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How To Boost Employee Morale During Difficult Times​ [Free Top 10 Tips Checklist]

It’s no easy feat to achieve high employee morale. It takes more than a salary to ensure that employees are motivated and engaged, and during COVID-19 employers have faced different challenges to maintain employee morale.

The good news is that after the first six weeks of lockdown, one in three HR professionals believed that employee morale was higher than it was before COVID-19.

As many employees continue to work from home, and some gradually return to the workplace, it may become more challenging to maintain morale.

However, there are some actions employers and managers can take to boost workforce morale in difficult times.

Why Is Employee Morale So Important?

If employees are engaged and invested in their roles and the company they work for, it can impact productivity, efficiency and loyalty. 

HR Star - Resource - 10 Tips To Boost Employee Morale In Difficult Times

Free Download: Employee Morale Ideas

Many factors can affect morale, including leadership, manager and peer support, work environment, trust, culture and how valued employees feel. 

Low morale can result in increased business costs due to the high turnover of staff and potentially increased employee absence. Therefore, businesses must look to increase employee satisfaction and engagement to improve productivity and lower costs. 

We’re going to share ten tips you can use to improve employee morale during difficult times.

Remember to get your free copy of our employee morale ideas checklist.

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Before we we get started, a quick thank you . . .

Thank You To All Our Contributors

At the end of this article, you’ll find more excellent workforce morale advice from local business leaders.

Thank you to all the contributors for sharing your very helpful insights!

Let’s dive into the 10 tips now . . .

Ok, let’s dive into the ten tips now . . .

10 Tips To Help You To Boost Employee Morale During Difficult Times

1. Gather employee feedback

Before a company looks to improve morale, it firstly needs to consider the current state of morale and how much change is required. This can be done company-wide using tools such as employee satisfaction or pulse surveys, which gather employee feedback anonymously. Once the company has the staff input, it should be reviewed and communicated to employees. Areas that require improvement must have action plans in place. 

2. Talk to individuals

Managers can also gather employee feedback from regular one-to-ones with team members. During lockdown and as remote working continues, there is still an opportunity for managers to ask for feedback from individuals during their one-to-one meetings. If managers can gain gauge morale, it will be easier to consider what needs to be put in place to increase engagement to retain current morale. Again, this is only beneficial if the feedback is reviewed, and solutions are offered. There’s an adverse risk to morale if employees give feedback, and the results are left unactioned.    

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

There is probably no such thing as too much workplace communication. Whether it comes from the top of the business or a line manager, effective communication can aid morale. Employees should be informed about business achievements and change so that they are invested in their employer, but also feel part of the company they work for. 

4. Communication during COVID-19

Currently, with so much change in the way employees are working, businesses must update their people about the potential return to work options, health and safety measures in the workplace and other business-related issues that affect employees. Morale can be enhanced if employees feel like they are kept in the loop, especially at present. The old adage of ‘No surprises’ is relevant when looking to keep morale high.

5. The importance of employee contribution

Employees need to understand where they fit into the company. It’s vital that each employee knows the business strategy and mission and how they and their job can contribute. Such knowledge can increase employee pride and trust in the company they work for and gives them a bigger picture idea of their purpose, which can boost morale and engagement. As employees work remotely, it’s easy for them to lose sight of the bigger company, so management must remind them how the business is performing and how they and their team are contributing. 

6. Virtual morale boosting

With an increased number of the UK workforce working from home during COVID-19, it has created the challenge of ensuring morale from a distance. When employees start returning to work, there may be some employees in the workplace and others working from home, but morale still needs to be boosted in split location teams. Regular team meetings allow all the team to come together regardless of location. Managers can use the sessions to boost morale by offering praise and acknowledgement to individuals and updating the team on company-wide performance and COVID-19 initiatives. 

7. Recognition and rewards

Social events can also be held virtually to encourage engagement and show recognition. Some companies may send small gifts to an individual’s home to show thanks for a job well done, or there may be company ‘Shout out’ initiatives to recognise performance or attitude. A team lunch or drinks may not be possible in person but can be carried out together virtually. They might also be an opportunity for employees to introduce the team to their pet or home office, which can be a light-hearted way to build a team and encourage bonding. A scheme could be introduced where team members praise each other once a week or month so that morale comes from teammates as well as management. 

8. Offer flexibility for employees

COVID-19 has shown us that homeworking can be productive in many different circumstances. Some employees will have managed their job around childcare, and others may have worked different hours. This influx of working from home has allowed many employees the flexibility they may not have had in the past. Employees need to feel like the company trusts them to continue to work flexibly. If they are required to return to the workplace, employees should feel like they can still have flexible work options on occasion.

9. Build a team

Teambuilding may not seem a priority during COVID-19, but it’s an important time to ensure teams are working effectively together and supporting each other. As lockdown eases, face-to-face offsite team building is becoming a closer reality, however in larger groups, or teams where not all members can meet in person, virtual team building can build morale and engagement. 

10. Hold a remote offsite

Managers can organise a specific day for team building and put it in the diary just as it would be if the team were all meeting in person. It may only need to be half a day, but it’s essential to organise specific sessions for team discussions about business changes and updates, team bonding activities and social time. Again, managers should share successes and achievements and be clear about the next steps and team and company objectives.

11. [Bonus Tip!] Managers need support too

While it’s crucial for managers to focus on their teams during difficult times, they also need support to boost their morale and prevent stress or burn out. A recent survey showed 48% of employees had fewer one-to-ones in lockdown, and 38% reported that the frequency of their manager one-to-ones had significantly dropped. Managers have had to adapt to managing their teams differently, and they will also have their own personal challenges. Employers must ensure that they are looking after line managers during COVID-19 and offer praise and appreciation to support their wellbeing. 

HR Star - Resource - 10 Tips To Boost Employee Morale In Difficult Times

Free Download: Employee Morale Ideas

Often, it’s small things that can raise morale. Equally, little things can adversely affect it too. Company-wide and manager-led communication are vital to inform employees and ensure they are invested in the business. Company changes or messages must be delivered to all employees at the same time to ensure trust and transparency.

Managers who have a challenge of managing teams virtually can build team morale, but they need support too. Companies must ensure that they are also communicating with managers and supporting them during difficult times because if managers have low morale, there’s a risk it can transfer to their teams and affect their wellbeing.

Remember to get your free copy of our list of ideas to boost employee morale.

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Your Next Steps

COVID-19 has significantly changed the way we work, and these changes will continue to shape the workplace environment. 

If you’d like a little help or just an independent outside perspective on how to put these 10 tips into action, get in touch with us here.

Advice From Business Leaders

Here are some helpful tips and advice from local business leaders to help you boost employee morale.

Jon Leamon – Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce

Start by talking to your staff. They will tell you how they feel and any concerns they might have. Then try to reassure them and keep them informed. If you are having to make some tough decisions (eg redundancies) then act sooner rather than later to remove uncertainty. Afterwards keep talking to your staff.

Sean Taylor – Future Advanced Manufacture

After the turmoil of furlough and the changing face of many businesses we are all having to adapt which inevitably leads to changes in roles and responsibilities.  This can be unsettling and a review with staff to redefine their position and reassure them that it is secure and gain feedback from them to ensure they are comfortable with the changes can help to lift morale and establish a new focus.

Clare Gallie – Lewis-Manning Hospice Care

For us at Lewis-Manning Hospice Care it has been important to listen to our staff and how they are feeling both for those who have worked through the pandemic and those that are coming out of furlough. All have valid concerns and questions. We have focused on listening, putting in place clear communications and developing health and wellbeing initiatives to help staff feel valued and to help them cope with the changes in the new environment that we are working in.

Ronnie Brown – Blachere Illumination

We are celebrating victories. Not with cake and champagne, but sharing  with the team. Also making sure people are thanked for a job well done. Yes, we do have cake on employee’s birthday.

Christopher Smith – Logical Utilities

Improving staff morale during these difficult times can be challenging, as a lot of people still feel anxious and concerned about the recent pandemic and could be worried about a second wave. It doesn’t matter if you are the MD, HR Manager or a general employee, encouraging staff to be aware of others, applauding each other’s efforts and acknowledging your teams successes, will give them that much needed boost during these difficult times. When we all help and encourage each other, we all win.

David Jones – Evans Jones

The main thing that has been our mantra during lockdown is being wholly flexible with our staff in relation to their individual requirements. We have a range of different needs and family situations amongst our staff and whilst work is important, it’s not everything. Children, parents and other family factors are vital to our employees’ wellbeing and ability to work. We were already fully set up to work completely flexibly, so we were able to fully adapt smoothly and quickly and employees have been able to prioritise/arrange their work around their family commitments as they see fit. Communication via video has also been essential for team morale and cohesiveness – we have a daily round robin at 9.50am called the 10:10 – a chance for everyone to catch up and address any issues/queries they may have, as well as monitor health/COVID issues. We also have a team chat, which is used for everything from business communications to holiday pics and pictures of the kids and dogs! Team socials have always been essential to our team cohesiveness and sense of fun and unity. We have continued these throughout lockdown with innovative ideas, such as an 80s Quiz Night and a Murder Mystery – complete with fancy dress! We have also been sure to maintain communications and 1:1s on an individual level to ensure that everyone, including those staff that are furloughed – feel included and part of the team.

Darren Howells – Agored Cymru

The difficulty has been balancing the morale of staff who continue to work (all our staff continue to work from home)and those who have been placed on furlough. Regular communication has been key in ensuring all staff understand the rationale as to why certain members have been retained and why some have been furloughed. All decisions have been based on business needs rather than the perceived financial savings. For those who have worked throughout, we have given additional leave to be used for long weekends in order to recharge batteries and to be a token of appreciation of efforts. We even have a daily 15-minute online staff quiz. The main aim being to ensure everyone keeps in contact and can see their colleagues albeit on screen. Morale of those returning after furlough has not been an issue as everyone has been very eager to return.

Phil Edmonds – Gem Security Systems

The main thing we have done is to set up two WhatsApp groups. One is for important communications to staff and for staff to chat about work related issues. The other is just for general banter and jokes. I’m not a member of the latter so don’t know what goes on there! Probably for the best. The non-important one is purely voluntary.

Putting out messages on the important group lets staff respond and for others to share their issues. We have also been making personal phone calls to all on furlough each month to update them on our situation.

All staff except 2 are now back at work, either full or part time. The remaining staff will be brought back when the demand for work in their area increases. We keep in touch with them regularly.

Kathy Scott – Hands On At Work

Employees having worked from home or on furlough for several months may be feeling a little isolated especially if they are used to working as part of a team.

Organise an activity day and arrange some light-hearted (socially distanced) challenges to open the communication channels again and reignite the buzz created when working as part of a team.

Mandy Sibley – Fig Offices Gloucester

The biggest thing that I have noticed within our sector is business leaders have been keen to bring their staff back into the office environment for their mental well being as many have found it difficult to work remotely from their colleagues and missing the team support. There has been a lot of talk recently of how productive staff are with home working versus office, but not as much surrounding their mental health of being isolated at home – this is some of the feedback I have received from my clients.

Paul Bence – George Bence Group

  1. Show a real human side to staff by engaging personally and asking about
    their lives outside work – family, sport etc.
  2. Have a presence on the shop floor.
  3. Keep a very positive attitude.
  4. Take control of an ever-changing situation and adapt fast.
  5. Set short-term goals with increased communication to staff and clients.

Jack Quinn – Quickmach Engineering

Some of the things we have put in place since the beginning of furlough include continuous contact with employees asking about their wellbeing & explaining the current day to day challenges of the business (both positive & negative).

We’ve also been regularly sending out materials on wellbeing & contacts of who to speak to both internal & external should they feel the need to. (I would fully recommend using Perkbox for this)

With a view of bringing our employees back in the near future, we’ve also arranged for each of them to undergo e-learning courses to refresh their knowledge on their expertise & also on the day to day policies we have in place.

Henry Staelens – Forest Green Rovers

The main concern right now for employees is uncertainty. Uncertainty that their role might change, uncertainty about whether they can help ‘their’ company through this difficult time and, perhaps most prevalent, uncertainty that they will keep their job.

Our approach to this focuses on two key aspects: transparency and positivity. Teams and individuals need to be told where the business is really at, what they can do to help and what is expected of them for the company to not only survive, but prosper. You’ve hired intelligent adults, treat them like it 🙂

Jamie Martin – Correct Careers Coaching

HR Star - Resource - 10 Tips To Boost Employee Morale In Difficult Times

Free Download: Employee Morale Ideas

During challenging times the morale of employees is vital – how to make your employees feel appreciated and empowered?

Recognition and Praising employees will increase engagement levels. Customer satisfaction surveys can identify/rate how happy the employees currently are, although, conversations with the employees about what else could make them be happier/feel more supported will make them more grateful and engaged.

These engaging techniques can help in conversations with employees in other areas of the business e.g. investment in staff.

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Your Next Steps

COVID-19 has significantly changed the way we work, and these changes will continue to shape the workplace environment.

If you’d like a little help or just an independent outside perspective on how to put these 10 tips into action, get in touch with us here.

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