As offices and other places of business across the US slowly begin reopening, many employees will return to very different workplaces than they left behind in March. Others won’t return at all, choosing instead to remain working safely at home for the foreseeable future. Or in some instances, indefinitely. In any case, there is likely to be a lot more uncertainty in the coming months which can lead to lower productivity and higher anxiety amongst your team.
How do you keep your employees focused and motivated amidst the chaos of temperature checks, trimmed down resources, shift schedules, and widespread teams? We’ve compiled some tips to help.
Regardless of the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on your business, you still need to show up and be the guiding light your team needs. Employees look to leadership for reassurance in stressful situations. If your emotional energy is all over the place, you won’t set the example they need to stay focused.
Maintain a calm, positive presence to ensure your team remains confident in their ability to do the work. Creating an environment that meets your employees’ emotional needs will put them at ease and augment productivity.
Many businesses have had to swiftly pivot in light of COVID-19. If you’ve had to make substantial changes to the way you conduct business, make sure your employees understand those changes and the drivers behind them.
“When things change, we tend to make mistakes or revert back to the old habits the change is supposed to remedy,” writes Sylvie Woolf, Director of Client Service at talent management company ClearCompany. “We may feel inadequate or non-productive, leading to ego deflation. This is where management and leaders should step in.”
To avoid the pitfalls of rapid and unexpected business change, establish a process for ensuring your employees understand why that change is necessary. Clearly communicate (realistic) individual objectives and how they contribute to top-level company goals to keep everyone aligned. Check-in on progress regularly and adapt your approach as needed. Be transparent and keep lines of communication open.
Understandably, many have struggled personally with the shock of a global pandemic. Feelings of being overwhelmed, isolation, and fear have run rampant for the past 3+ months and likely won’t evaporate overnight. Understand that every person’s situation is different, and as such, getting back to “normal” may look different from employee to employee.
Allow your team to ease back into a normal work routine. Parents with children returning to daycare may need more flexibility around scheduled drop-off and pick-up times. Older team members not comfortable commuting on public transit during rush hour may wish to skew their hours to avoid crowds. Vulnerable workers may want to continue working remotely.
Offer your employees a sympathetic ear and more autonomy in these unprecedented times to prove you truly value them as professionals and individuals.
Regular rewards and recognition remind employees that they are appreciated. While it may be difficult to offer extrinsic incentives at this time due to budget cuts, getting creative with intrinsic incentives can go a long way in motivating your team.
According to bravowell.com, “Intrinsic rewards are psychological rewards that employees get from doing meaningful work and performing it well.” This can include giving employees more autonomy, investing in their learning, development or well-being, or providing more opportunities for advancement.
For optimal results, ensure rewards and recognition are judicious. Don’t just incentivize the completion of the work. Lisa Lai, a business advisor and coach, recommends deploying rewards and incentives throughout a project’s lifecycle. “You need moments of celebration,” she says. “That’s how you create sustained engagement.”
We’re all in uncharted territory. There is no one-size-fits-all method of getting back on track. It’s up to individual business leaders to take an interest in their employees as both professionals and people, understand what motivates or inspires them, and then put that understanding to work in the form of processes, guidelines, and incentives. Those who do so successfully will have a much easier time bouncing back.
How are you incentivizing and inspiring your team as you try to return to “business as usual”? Join the conversation on Twitter or Linkedin using the links below.