It’s been almost a year since we all started working from home. An endless whirlwind of sweatpants, video conference calls and virtual happy hours (that — let’s be honest — are getting progressively less happy as the months drag on).
For those of us privileged enough to manage teams, it’s become a constant battle to keep our people motivated, uplifted and productive. And it’s not like it’s their fault… We’re all living in an era of social isolation, rampant uncertainty and growing anxiety. It’s hard enough to just keep it together from day to day, let alone be a productive member of society.
So how can you continue to boost employee morale and engagement, even when we’re all working from home? We’ve got a few tips for you!
Consistent communication is a key component to good leadership in normal circumstances, but it’s even more critical in times such as these. When people aren’t getting the same kind of face-to-face interaction they’d normally get while in the office, you need to do whatever you can to make up for it.
When it comes to working from home, that means you need to over-communicate. Don’t assume that people know what your expectations, goals and priorities are. Hold daily standups, weekly status updates and put “office hours” on the calendar so your employees have a dedicated time to ask questions.
When your teams are feeling isolated and disconnected, it’s more important than ever to keep those lines of communication. When employees lose that kind of access to your thought process, they’ll start to panic. So make sure you’re staying in touch frequently, and keeping your people updated as much as you possibly can.
Don’t Be Stingy with Appreciation
On a similar note, you need to be open-handed with the kudos these days. Nobody needs a Scrooge for a boss right now, okay? Toss out compliments in one-on-ones, in team meetings, in group chats, on social media… Have fun with it!
Let your people know how much you appreciate them, their work and their dedication to the company. The best part? When you start doing this, you’ll begin to create a culture of gratitude that spreads like wildfire. We started a #CheersFromPeers channel on our internal messaging platform at TelNet, and within minutes of going live, it erupted with public recognition and praise.
Think about how much more uplifted your team will feel when everyone’s throwing compliments and appreciation at each other all the time!
Host a Happy Hour
I know I began this article by saying that happy hours are getting less fun… But that just means you have to get creative! Come prepared with a game, an icebreaker or a conversation topic. If you’re able, have lunch delivered to everyone’s homes. (Five-dollar-Hot-n-Ready, anyone?)
If you’re all having a particularly tough day, start with a guided meditation or some yoga. Have everyone go around and tell everyone what they appreciate most about each person on the call. Being touchy-feely might not be your thing, but people need that kind of emotional support right now. And the more you do it, the easier it will be.
Just make sure that laughter is a part of the itinerary. We all need a safe space to come and connect with other people, but we also really need a good laugh these days. (Try asking everyone to bring a picture of themselves from high school. It’s a really good way to get everyone to open up and start giggling!)
Gamify Your Goals
We’re all fighting a lack of motivation these days. As the leader, it’s your job to find new and interesting ways to keep your people firing on all cylinders. One of the easiest (and most fun) ways to do it is to gamify your department’s goals. Make it a competition! Give away prizes!
If you’re in the sales department, who can make the most cold calls this week? In HR? Who can come up with the most creative icebreaker for this week’s happy hour? Customer service? Who can get the quickest ticket resolution time this week?
Now, I’m not asking you to pit your employees against each other. Your focus should be on engagement. Keep a tally or draw one of those ridiculous thermometer gauges to show where everyone’s at in the “race.” Igniting some friendly competition on your team can spark some much needed energy and improve productivity and morale all around.
Show Some Compassion
This is basically table stakes for good leadership, but it’s especially important to emulate today. The pandemic is raging, natural disasters are dismantling entire swaths of the country, and political turmoil and civil unrest have been simmering for months. It’s a lot to deal with.
With all the resulting apprehension and anxiety, you need to be a compassionate and understanding leader. Don’t forget that your employees are human beings whose life extends beyond the responsibilities of their job. It’s likely that they will be negatively impacted by this pandemic in one form or another. Be respectful of their humanity. Give them the necessary time off to deal with health issues, family responsibilities and unexpected interruptions.
And don’t be afraid to show some of your own humanity. You don’t have to divulge your deepest secrets, but talking openly about your own feelings and fears will make it easier for everyone to be open with you. It’s all about psychological safety, people.
Use the Tools Available to You
You’re reading this online right now, which means you’re on a phone or laptop with access to the internet — and that means you have absolutely no excuse for not virtually engaging your teams.
Pretty much every business out there today has some sort of digital tool for virtual communication. Whether it’s Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, Slack, Zoom or Google Meet, you’ve got a tool at your fingertips for connecting with your team. Use it!
Worst case scenario, you can always go old school and give someone a regular ol’ phone call.
At the end of the day, the best way to boost employee morale and engagement (even when we’re working remotely) is to show that you care. So remember: over-communicate; be generous with the compliments; host a virtual party, yoga retreat or venting session; gamify your department’s goals to keep your team energized; recognize the humanity of your employees and show some compassion for what they’re going through; and of course, use the tools that you’ve already got on hand.
Trust me, you can do this. And your teams will love you for it.