COVID-19: How to keep employees motivated, reassured and productive

Home COVID-19: How to keep employees motivated, reassured and productive
18 Mar 2020
For HR professionals

Businesses are navigating unprecedented territory with the escalating pandemic. Undoubtedly, you and your company will be feeling the full force of it, and uncertainty can take a rapid toll on the morale of your employees. You’re probably fielding crisis planning, concerns over job security and the speedy redeployment of teams to a home working setup for the foreseeable future. Yes, it’s alarming and deeply troubling, but there are still practical and relatively simple things you can put in place to help keep your ship on course until we reach calmer waters.  

One of your biggest challenges is keeping your employees (and yourself!) motivated, reassured and productive. Here’s how we think you can do that. 

1. Be intentional and regular in your communications  

It’s crucial that you, along with your company’s leadership, don’t get drawn in to the panic. Easier said than done, but an HR Manager who runs screaming for the hills is the universal signal for everyone else to freak out. It’s like seeing an air steward put a parachute on. You need to keep employees and contractors updated on the situation as regularly as you can (ideally daily) and invite them to contribute to the discussion - this isn’t a one-way push of information to staff, this is an open dialogue. Deliver as much information as you can in person (over the phone or via online meeting platforms) and develop an internal communications strategy. To prevent the spread of misinformation through rumours and gossip, you should only share credible sources like Public Health England and the WHO. You want to educate about prevention, manage risk and clearly spell out what is expected of employees. Be as honest as you can about potential redundancies or budget cuts. Your goal is for your workforce to feel trusted, valued and included – employees feeling like they’re in the dark, especially as most of us face working from home for extended periods, is one of your biggest risks. 

2. Set up clear working parameters 

If your teams are working from home, you’re likely experiencing some challenges as everyone adjusts to a very new way of getting their jobs done. It’s not a good use of your time to spend ages writing detailed protocols, but a quick one-pager on what someone needs to do to set up a home working station, and the communication tools and platforms you expect them to use to keep in touch is a good idea. Be clear that working remotely doesn’t mean they are expected to be available all the time. Whatever you decide to ask of your staff, you need to be reassuring and positive in your delivery, and make sure you address any concerns or teething issues early on. Let’s be honest here - it’s going to be a huge challenge to get everyone up and running, but investing the time and energy at the start is easier than trying to plug holes later.  

3. Relax policies or restrictions where it’s possible to do so 

You’re going to have a lot of staff who are worried about what happens to them if they become ill or they live with someone who does. Equally, the parents among your workforce are going to be concerned about school and nursery closures and how they will balance childcare with employment. There’s no tried and tested protocol here, but if you’re able to relax any policies (even informally) that restrict your staff in terms of working hours or other rigid parameters, it may help as they try to get measures in place to deliver their roles. You’ll earn their trust and loyalty, and you’re going to need it to survive as a business when we emerge at the other end of this. 

4. Become more people-focused than you’ve ever been before! 

All of the above is pointless if you don’t ramp up the emotional support of your employees. Stop rolling your eyes, we can see you! What we mean is simple, not soppy. People are worried, stressed and scared – they're turning to their support networks for guidance and reassurance, and that includes you guys. Before you get annoyed at Janet emailing constantly with seemingly trivial concerns, take a deep breath and remember that she’s probably coming from a place of deep anxiety and the best thing we can ALL do is to respond with warmth and positivity. That might sound a bit American sitcom (or unrealistic because Janet is REALLY irritating), but we need to try to suspend our usual stiff-upper-lip mentality. Let’s channel our inner Oprah Winfrey (she’s in there somewhere!) and be more demonstrative in our care of each other right now. Group hug, anyone? (Virtually, of course.) 

We will all get through this together – please let us know if we can help in any way. You can reach us on 01932 355000 or  

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