HR and Recruiting

Boosting employee morale during difficult times

Written by Kate Lopaze

Along with the myriad other issues facing companies right now, employee morale is one of the biggest challenges to living in the new normal. Employees might feel stressed about everything that’s going on in the world and their lives, and isolated because they’re working remotely. If you’re looking for ways to get everyone in a better headspace while they’re working from home, there are some plans and activities that can make it easier to keep your team engaged and productive.

Keep (or consider) Summer Fridays

Not every organization or industry has a Summer Friday program (where employees adjust hours during the week, and have half- or full-day Fridays off during the summer months). If you have a business model that would allow non-essential employees to adjust their hours during the summer, now is a great time to do it. People may not be doing as much traveling this summer, but simply having a block of time every week for taking a nap, going out to a park or the beach, spending time with the family, or whatever they want to do is something that employees can look forward to—and use to be more focused and productive when they get back to the inbox and Zoom meetings.

If you used to have them but not this year because things have changed, consider bringing them back. Your employees might not be in the office, but they almost certainly need the same kinds of breaks they had before things changed.

Blast the successes

Without the usual chances to gather in an office for meetings or celebrations, it can be easy to forget to talk about the successes your team is having or sharing key results. When good things are happening, be vocal about it—email blasts, weekly or monthly roundup meetings, or other mass communication methods will work. Some offices have some employees returning while others work remotely, which can make things feel disjointed. Others are still almost entirely having employees work from home. Either way, that’s a lot of disconnection. Coming together to have a virtual toast to the positive things going on can help make everyone feel like a team again.

Keep on checking in

Now that the new normal has been going for a few months now, it’s easy to let things slide into a status quo, with everyone hunkering down at their home workstations. It’s important for everyone in the organization to be checking in regularly with their direct reports, from the top down.

The tone is also crucial here—managers should make sure their reports know that they care about well-being as well as work tasks. A little extra care and empathy can go a long way right now, even it’s just a few minutes of, “So really, how have you been doing,” before diving into the usual agenda.

Be creative about virtual events

One of the hallmarks of professional life is the slightly awkward, well-meaning group events like pizza lunches, group happy hours, celebrations, or offsite events like picnics or bowling nights. Even when nobody’s in the office, it’s still possible to do fun, social things. They just need a slightly different approach. Maybe your organization sponsors virtual dance or yoga lessons. Maybe it’s a Zoom happy hour, or a virtual talent show featuring the pets and kids that wander onscreen during meetings anyway. Find virtual classes that teach painting, or crafting or something else people can do remotely.

Be vocal about your reopening plans

It may seem like every time states come up with reopening plans, things start getting chaotic again. You may not have a concrete timeline for reopening besides “later this year” or “not likely before early next year,” but you should still be (over)communicating about this to employees. Silence feeds anxiety when people don’t know what’s coming next for their jobs, and knowing that you have a plan (even if the timing is still a little TBD) helps. Weekly updates on what you’re doing, what you’re expecting (at the moment), and the steps that still need to happen before things are ready to reopen ensure that everyone understands what’s going on.

At every level, people feel a little uncertain about what our workplaces will look like in the near or far future. Ensuring that employee morale is the main consideration for your organization makes that transition a little less challenging.

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.