This time last year, all of us were taken aback by the havoc caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many employees transitioned to remote work in a sudden attempt to stop the spread of the virus, and it hasn't been easy. Some are still trying to find the right balance between their professional and personal lives. Others are trying to overcome the fear, anxiety, and isolation that this situation has caused. And that's not including those employees who have caught the virus themselves.
Based on research from SHRM, 65% of HR professionals anticipated that employee morale would be a challenge during the pandemic. But no one could predict how long this would go on and how it would change work environments around the world forever. During difficult times like these when so many things are changing, it's necessary to support employees with everything they need to keep their morale high. Here are some tips to help you improve employee morale in your organization despite this ongoing situation:
Improve employee health initiatives
The pandemic has revealed just how vital healthcare is, and we can no longer afford to exclude mental health support as part of that. Try offering online mental health resources to your employees in the form of videos, podcasts, or apps to spread information and awareness about topics like anxiety, stress management, eating disorders, depression, and more. This can help reduce stigma and encourage your employees to seek help if they are experiencing any symptoms that interfere with their well-being and life. You can also provide them with a list of trusted mental health counselors who offer telehealth appointments.
If you don't offer organization-sponsored medical insurance, this is also a great time to introduce it. This gives employees some peace of mind that they can seek help if they get sick. If you do already have insurance benefits, be sure to send out a step-by-step post on how employees can use it in case they or their dependents test positive for COVID-19. Now that vaccines are beginning to hit the market in large numbers, you can either offer small incentives to every employee who gets vaccinated or cover their vaccination costs altogether.
Before the pandemic, workplace flexibility was a privilege that was offered by very few organizations. However, the "new normal" conditions have forced every organization to rethink their workplace practices to accommodate flexibility, which has now become a necessity. More organizations are beginning to allow employees to decide how, when, and where to work—and many will keep these measures in place after the pandemic ends. Some of these measures include four-day workweeks, flexible working schedules, unlimited or flexible holiday policies, hybrid workplace models, and no-meeting days, all designed to help employees find a better balance between their professional and personal lives. To implement practices like this, it's important that employees are clear about their work expectations to prevent the possible downsides of flexible working like procrastination or missed deadlines.
Mindfulness boosts our emotional intelligence, allowing us to better manage our negative feelings and thoughts whenever we're overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious. It helps us to be completely aware of everything happening around us in the present without dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Research has found that mindfulness builds resilience by helping us process our emotions without getting too caught up in them. To help your employees be more mindful, encourage them to perform simple mindfulness exercises. If possible, gather your team together, give a quick introduction to the benefits of mindfulness, and demonstrate the exercises yourself to help them understand better.
Building a culture of gratitude in your organization can do wonders for employee morale. Even just a simple compliment about an employee's work performance can go a long way towards reassuring them that the pandemic has not made the quality of their work suffer. This will help employees overcome performance anxiety and look forward to coming to work every day. Encourage managers and team members to exchange uplifting compliments and feedback regularly. Make every employee aware of all the positive developments happening at your workplace. Maintaining a virtual gratitude board where everyone writes what they are thankful for is a great idea for remote teams who may not connect as often as those who work in an office setting.
Last but not least, touch base with your employees regularly to understand their concerns. Some of them may be buried under their to-do list or so busy with meetings that they haven't been able to start that project you asked them for. Others may not have the technology they need to be more productive, or they may feel lonely and isolated working from home. All of these issues are important, and addressing them properly will boost morale across the board.
In addition to this, try to help employees stay connected with their coworkers as well. At the end of a meeting, encourage your employees to switch on their cameras and discuss lighter topics. For example, each of your employees can share updates about their family or pets, the things they do to kill boredom, easy recipes they've relied on, and more.
Working amidst a global pandemic is challenging and stressful for your employees. Tweaking your organizational policies to accommodate their needs can go a long way towards keeping your employees' spirits high. Not to mention that many of these policies will continue to be relevant long after the pandemic ends.
What are the strategies that you've been following to improve employee morale? Share your answers in the comments section below!