Boosting team morale amid a global health crisis is a challenge but it doesn’t mean it’s unattainable. If anything, motivation is what we urgently need as we face this setback. With productivity running low, stress levels shooting up, and general health being at constant risk, your team is counting on you to make this whole situation bearable and hopeful.

The three Cs of motivations

What Trixie Olizon-Silerio of PeopleStrong HR Consulting learned from neuroscience is that when stress levels go down, motivation goes up. Here, she presents the three Cs that summarize what our brain needs to positively perceive, especially while working from home

  • Connection – We are happy when we feel connected. Regular video meetings with no work agenda and simply asking how everyone is or greeting someone when it’s their birthday can go a long way. 
  • Choice – We like to have the freedom to choose, so even in these times where a lot of things are out of our control, we can still “trick” our brains into having the perception of choice. Something as simple as letting our team members choose which tasks to do first or what time to do a call can increase comfort. 
  • Certainty – We are more relaxed when we can foresee and plan for the future. While the current situation proves difficult to plan far ahead, we can assure employees that we will continue to support them financially as long as we can.

Everyone is experiencing change

“Recognize that everyone is experiencing a major change in relation to the COVID-19 crisis, and that different people will respond from [a] mild, moderate or severe [point]—and they will go through it at different speeds,” says managing director of Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH) Philippines Jo Ann Rosary Asetre.

Their LHH behavior-based model shows the stages of change and the corresponding feelings under each of it:

  1. Anticipation: Uncertain, excited, anxious, restless, energized
  2. Letting go: Anger, sadness, doubt, denial, shock, distrust
  3. Disorientation: Lost, overwhelmed, confused, depressed
  4. Reappraisal: Interested, curious, hopeful, unsure
  5. Recommitment: Optimistic, future-oriented, confident, involved, impatience

It’s important that managers and leaders know how to adjust their strategies according to the specific reaction of their employees based on these stages. For example, when an individual is in the stage of letting go and is experiencing sadness, a leader should create a safe environment where employees can share their thoughts and feelings and listen to them without judgment.

If an individual is in the disorientation stage and is depressed or confused, the leader should assist the employee in prioritizing tasks and be open to establish temporary ways of doing things. 

Segment the professional from the personal

There are many factors that can affect a working relationship, especially when it comes to family members or close friends. The line that separates the professional from the personal is often blurred. While most might see this as risky, a positive perspective can make all the difference, especially at a time when human connection is necessary.

“Keeping updated with our team members’ personal lives allows us to show more empathy and give more emotional support when they need it,” says Olizon-Silerio, but cautioning that private matters require a more careful approach.

For Asetre, respecting work hours will draw the line between being an employee and being a friend. Regular work hours should still be observed despite the work-from-home setup. In order to be clear about everything, defining boundaries that are acceptable for all parties involved says a lot about how you communicate with each other.

Show trust to your employees

Trusting employees gives a sense of autonomy. Allowing freedom in the workplace boosts creativity and productivity as well as induces responsibility and greater job satisfaction. Here are tips from Asetre that you can try to practice to exhibit trust to your employees:

  • Be comfortable with the idea that employees have their own learning curve. They will make mistakes and they will learn from it.
  • Allow employees to use their own strategy or style in completing their tasks. They may be different from yours, but you can agree on results and output.
  • Be transparent and communicate
  • Reward and recognize employees who do things beyond their scope of work. Acknowledge their learning mindset and behavior.
  • Invest in employee development
  • Learn and develop coaching skills. Coaching is partnering with coachee(s) in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Numerous research studies have shown that a strong coaching culture positively correlates with higher employee engagement and stronger financial performance. 

Sustain a healthy and safe working environment

“Make sure your employees don’t burn out. Take time to set realistic milestones together so they don’t feel too overwhelmed by big tasks. Break it down into smaller sub-tasks and ensure that it adds value to the intended bigger picture,” says Asetre.

You can’t expect employees to do a high-production project in a short amount of time. If ever they were able to do so, it would’ve taken a toll on their general health and the quality of their output. Aside from minding their workload, cascading health advisories and constant reminders will ensure a suitable working environment for everyone. 

In the case of Olizon-Silerio, their company enables them to closely monitor the health status of their employees. Some of their clients, whose headcount is more than a thousand, are actually considering mass testing before everybody reports for work while some are considering a gradual return of their staff (in phases or batches).

Other strategies for remote motivation

Here are other practices from Asetre that you can incorporate in your remote scheme:

  • Communicate with your team regularly. Establish a regular schedule to talk to the team and do individual check-in.
  • Check in with your teammates to ensure that they are feeling well and motivated. Everyone has their own challenges and concerns. Let them know that you care about them beyond work agendas.
  • Don’t let emails replace all verbal communication. Schedule regular team calls and ensure you are all on the same page.
  • Turn on your camera and share your surroundings with your teammates. You may be hesitant to turn on your webcam during team calls, especially if you are not looking as presentable as you are at work. Regardless, virtual face-to-face interactions are important.
  • Acknowledge your teammates and give them compliments they deserve. Value sharing among team members is a great way to let them know that their work is valued and appreciated.
  • Be clear on deliverables and accountabilities.