While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected every area of our lives, its impact might be most keenly felt in the world of work. Beyond everyone going remote and the now-standard Zoom meetings, your organization may have also noticed a decline in morale. Employees may have gone from enthusiastic and optimistic to concerned and distracted. In fact, a recent study from SHRM found 65 percent of employers have struggled to maintain morale during the pandemic.
While the imposed isolation is likely a factor, it’s not the only thing at play. As the SHRM survey notes, among those employers that have made or are considering making adjustments due to COVID-19, 31 percent have laid off staff members, 38 percent have cut employees’ hours, and 19 percent have slashed pay rates. Employees are likely stressed about paying their bills and keeping their jobs, and that kind of uncertainty is never good for morale.
Maintaining morale is one area where HR, both in house and outsourced, can really take the lead. By stepping up and helping their organizations find the best ways to support and retain employees during this trying time, HR pros can play a key role in driving business success now and into the future.
Here are four practical tips HR pros can help implement to improve employee morale:
1. Connect Employees With Relevant Resources
This is one fairly simple and direct way to boost morale. In fact, more than a third of surveyed employers told SHRM they’re already providing employees with resources to help them adjust to remote work.
Between mental health and stress management podcasts, CDC toolkits, helpful books, and insightful newsletters, a wealth of available resources already exists. All you need to do is bring these resources to the organization’s attention. You can even share remote learning tools and activities to help employees keep their kids engaged during the day so they can focus on work with fewer interruptions.
By being a go-to resource center for employees in need, HR can empower team members to overcome some of the challenges holding them back, ultimately boosting morale and productivity in the process.
2. Offer Additional On-the-Job Training
Many employees may be experiencing more downtime due to reduced workloads or even total shutdowns. Sitting around with nothing to do can be a massive drain to morale, but you can help employees keep occupied by giving them opportunities to learn new skills. Even if your organization doesn’t have the budget to implement a full training program, you can likely find free and low-cost online learning solutions for employees.
Connecting employees with development opportunities serves two powerful purposes: It helps team members improve their skills, and it shows employees that your organization has their best interests at heart. In both cases, employees are sure to feel a morale boost.
3. Make Sure Everyone Has the Tools They need
By now, it’s likely your organization has mandated that all staff members work from home. Don’t fall into an “out of sight, out of mind” style of thinking. Be sure to periodically check in with remote team members to ensure they have all the tools they need to effectively perform their job duties. Nothing’s worse for morale than being unable to do your work simply because you lack the required means.
Even if the organization has already taken initial measures to facilitate remote working, such as setting up remote meeting access and implementing team management tools, HR should continually assess employees’ home office needs. After all, things can always change.
For example, after several months of working in a makeshift home office, some team members may realize they would benefit from the use of a standing desk. Others may need higher-quality monitors or external cameras for video conference calls. If your organization is in a position to provide these tools, that’s one quick way to improve employee well-being.
4. Adjust Your Expectations
With the switch to remote work, some organizations may have gotten into the habit of blurring the lines between work and personal life a little too much. Employees may have gotten used to working longer hours, but perpetuating that norm will only lead to more burnout. It’s time to reassess your organization’s expectations to make sure it’s not demanding too much of employees at this difficult time.
As the summer comes to a close, it’s a good idea to encourage team members to take time off. Even if the pandemic puts a damper on your employees’ typical vacation plans, they still need a chance to relax and recharge. Plus, in addition to giving employees a much-needed break from the day-to-day, encouraging leave can help your company manage the decreased demand you may be experiencing right now. If there’s not enough work to keep everyone busy all the time, you don’t need all hands on deck.
All in all, as companies continue to navigate this challenging time, the key for HR teams — both in house and outsourced — is to be of service. Keep the lines of communication open between HR and the rest of the organization. Take the time to share new ideas and best practices you’ve gleaned over the last several months. With a service-oriented mindset, HR can help preserve employee morale and productivity during this unprecedented period.
John Florez is CEO of RightWorks, Inc.