The coronavirus took the wind out of the “sales” of many businesses. Things like struggling supply chains and a drop in customer spending hamstrung operations across the globe. Some businesses have managed to maintain activity by shifting to a remote workspace, but that, in and of itself, introduces more challenges, particularly when it comes to keeping up employee morale.
So, How do you inspire and motivate employees during difficult times? Hard times affect everyone. So, you need to encourage knowledge-sharing, work-life balance, establishing boundaries, and empowering your employees. Teams need to keep lines of communication open at all times. Recruiting flexible employees who can successfully work in any environment should be a priority going forward. In addition, do your very best to keep up with corporate traditions and remember to acknowledge work performed.
If your staff has struggled to maintain positivity and productivity, especially when working in a virtual workspace, here are some suggestions for the best ways to keep them motivated and inspired.
Check In Regularly
First and foremost, all business leaders must prioritize checking in with their staff on a regular basis. Remote work is extremely isolating, and it’s essential that teams keep lines of communication open at all times.
In addition, when asked, many employees have found that the struggles and stresses associated with COVID-19 have slowed their production and created a need for greater mental and emotional support from their employers.
The simple act of showing a genuine interest in your employees’ welfare can answer this need for support while simultaneously encouraging more productivity, creativity, and problem-solving. Schedule regular one-on-ones with each of your employees where you discuss more than just work. Talk about their feelings, the state of their mental health, and the importance of regular self-care. Make sure they know that they have your support no matter what they may need.
Share Productivity Tips
If you find that motivation and inspiration are lacking, look for ways to bring your team together to share knowledge and resources — particularly with a focus on reigniting productivity. For instance, you can:
• Encourage employees to share remote work productivity, apps, ideas, and tips in chat.
• Cut back on time spent attending virtual meetings. The vast majority of meetings can be handled through an email or announcement in your company’s chat.
• Provide company-approved guidelines and best practices for things like virtual work communication in order to help keep everyone connected and collaborating smoothly.
• Make sure employees are taking breaks. Many remote employees feel they have to be “on” at all times to be perceived as actually working. Ensure your staff knows that you not only support taking regular breaks throughout the day, but you expect it. A burnt-out employee isn’t efficient or engaged.
By encouraging this exchange of knowledge, you can take advantage of both the dissemination of the information itself as well as the positive repercussions of the interactions and teambuilding required to do so.
Empower Your Employees
While checking in is important, it should always be done in a manner that deliberately avoids micromanaging. Rather than treating the occasion as a chance to conduct a mini-performance review, you must use your employee interactions as opportunities to connect and encourage.
In the meantime, if your goal is to keep spirits lifted, it’s crucial that you also steer into the opposite of a centralized, micromanaging leadership style. You can do so by purposefully looking for ways to empower your employees.
This can be through having employees run meetings, asking for their genuine feedback, or even fully entrusting tasks and projects to them. For instance, if you’re engaged in content marketing, delegate associated tasks to your employees, such as running brainstorming meetings, conducting content research, and even structuring and creating the content itself. This will give them new responsibilities that can naturally reignite a sense of purpose and motivation in their work.
Hire the Right People
The pandemic is showing no sign of slackening soon — a fact that has pushed many companies, like Twitter, Shopify, and Upwork, to fully embrace a 100% remote office.
The long-term nature of this “new normal” means you likely will need to hire new employees during the crisis. When you do so, make sure to hire candidates who have demonstrated an ability to thrive in a remote workspace. By recruiting employees who can successfully work from home, you can naturally instill a sense of remote work involvement and success throughout your entire organization.
Fall Back on Reward and Recognition
Reward and recognition are age-old leadership tactics that can help to motivate and inspire even the most apathetic of employees. Fortunately, they’re also strategies that adapt easily to a virtual workspace.
If you find that your staff needs a bit of a push to regain their momentum, consider incentivizing everyone by offering a reward. For instance, you can compensate good work with anything from a simple gift card for Amazon or a favorite coffee shop — delivered remotely, of course — to a company-sponsored learning and development opportunity or even a remote workspace or tech upgrade.
Along with rewards, remember to acknowledge any work that you want to see emulated by your staff. Whether it’s timely attendance to remote meetings, excellent productivity, or high-quality work, highlighting the positive is an excellent way to encourage repeat behavior from other members of your team.
And though large rewards are always appreciated by employees, smaller forms of recognition are just as important. Take time to fire off an email, private message, or postcard (if you’re feeling fancy) to let an employee know you value their hard work. If you really want to highlight their efforts, make an announcement in company-wide chat so all employees have a chance to congratulate them.
Finally, do your very best to keep up with as many of your office traditions as possible. Continue to celebrate holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays. It may take some finagling to give them the remote treatment, but your employees will appreciate your attempts to keep their favorite workplace cultural events alive.
Encourage Boundaries and Balance
When your workforce is operating remotely, it can be difficult to provide many of the benefits that are present in a physical office space. However, there are still many remote-friendly perks that can be both emphasized and encouraged.
Things like flexible schedules, online professional development opportunities, and a focus on work-life balance can all provide a sense of commitment and involvement from your employees. Learning new skills can help to inspire them. The ability to structure their schedule to maximize their effectiveness can be a natural motivator. Even the simple fact that their employer encourages them to tap out and rest at times can lead to a natural reciprocation of attention and involvement.
Inspiring and Motivating Your Staff in Trying Times
The COVID-19 crisis has presented a slew of new challenges to most businesses. From remote work to struggling production and beyond, all managers are looking for ways to keep their businesses alive and well in the new normal.
When it comes to employee morale, in particular, it’s important that every leader takes the initiative to both inspire and motivate their staff. This can be done through a variety of different techniques, including:
• Consistent communication.
• Sharing of productivity tips.
• Empowering employees.
• Hiring quality remote-work candidates.
• Embracing recognition and reward.
• Keeping workplace traditions alive.
• Encouraging work-life balance and boundaries.
If you can utilize these tools effectively, they can spark fresh interest from your staff. They can also help to maintain momentum and productivity from your team, even as they navigate the unique, difficult, and challenging times that lie ahead.