After the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, workplace norms are not just changing, they are practically nonexistent. There is no real normal right now, which makes it increasingly challenging for anyone to stay motivated when no one knows what the future holds. Employees are working remotely, facing layoffs, working fewer hours, and dealing with working in a whole new type of stressful environment. How are companies motivating their employees and keeping morale high in some of the bleakest times many have ever seen? Every company has its own approach, but there are some efforts that are proving more successful than others. According to Harvard Business School, morale, optimism, and motivation are the biggest challenges facing leaders and employees today.
While some employees have been dreaming of the day they could work remotely, others prefer to work outside the home. Some people enjoy doing their jobs at home, while others do not like the lack of an office building or the opportunity to go to work
Harvard Business Review did a study on COVID-19 and its effect on employee motivation, and the results were clear:
Employees who work remotely are less motivated than on-site employees
Those who don’t have a choice about working remotely were the least motivated overall
What does this mean? It means companies have the difficult task of engaging these employees and finding a way to motivate them. It is not an easy undertaking, but it’s one that must be pursued.
Unmotivated employees are ineffective and inefficient. They struggle to meet the demands of their job and tend not to go above and beyond for the company. That is not the only problem, though.
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The work world was already seeing a shift in employee demands in terms of company culture and what was expected well before COVID-19 took hold and turned the world on end. Today’s employees want companies that have a strong culture and are willing to engage and invest in their employees for the benefit of everyone. On top of that, the detached nature of remote work and a constantly weary workforce require even more engagement and time for the employer.
It can seem like a tall order, but keeping employees motivated during these uncertain times is not as difficult as it sounds. In fact, many employees themselves will tell you what they want. It is a simple request for most:
It is curious how we live in such a connected world, thanks to the Internet, and yet the pandemic has created such disconnection. That is because no matter how much technology we have, people need people. They need connection and interaction.
This is a great opportunity to create a more personal relationship between employees and company leaders. Since people are working at home, getting a glimpse into their lives is easier than ever before. Consider using team-building activities and icebreakers that encourage people to share their personal lives. It is a great way to engage the team and get to know each other.
The best companies are changing the conversation and engaging their employees with simple changes. They are finding a way to connect with employees and create a new type of motivation. That starts by knowing what employees need right now, as well as what they need overall.
Transparency: Employees do not just prefer transparency, they demand it. Especially in a time with so much uncertainty, the best thing that companies can do is give their employees transparent, honest information and answers. Keep people in the loop and let them know when changes are coming, not after they happen.
Agility: Change is happening fast, frequently, and in unprecedented ways. Companies that are succeeding in motivating their employees are doing so by adopting agile, innovative strategies so they can adapt in any environment or situation. Although COVID-19 threw everyone a curveball in the early days of 2020, we are now well into this pandemic and it’s time to step back, reassess, and accept that things may never get back to normal. Being agile and adaptable is the first step.
Accessibility: You are going to need to develop new policies, procedures, and operational protocols for your new way of work. In doing so, you will want to make those things accessible to your employees and ensure that everyone is familiar with, and has an understanding of, the new rules being set forth. Many companies are creating dedicated COVID-19 pages and links for both employees and visitors alike, making it easy for everyone to find what they need.
Meaningfulness: While this has always been a driver of motivation for anyone, and especially employees, it is more crucial now than ever. Did you know that people who have meaningful jobs are more likely to take a lower salary and are less likely to consider changing or quitting their job? In fact, according to HBR, 9 of 10 employees would gladly trade meaning for a chunk of their lifetime earnings.
Feedback: This is perhaps your best secret weapon in helping figure out how to motivate employees in a time when motivation seems in critically short supply. Employees who feel heard are more engaged and motivated, and they might even have some good insights into how the company can improve morale and motivation across the board. Do not assume people will come to you. Reach out to them and see how they are coping. Then, find out how you can help.
Companies today are tasked with a more difficult job than ever before. Not only do they have to deliver a dynamic culture and an inviting atmosphere, but they also must be able to provide a motivational, encouraging environment for people in a time when everyone is struggling to stay optimistic.
Rather than trying to find static ways to improve employees’ motivation, thriving companies are implementing a robust strategy that helps deliver a better day-to-day employee experience overall. They identify what the best employee experience looks like and strive for that when creating and implementing programs and motivational elements.
Some of the biggest factors in the employee experience include:
We are living in a whole different world, literally, from what many of us have ever experienced — of course people are going to need a different type of manager to lead them and motivate them through this time. Companies that are doing well to keep employees motivated and engaged are proving successful by taking a more personal, hands-on approach to their staff. By providing support, creating personal connections, and meeting people on their level, businesses can maintain and even improve motivation among employees, even in these uncertain times.