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Five Ways to Keep Your Team Motivated During Uncertain Times

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Having now been in lockdown in the UK for a large portion of the year, the first hurdle of ensuring that your team are set up to work as best they can from home has been passed. The second, and very large hurdle, that bosses and business owners now face is to try to keep their staff motivated during these unprecedented times. At Lily Shippen, we have been working from home since March and have been doing our best to ensure that our staff are happy, healthy, and motivated as much as possible. We have put together some of the things we, and other companies, have been doing in order to keep staff morale, motivation and productivity as high as possible within the current climate. 

1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

People are, typically, creatures of habit and tend to follow a daily working routine. Although there are a lot more people working remotely in normal circumstances, most people still commute into an office or work environment each day and often sit within the same teams and communicate with the same people. To have this then taken away from them quite suddenly can be very disruptive and disconcerting for people and, as such, it is vital that this communication continues when we are not in the office or with our peers as normal.

A recent Forbes article accurately commented that “this is not the time to under-communicate”. Without regular face-to-face contact it is imperative that companies use all methods available to keep in touch with their staff, when they are not able to be in the office. This can be over email, on the phone, on video calls or even by voice notes, as people need to feel that they aren’t isolated or forgotten during these days of separation not just from work and co-workers, but from family and friends too. At Lily Shippen, we, and a number of other companies, have booked regular catch ups in the diary either over the phone or via video call and also message each other over Microsoft Teams so that we can ask any questions, share any tips or advice or generally chat to one another during the work day. Keeping in regular contact with your team shows that you care and that you are still available to your team, should they need you, as usual. Small things like this can really help to keep staff motivated and allow them to feel less isolated. Everyone is always grateful to see a familiar face or hear a familiar voice, especially during these times. 

2. Encourage Growth And Creativity

Although there are many companies who are as busy as, or even busier than, normal, there are also a lot of companies who are faced with the sad realisation that their business has quietened or their work or projects have been put on hold. ‘Downtime’ is an ideal time to develop ourselves and our teams and to think creatively. It may help to provide ideas of tasks that your team can be doing to help the business during these times and to keep staff engaged and motivated. Most people will want to carry on working in one way or another and will appreciate being given tasks where they can assist their business or team. It may be that you encourage your staff to utilise this quieter period to do jobs that they would not normally have the time to do. This could be anything from undertaking administrative work, like clearing up data and touching base with previous clients, to more creative tasks such as planning your social media posts for the year or writing new blog or marketing material for your company. If you are struggling for ideas, it might be useful to ask your team if there are any jobs they can think of, which they are able to do from home, that may contribute to their team or the wider business.

Another idea which we have found has helped to keep us motivated, is to suggest that your team research what webinars, professional development courses or talks are out there that they can subscribe to and be involved in. One positive outcome during COVID-19 is that people are coming together and helping each other where they can, by providing free online webinars on various topics, such as mental health and wellbeing tips when working from home and how to help your boss during a crisis, to name but a few. It is unlikely that we will ever face a situation like this again so it is important to try and make the most of it, as best we can, by continuing to grow and challenge ourselves in one way shape or form in order to stay motivated.

3. Celebrate And Acknowledge The Small Wins

Acknowledging the efforts of your staff or team is key in order to drive employee engagement and motivation and this is just as, if not more, important during uncertain times. Teresa Amabile from The Harvard Business School studies how everyday life inside organisations can influence people and their performance. In one study, Teresa and her colleagues designed and analysed around 12,000 diary entries from 238 employees across seven different countries and they found that tracking small achievements every day enhanced workers' motivation. She explained that the practice of recording our progress enables us to appreciate each small win, which results in a boost in confidence. Each accomplishment, regardless of how big or small, triggers the reward circuitry within our brains, releasing key chemicals which make us feel a sense of achievement and pride. This chemical, as well as giving us the amazing feeling of reward, also leads us to act and focus on what triggered that feeling in the first place and causes us to strive to achieve more. Simple things like sending out a group message or acknowledging employees' hard work over a video call can result in higher motivation and morale for that individual and the wider team.

4. Add Some Fun To Your Working Week

During lockdown, people are forced indoors and are missing socialising with work colleagues and friends alike. With a lot of people working alongside the same team day in day out, it can be strange not interacting with them, having a laugh in the office, or going for a drink after work of an evening. In order to boost motivation and morale within your teams, why not add one activity per week to the diary for staff to look forward to? Some companies have come up with themed ‘Happy Hours’ where they set a theme each week and all have a drink (or two) on a video chat with their colleagues and talk about everything from work to what they have been doing that week and what new online workout they have tried. There are also several different fun activities to choose from which can be found online and are easy to set up, such as virtual pub quizzes, bingo and virtual marble and horse races. Why not ask a different member of your team each week to put together a quiz or some sort of activity so that everyone can always be involved? Or, if you know your team are an active bunch, you could even look at booking in a team workout over Zoom. During the first lockdown, the Lily Shippen team had a meeting every Friday afternoon, which included bingo, book club, quizzes and a ‘Happy Hour’, to name a few. As a tram, we're still working remotely, so we've found that we looked forward to it each week and treat is as time to have a catch up and a laugh with our colleagues during what are stressful and scary times for everyone.

5. Be Mindful and Supportive

Unfortunately, unprecedented times like this will lead to greater issues with mental health for people at all levels, across the globe. The main issues to date, relating to COVID-19, are elevated stress and anxiety levels, however, as winter sets in and tighter restrictions continue, more people will face feelings of isolation and depression. With this in mind, it is so important for employers, bosses and employees to be mindful that there is no ‘one-size fits all’ approach and that everyone is facing different difficulties during lockdown which may ultimately impact their motivation to work. There are some people who may have three children flying around the house, who they have to keep entertained when they are trying to do their day to day job, there are some who have loved ones who are in hospital, and others will be living alone, so it is key that we all recognise and respect everyone else’s unique situations. Small acts of kindness and support have never been needed more or gone further. Ultimately everyone is affected, from the business owner to the employee, and it is vital that people check in with one another and offer emotional support and a listening ear. Whilst yoga sessions and ‘Happy Hours’ may help motivation and boost morale, they cannot replace regular, open, honest communication from leaders to employees and vice versa. 

It is vital to recognise that people will do what they can in order to adapt and work to the best of their ability, however, we must also be understanding that people will work at different paces and may have days where they do lack motivation and that this is normal!