worn off for most people—leading to deflated morale and loss of productivity. Fortunately, there are several ways to reverse the tide—and most of them apply to a remote work environment in general.
1. Acknowledge the situation and be flexible
Employees will feel much better when management acknowledges that the current situation is challenging, and that business is not operating “as usual.” Be as willing to make allowances for, and as flexible as possible about, employees’ needs, like the need to supervise children’s remote learning and schoolwork while simultaneously working. The last thing employees should be forced to grapple with now is pressure about getting their job done or fear that a supervisor will be upset because a child is clamoring for attention during a virtual meeting.
Already conveyed this message to employees when state lockdowns began? It’s worth repeating—again and again. One leader at a company E-Complish knows sends a weekly “acknowledgement and flexibility” memo to the members of his team—whose morale remains high in part because of it.
2. Keep communications lines open
The old saying, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you,” does not apply in times of crisis, especially such an unprecedented one as the pandemic. Employees will resent being kept in the dark about developments, no matter how negative. Hearing rumors and being unable to confirm (or deny) the truth is also upsetting. So be up front in conveying information, whether by phone, in virtual meetings, or via email.
Similarly, let employees know that management remains accessible to them, and that they should not hesitate to reach out to their supervisor whenever they believe it is necessary. Some supervisors maintain a regular “check-in” schedule, once a day or once every few days. Others encourage staff to text or otherwise establish contact with them whenever the need arises.
3. Talk up self-care
Many employees will “overdo it” when working from home because it is difficult to separate home from office, or because they believe they need to do so. This can dampen morale and increase the potential for suffering burnout.
While options for taking a break are limited with stay-at-home orders in place, employees should still be encouraged to enjoy a break or two during the day, just as they would if leaving the office for lunch or heading to the break room for a few minutes. Urge them to take a (socially distanced) walk around the neighborhood, sit in their back yard or on their balcony for a few minutes, or retreat to another room in their home to interact with family members or do something else (like read a book or catch a few minutes of a television show) for a few minutes.
4. Foster virtual team bonding
Keep employees connected, wherever they may be, through events such as virtual lunches and happy hours and online game-playing or workout sessions. Creativity can—and should—run wild here. A team at one company held an online contest where each member submitted a baby photo of himself or herself, and everyone guessed whose photo was whose. Team members at another company were asked to wear funny hats to the weekly virtual happy hour; the winner, selected by popular vote, received an Amazon gift certificate.
At a third company, team members choose a weekly theme and have a zoom session to show how they execute it during a social hour. One week’s theme was “Tiger Team Tuesday”; employees wore tiger masks or makeup while others posed with oversized plush animals or other depictions of the beasts.
5. Make meetings fun
Virtual team bonding can also occur during the first few minutes of scheduled online meetings. Instead of diving right into business, ask everyone to share something—such as the names of television shows and movies they have been watching, what they have been cooking in quarantine, and the like.
Creativity can also rule here. During one online meeting, the members of the team whose supervisor sends the weekly messages discussed above were asked to hold up their coffee cup or container of their beverage of choice, to find the funniest one (it was a large pitcher, used as a joke). At another of this team’s meetings, everyone shared their funniest “working at home” anecdote.
At E-Complish, we are doing our best to support our team by boosting their morale—and to support our customers through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. We are here when our clients need us. Click here to connect with us for system notices, maintenance, and emergencies.