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How to boost productivity and motivation as we adjust to working in the time of COVID-19

If you aren’t positive and supportive, your team won’t be either — and productivity and motivation could plummet.

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, professionals everywhere are navigating an ever-changing business landscape. What makes a team leader’s role particularly challenging in all this turbulence? We can’t rely on what worked before to motivate our teams and boost morale now that everyone’s working remotely.

Morale is more important than ever, though. Remote employees are more likely to feel disconnected, out of the loop, and lonely since they aren’t able to enjoy in-person interactions with teammates. What’s more, high morale leads to improved teamwork, retention, employee relationships, creativity, and productivity.

It’s a tall order for team leaders to become cheerleaders amid constant change and uncertainty, but you owe it to your team members to be more engaged, open, and available. If you aren’t positive and supportive, your team won’t be either — and productivity and motivation could plummet.

Improving morale to boost productivity and motivation

As of the middle of March, about 58% of knowledge workers in the U.S. were remote. No one knows how this figure might change as the pandemic continues, but it’s safe to guess that many people will continue to work from home for the next few months. And once the pandemic is over, some people may stay remote as businesses realize that the work can be done from anywhere.

Because of this new work environment, the old methods of inspiring and motivating team members in the office will need to change. Now is the time to test new strategies, communication methods, and tools to boost morale. Here are four ways to get started:

1. Communicate frequently using video conferencing.

Things are changing, sometimes hour to hour. Because of this, many projects and launch dates have to be adjusted rapidly. Keep everyone in the loop by setting up routine group and one-on-one check-ins over Zoom, FaceTime, Microsoft Teams, etc.

Our company has instituted Thursday “Cuddles,” which are video-based gatherings where we share corporate updates and personal information, celebrate milestones, and explore developments. Thanks to the frequency of our Cuddles, we remain focused on our goals and linked to each other.

2. Urge employees to embrace ‘me’ time.

People new to remote work may not know how to set up boundaries between their personal and professional lives, but burnout is the last thing you want for your team — it can lead to decreased motivation and productivity while taking a toll on people’s mental health. In your regular communication, remind your team members to make time for activities other than work, such as going for a run or watching a movie with loved ones.

You also may want to set up relaxed chats or virtual happy hours that allow people to discuss what they’re doing outside of work. In addition, be sure to remind your team of any mental health services your company offers; this makes getting help for the stress and anxiety that accompany a pandemic more convenient for team members.

3. Arrange for virtual events and gamified content.

Everyone’s going a little stir crazy, so why not direct your team’s energies toward friendly competition and other morale-boosting activities? During the pandemic, our Pulse team (which focuses on improving employee morale) has instituted virtual trivia games and other quirky activities. We’ve also created new Slack channels devoted to everything from “fur bosses” to sports, and those channels have replaced chatter that would organically happen during a typical day in the office.

These types of virtual team-building strategies reinforce your company’s shared culture. They also connect people from various departments, which is a great way to improve morale and keep people motivated during the workday.

4. Implement productivity tools.

Now is a great time to investigate tools that boost productivity. For example, we’ve added HeyTaco! to our companywide messaging platform. This tool enables our team members to award digital “tacos” to their co-workers, showing our appreciation and acknowledging their accomplishments. This seems silly, but it’s a surprisingly effective way to improve collaboration and ramp up motivation. Productivity tools offer a great way to regain control in a time of uncertainty while reinforcing forward momentum in the workday and improving morale.

When times are uncertain, it’s more important than ever to keep morale high. It’s up to team leaders to help make it happen. You can do this — just remember to be positive, supportive, and encouraging to help your team feel motivated and productive regardless of where they’re working from or what’s happening in the world.

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