The coronavirus has brought many changes to the workforce — often so fast that people didn’t have a chance to fully understand or acclimate to them before they became our current way of life. Whether you’re still managing employees in the store or field, or you’re trying to integrate a remote workforce, these changes can be difficult. While some employees embraced the move to home with open arms, many were not equipped for a career at home. They might be struggling with family schedules, work-life balance, or even lacking internet connections.

And for those still leaving their homes as part of an essential workforce, fear and anxiety can be taking their toll. The stress of doing more with potentially less might also be impacting your entire workforce.

How employers approach these times can make a huge difference in employee morale. Human resource skills are valuable during good times, but they can be priceless during a crisis.

Here are seven tips for maintaining employee morale during the coronavirus quarantine.

1. Keep Communication Lines Open and Positive

Communication is critical for successful businesses at all times. Employees who know what’s going on and understand the big picture for the company feel more valuable and can better engage with their work. No one wants to feel left out, but it can be more challenging in a remote work environment to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Employers might consider taking a page from federal and state governments, which are regularly stepping up to press platforms during this time. Even if there’s not much to update, governments are giving updates simply to assure people they are working on the situation and are aware of certain issues. As a leader within your company, this is something you can do to ensure employees know you are with them. Something as simple as a daily email update can go a long way in inspiring confidence in your employees during this difficult time.

2. Celebrate Personal Milestones and Important Days

It’s easy to get caught up in the negative during this time. Whether people are overworked, worried about getting enough work, or wondering if they’ll find meat or toilet paper next time they venture out to the grocery store, these are all topics that can dominate conversations. If you allow your teams to dwell too much on the negative — even if they’re doing it together — morale (and, consequently, production and customer service) can suffer.

Inject some fun and positivity into the situation whenever the opportunity arises. One way to do this is to celebrate the types of milestones you normally would. Get everyone on Zoom to sing happy birthday to someone; announce and celebrate work anniversaries, contest winners, and above-average producers in your conference calls. If you normally have cake or a small party in the office for these types of events, take small actions to make up for the lack of those celebrations. Send the birthday person or contest winner a small gift card or arrange for a food delivery to them.

3. Invest Time and Resources Into Virtual Team Building

However, your team might also be used to personal touches on a daily basis and not just during celebrations. They might joke around or share personal stories through the day as they work side-by-side, and they might also engage in activities like a workplace happy hour together. COVID-19 drastically reduces the opportunities for your team to grow together, so consider coming up with some fun options to offer your employees. You might:

  • Set up a time each week they can come together via video conference just to chat
  • Encourage teams to join in on weekly quizzes or online games for fun
  • Create chat channels where people can share personal thoughts, concerns, and stories without impacting communication in work channels

4. Make Sure Everyone Understands Expectations in the Temporary New Normal

Whether you’re working in your normal locations or everyone is working from home, your employees may be confused about expectations and workflow during this time. If you aren’t clear about these things, employees might start coming up with their own — disparate — approaches. For example, some might try to tow the line as if nothing has changed, which can result in burnout, frustration, and stress. Others might realize that things have changed and start working by different measures — which can lead to unequal burdens and potential resentment between staff.

Take an honest look at your business and customer needs and weigh that against what is realistic for your company, clients, and employees during this crisis. From there, set new goals and communicate new processes to your employees; and hold them accountable via remote team management tools. Most of your employees want to succeed right now and are looking to you for the leadership that enables them to do so.

5. Engage in Micro Learning to Replace Training

One silver lining organizations are discovering during this potential downtime is that they can tackle projects that were previously stuck on the backburner because no one had the time for them. Some businesses are using this time to train staff on new jobs or skills.

While this is a great step that can increase employee morale — who doesn’t want to be a more valuable team member or have more marketable skills — if you go overboard with learning, you can overwhelm people. Remember that these team members are also dealing with a lot of changes and concerns in their personal lives, and they might also be struggling just to do their job each day. Instead of hitting them with hours of training or an entire online seminar, engage in micro learning.

Micro learning breaks larger skills into increments that can be taught in around 15 minutes. Consider teaching a new micro skill each week or providing self-paced learning videos and documents so team members can level up 15 minutes at a time throughout their days.

6. Recognize Employees and Go Beyond Normal Metrics

Recognizing employees for meeting normal metrics or managing time well is a great idea. But during a pandemic, it’s important to realize that there are other valuable skill sets and traits you might want to encourage.

For example, if someone is able to be positive and helpful in the face of a crisis, that person is a valuable addition to your team. They’re helping other employees get through the days and they’re probably also doing the same for clients. Think about the skills and actions that are helping your staff and business and take the time to recognize those publicly. That not only makes employees feel better about their contributions during this time, but also encourages others to get involved in the same manner.

7. Try to Find a Few Ways to Keep Normal Routines Going

A lot of the tips above cover how you can’t pretend things are normal. But that doesn’t mean everything has to change — many people are craving a sense of normalcy right now. For example, if your employees don’t normally work on weekends, encourage them not to at this time. Getting rest, getting out in their backyards, or simply spending time with family (or Netflix) without worrying about workflow can be important. At the very least, it differentiates the weekend days from the weekday ones at a time when many people feel that the days are blurring together.

Ultimately, maintaining employee morale during quarantine is about understanding, compassion and getting into the trenches with everyone else to make this work. Find ways to be flexible without giving up all normalcy and support your employees as they find the same balance.