Remote working has meant that staff rapport and team morale has significantly decreased. According to a recent survey carried out on 2,000 UK adult workers, a third of employees have stated that lockdown has brought them closer to burnout. With 51% of respondents saying they are working, an extra 59 hours outside of their normal working hours, and 27% claiming that the lack of social interaction with co-workers was making the time even more difficult. It’s now more important than ever to do what you can to keep your team’s morale high.
In this article, we’ll explore a variety of ways to keep staff morale high during the pandemic. This list includes unique events (outside of the now dreaded Zoom quiz), random acts of kindness and indispensable managerial qualities.
1. Encourage REAL flexible working
As manager, CEO or founder of the company, it is your responsibility to both offer flexible working, and to actively encourage it too. If an employee needs to start at 10, 11, or lunchtime instead of 9am, let them know it’s ok to do so. If one of your staff feels they’re more productive in the evenings, recommend they balance their current home situation around their working hours. A study of flexible working undertaken by Cranfield University revealed that just over 90% of managers said the quantity and quality of the work had either improved or stayed the same.
Flexible work doesn’t literally mean the hours your team works as well. For instance, staff need to be reminded that when in the office, they wouldn’t be glued to their desks for 8 hours straight. It’s perfectly acceptable to take a long lunch, or partake in some form of exercise during the working day.
2. Organise virtual events that your team will actually like!
At the beginning of the pandemic, a Zoom quiz was the go-to work-from-home bonding activity. Now, just the idea can instil a sense of dread in your team. Instead why not offer them an activity they’ll actually enjoy – where they can sit back and relax!
For example, Sofar Sounds, the private music concert company, offers unique private virtual concerts where staff can enjoy live music from both up and coming artists, and established acts. This kind of event is ideal for any seasoned remote workers as they don’t need to engage with what’s happening on their screen. However, if you do have more talkative members of the team, they are able to chat with the artists, ask questions, and swap stories.
3. Get creative with staff competitions
Organising a friendly competition within your company can be a great way to boost morale, and encourage your team to do things that are good for their well-being. Competitions can include a photo contest of the prettiest walks they’ve been on, 30/50/100 day exercise challenge or something as simple as how many books they can read in a month. It goes without saying that all the competitive members of your company will take part, but the real dilemma is how to get the entire business taking part?
Offering a prize is a great way to entice everyone! Whether it’s a bit of money, a bottle of champagne, or a half-day on Friday, you can guarantee almost everyone from your team will take part.
4. Offer classes and opportunities that promote positive well-being
According to a recent study by TOG, 22% of UK workers want their employer to offer wellness and mindfulness classes to help fight remote working burnout. Offering more than just your verbal support can go a long way in increasing the morale and motivation of your team.
Pilates, Yoga, and virtual personal training sessions, are all great ways to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of your employees. These types of classes don’t just have to be physically active too! Several companies are providing stress and mindfulness classes. Lara Higginson, founder of Lara Wellness has seen a noticeable uptake in the demand for corporate fitness and yoga classes. She adds “It’s a great way for employees to do something together again which isn’t solely work related and this boosts team morale and brings back that community feeling which is so important for companies to thrive”.
5. Address those virtual meeting anxieties
While Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, (the list goes on) have all been great tools for speaking to one another during the pandemic, it’s also the source of a lot of anxiety. Some of the top triggers of so-called ‘Zoom anxiety’ include:
- Having tech/audio problems and not knowing how to fix them.
- Being talked over.
- Worrying about how you look on the call.
- Being unable to read the caller’s body language.
- Worrying about an unprofessional background.
- Feeling like you’re being unheard.
- Having to manage the call screen with presentations and documents.
As a manager, it’s essential to address these common anxieties. Companies such as Facebook have allocated one day a week where no client calls are allowed (no meeting Wednesdays in Zuckerberg and Co’s case). Therefore, your staff should have more time to focus on other work and it can allow them to take a much needed break from virtual meetings.
6. Make them feel valued
Making your employees feel valued is something that managers should always strive to achieve. However, while your employees are working remotely, it’s even more crucial to show them that their work, and effort is appreciated.
A few ways to make them feel valued include:
- Giving a gift – no matter if they tell you otherwise, people like being rewarded with gifts. A small token such as a bottle of wine, flowers or chocolate will certainly put a smile on their face.
- Make sure they’re heard – presenting an idea to the team can be daunting for some, so ensure they’re opinions are always heard, acknowledged and appreciated.
- Give balanced feedback – employees want to know when they’re doing a good job and what they can improve on. Regularly giving balanced feedback will help them to feel valued and appreciated for what they do.
Antonio Wedral, founder of eCommerce SEO agency, NOVOS, gave us his thoughts on the importance of keeping the team as together as possible and the lessons he learned during the pandemic.
“The importance of being together as a team has really hit home for me over the last year. We’ve tried many things such as quizzes, virtual events + more – and they are great & something to look forward to, but if there’s one thing I could’ve been better prepared for at the start, it would be how important the little, basic interactions are on your own mental health, but also on the morale of the team. We can try Zoom calls + more, but the in-person interactions is what I’m excited for again, and will never take for granted!”
Being increasingly understanding of your employees’ needs and worries, will put your company in the best position possible for maintaining high morale and exploring unique ways to promote a great company culture.