I must say the effect of the coronavirus on the world economy has by far been the most detrimental and most interesting event in my entire career. Even as countries are grappling with the situation in terms of medical safety of their citizens and keeping their economy afloat at the same time, the staff working from home is the one that needs the greatest attention. Especially as this is also coupled with uncertainty around business continuity.
So what are the best ways in which an organisation can boost its employees’ morale and keep them engaged in times of stress? I say stress because for employees working from home, for one, there is barely any social interaction. Add to that the need to juggle meetings between working spouses who are also managing kids, pets and housework, all at the same time.
- Ensure and Assure
Over the last couple of weeks many of us have been confined to working from home. During pandemics such as the Covid-19, it is important that organisations keep a tab on their staffs’ health. Simple communication asking everyone to keep safe and providing a back-up to any staff member or their immediate kin that they live with in case they are affected by Covid-19 can assure employees of their safety and they will also feel cared for by the company.
- Provide whatever support you can
Many economies are receiving benefits from the government. Even as some are topping them up with their reserve fund, there are other smaller businesses which are forwarding the benefits directly to their staff. Whatever be your situation, communicate that well with your employees. Keep them informed if salaries are going to be delayed, just so they are well prepared to manage their expenditure.
In a situation where the organisation is generally doing great and can afford to contribute towards the welfare of others in the society, ensure you engage your staff too. It will be a great way to make them feel involved.
- Provide opportunities for staff to ask questions anonymously
Not all staff feel comfortable asking questions in a public forum. But that doesn’t mean they do not have their own doubts and apprehensions. Also, staff might have questions directed towards a specific leader of the organisation whom they may not wish to upset.
To encourage open conversations in such scenarios, it is a good idea to allow for anonymous questioning. Provide a link in your intranet where staff can safely put forth their questions. Answering these on a regular basis reinforces their faith in the organisation’s functioning.
- Be judicial about your updates
Strike a balance between your updates. Inform what’s important and in a positive note to keep employee mood upbeat. Inform them about how your business is performing during this time when compared to other organisations to highlight that this is a global issue and we are all in this together.. And if you do not have answers to their questions, then be clear about that too and let your staff know if and when you will answer their questions. But most importantly, through this entire communication, deliver nothing but facts.
- Treat your employees with empathy
Even as telecommuting is much encouraged in a few organisations, there have been a few weird cases that I’ve heard of since the Covid-19 outbreak. Some companies bowed down to micromanaging, asking their staff to keep their laptop/desktop cameras on to record their presence for eight hours of the day. Strangely enough, these eight hours did not include their restroom or lunch breaks.
Remember that when your staff work from home they are already bereft of any social engagement, including coffee breaks and walks. Their productivity automatically increases when they are working from the comfort of their home with little distraction. But for those who are new to this remote working concept, be empathetic for a few days until they get used to this new normal. Engage in a moderately hands-off manner to make them feel valued.
- Invest in Staff Development
Now is the time when you can focus on Learning & Development (L&D) initiatives for your staff. In addition it is a great way for teams to collaborate. This can be done two ways.
One, encourage online learning to help your staff upskill. MOOCs (massive open online courses like those offered by Coursera, Udemy, EdX, Futurelearn, etc.), online tutorials and certification programs are a boon during times of low work to keep your staff engaged and also help them enhance their knowledge base.
Simultaneously, it is also a healthy practice to encourage knowledge sharing sessions among teams. For instance, each of your top performing sales persons can share their best practices with their team, your technocrats can exchange their knowledge about the latest technology trends increasing efficiencies, and the most organised staff members can share how they manage their time effectively.
- Encourage conversations
This is a great time to engage your staff in various interactions. Organise games, communicate about birthdays and anniversaries, encourage remote lunch meetings and organise leadership connection sessions, where staff can chat with the leadership and share their ideas, problems, etc. It’s a great time to plan new ideas and programs.
- Add some swag
Bring back the office feel by asking your staff to dress up in company branded sweatshirts or jerseys every Friday! Organise working lunches or Friday cocktails where everyone meets up on a video conference and has a chat about generic things like, may be, new recipes during the lockdown, health tips to stay safe, or plays games. Organise everyday tea get-togethers for 15 minutes where everyone meets up online with a cup of tea… basically anything that can keep the mood upbeat, make staff feel connected, help them socialise just like the did in the office, and stay sane when everyone’s practically locked up within four walls.
I’m sure there are several brands out there that practicing at least a few of these employee engagement activities during the lockdown. If you have implemented any unique activities and practices, please so share it with us in the comments section. Your practice could help another brand in these distressed times.