As the impact of COVID-19 hit many businesses quite hard, human resources teams and business owners are not only struggling to keep the business intact, but also to help boost morale of their employees. Many workforces had to endure pay cuts, furloughs, reduced hours, layoffs, and the elimination of benefits and perks such as 401K matching and travel to conferences. While employees are likely grateful to still have their jobs and at least some money coming into their bank accounts, it’s hard for employees to stay positive throughout the pandemic. Workplace morale has suffered. A recent study by SHRM found that 65% of human resource professionals state maintaining employee morale has been challenging. It’s especially challenging in the industries that have been particularly hard hit: retailers, restaurants, and the travel and hospitality industries.
Employees may fear their jobs are at stake. If the business is stable, but perhaps just not growing at the same clip it was in the pre-COVID-19 era, let employees know. Transparency with growth and revenue numbers can help employees feel more at ease and if there are major problems they won’t be caught off guard.
Many teams are likely to be working remote to maintain proper social distancing and safety guidelines. That doesn’t mean team building activities can’t take place. There are a variety of methods to stay connected remotely. Try playing movie trivia games online, have a virtual happy hour, or set up an online scavenger hunt. Give simple prizes away to the winners to keep it interesting. All of these are low cost events that can help employees take a break from the stress of their daily work routines.
These days the only mail most people receive are bills, and junk mail. Receiving a handwritten thank you note from a manager can show employees someone noticed their contributions. Even better, include a $5 gift card for a local coffee shop, while it’s a small dollar value, it may just make their day. You could even take it one step further and set time on the calendar to have a coffee break together, just chit chat, no work talk allowed.
Just about everyone is in the delivery zones of companies like GrubHub and DoorDash. Why not surprise your team with a free lunch. You can get together on a conference line and enjoy a virtual lunch break together. Just because you can’t be together in the office, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a meal with each other.
Are there ways you can volunteer in your community virtually? Perhaps you could connect with a local school and help tudor some children online. There could be students who could use a bit of extra attention in some of their studies. You could have your workforce help out for half a day, or make it a regular occasion and devote an hour a week to the volunteer activity.
Holidays are typically times when offices are filled with festive decor. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentines Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Fourth of July are all holidays that lend themselves to fun virtual activities. You can have costume contests and show off attire via conference lines or share photos on social media accounts. Give the team notice of the celebrations so they have time to put something together and participate.
If you’re tired of staring at your colleagues via Zoom, or Microsoft Teams, why not try having a walking meeting? Sure it won’t work well for all meetings, but if the topic at hand is a bit lower key, won’t require sharing Powerpoint slides, or collaborating on whiteboards, get away from the monitor and take a walk together while talking on the phone. You could even show each other a bit of your surrounding neighborhoods.
Employee burnout is real. Many employers report their workforces are taking less time off during the COVID era. Employees are feeling more pressure than ever as many workforces are getting by with fewer employees performing more work than they did before the pandemic hit. Imagine their surprise if you reward them with a nice half day off on a Friday. This will allow them to roll into the weekend just a bit earlier than normal.
It’s best to take a few ideas and sprinkle them into your workforce in the upcoming months. Not every gesture will have the same meaning for each employee. Using multiple techniques will help you reach the different personalities in your organization. Good luck and stay positive!