There is no successful company that hasn't faced its share of hard times. Whether it be an exodus of leadership, a shift in goals and priorities, or a lack of resources, there will be times your employees will find themselves overwhelmed, confused, demotivated, and on edge. Supporting staff during difficult times is par for the course — now more than ever. But knowing how to motivate employees during difficult times can boost workplace morale and make it easier for them to face personal, professional, or social challenges.

2020's global COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it many problems. Declining workplace morale is a new hurdle for managers and HR professionals. The subject of maintaining employee morale during these hard times is of paramount importance as disengaged employees cost companies up to $350 billion a year in lost productivity. 

As humans, we are able to handle change but do not do so well with uncertainty. As we come to terms with our new normal, it is time for leadership to regroup and reignite enthusiasm amongst teams and employees. Below are five actionable ideas to increase employee morale and bring your team back to top productivity. 

Increase workplace morale by encouraging candid
conversations about where the company is heading

Uncertainty can weigh heavily on your team. One practical way of supporting staff during difficult times is to be open and honest about the direction the company is heading in.

In times such as these, it is important to carry along every member of the team by letting them know vital details about the company's position, priorities, and strategies put in place to stabilize and thrive through this unpredictable season. This gives employees a feeling of control, direction, and purpose as they begin their work every day.

As a leader at this time, being transparent in your decision-making and communicating clearly cannot be overemphasized. It ensures that members of your team understand the tasks to be done and why they are essential. 

As you lead, it is also crucial to listen more than you speak. Taking in feedback from other executives and members of your team lets you know what is going on with them at home and work. Open communication will allow you to assess the level of turbulence in different areas of their lives and the business, focus on the most critical issues, and show your employees that their voices count.

Provide counseling sessions to motivate employees during difficult times

While having conversations with your employees, and collecting feedback go a long way to increase employee morale, a better initiative is to provide optional counseling sessions for employees who request them during these times. 

As the use of emergency mental health hotlines rises steadily amidst the pandemic, Singapore-based hotel-booking platform, RedDoorz is providing online counseling sessions led by certified counselors and psychologists to its staff and employees who work at partner hotels. Amit Saberwal, CEO of RedDoorz, says he hopes to "spread positivity and optimism" within the travel and hospitality industries, which have experienced "major disruptions" as a result of the novel coronavirus.

You can take a page out of RedDoorz's book and bring in trained professionals, or create small peer groups to reach teammates who seem to be struggling. You can give employees access to meditation apps and also share online mental health resources. Most importantly, you can encourage leaders in your business to openly talk about their mental health as a way to get employees to open up and unburden themselves. If you can get your employees to speak honestly to you, then you can then find better ways to support them.

Nearly 40% of employees say their company has not asked them how they're doing since the pandemic began. Employees in this group are 38% more likely to say their mental health has declined since the onset of the pandemic.  

Supercharge workplace morale by streamlining your workflow and celebrating every win

During this time, it's important to celebrate every achievement, regardless of how small. Your employees need confirmation that their work is valued and making a tangible impact.

Each week, you can highlight at least one achievement. This could be anything from higher email open rates to meeting an important project deadline. You'll soon find that calling out little wins boosts morale, productivity, and confidence across your team.

This is also a good time to streamline your team’s workflow and set clear priorities by taking off all unnecessary tasks so employees can focus on the most meaningful projects that move the needle. Some leaders may pile work on employees’ plates because they now work from home. Instead, it would help if you lightened your employees' workload, so they manage their personal lives in tandem with work during these times. 

Don't take up more of your employees' time because they are not clocking into the office. You can also reduce the need for too many video meetings as Zoom fatigue is draining. Instead, send emails, summarize reports, and enable visibility into teammates' tasks in a project management tool like Wrike.

Schedule breaks during the workday and allow asynchronous work

To get the best from your employees at this time, it is wise to become output and results-focused. Since the beginning of March, when most companies made the call to work from home, employees have reported working 2-3 hours longer per day. This is combined with the pressures of caring for sick loved ones, maintaining one's health, caring for children who are learning from home, and maintaining valuable work productivity.

As a leader during this time, it is wise that you allow asynchronous work schedules, giving employees room to plan their days in the most optimal way to take care of both work and personal responsibilities. 

You can institute roles that promote healthy work-life balance habits and enforce a mandatory break in every workday. This could be the typical one-hour lunch break, but in this case, you insist that all employees log off their work devices at this time. 

As a part of workplace mental health initiative, employees are now encouraged to treat switching off as a scheduled event, rather than working through breaks and long days. Some companies are going one step further and making it impossible for employees to send emails after hours.

The fact is when home doubles as the office, employees have a tougher time switching off. Since the pandemic started, Surfshark, a VPN provider, has seen spikes in usage between midnight and 3 am, proof that workday barriers are beginning to erode. As a result, good leaders must make an effort to help employees unplug each day to maintain good health and workplace morale.

Organize optional fun virtual activities to boost employee morale or encourage rest

Different personality types refuel in different ways. An introvert needs solitude to recharge and strategize, and an extrovert craves more people-time to relax and soak in positive energy. 

In the words of the great Benjamin Franklin: "We must all hang together, or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately." 

Schedule regular open hours with team building activities for remote teams to get your team's mind off the madness. During this time, employees can choose to stay offline and recharge, login but not participate, join in and engage in virtual happy hours, scavenger hunts, and other online team building activities your company needs. You can also check out our ultimate list of team building games for more ideas.

How to motivate employees during difficult times 

As a manager, it is up to you to gauge the stress level on your team and eliminate additional stressors or distractions that may hinder their performance. Demotivation is extremely contagious and spreads uncontrollably, just like the COVID-19. 

To kill the infection at its source and focus on improving morale in the workplace during these difficult times, you must continue to build good habits that support positive workplace morale and resilience in employees. 

We recommend that you: 

  • Encourage honest conversations about the company's position and where it is heading between leaders and employees.
  • Frequently gather employee feedback on essential topics
  • Provide mental health coaching and counseling sessions
  • Lighten employees' workload and focus on wins
  • Promote healthy work/life habits and allow asynchronous work
  • Have regular manager/employee conversations about individual needs and actions
  • Maintain transparency to motivate employees during difficult times
  • Organize optional fun virtual activities to boost employee morale and encourage rest

Work with Wrike and start focusing on building employee morale

Wrike's collaboration tool is the perfect software for businesses facing the challenge of improving morale in the workplace, especially now - with the new challenges COVID-19 has brought to the business world. Maintaining team collaboration, remote team communications, and proper work management is all possible with Wrike's solutions for business continuity. You can get started by signing up for a free two-week trial here