Six ways you can boost team morale during lockdown

As the UK are in the midst of a third nationwide lockdown, moving from the office and back to remote working has meant that staff rapport and team morale has significantly decreased.

And, although the end of the pandemic is in sight, we, and many other parts of the world, still have a long way to go before life feels normal again.

According to a recent survey by PR firm 72 point, carried out on 2,000 UK adult workers, a third of employees have stated that lockdown has brought them closer to burnout.

With 51% of respondents saying they are working an extra 59 hours outside of their normal working hours, 33% worried about the uncertain job market and 27% claiming that the lack of social interaction with co-workers was making the pandemic even more difficult, it’s now more important than ever to do what you can to keep your team’s morale high. 

In this article we’ll explore six ways you can keep staff morale high in, arguably, the toughest time of the pandemic. This list includes unique events (not the dreaded Zoom quiz!), random acts of kindness and indispensable managerial qualities. 

1) Encourage REAL flexible working

With the lines between work and home life blurred, you may find some employees are struggling to sustain their regular 9-5 schedule. Some may have children at home 24/7 who need homeschooling, while others could be looking after a sick household member.

As manager, CEO or founder of the company, it is your duty to not only offer flexible working, but to actively encourage it too. If an employee needs to start at 10, 11, or midday instead of 9am, encourage them to do so. If one of your staff feels they’re more productive in the evenings, suggest they balance their current home situation around their working hours. 

Flexible work shouldn’t just be limited to the hours your team work. For example, staff need to be reminded that when in the office, they wouldn’t be glued to their desks for 8 hours straight. It’s perfectly acceptable to take a long lunch, not be instantly responsive to emails and messages, take the dog for a walk or partake in some form of exercise during the working day.

A study of flexible working undertaken by Cranfield University revealed that just over 90% of managers said the quantity and quality of the work had either improved or stayed the same. This was further confirmed by UK mental health charity, Mind, whose research showed that more flexible hours allow for a happier work-life balance. 

2) Organise virtual events that your team will actually like!

At the beginning of the pandemic, when the work-from-home novelty hadn’t worn off, everyone was up for a Zoom pub quiz. Now, just the idea can instil a sense of dread in your staff. Zoom fatigue is a real issue in today’s world with 27% of working professionals admitting they often zone out during calls while 43% are doing other stuff and listening out for their name. 

However, there are still plenty of creative virtual events available that you can incorporate to boost team morale and interest staff. For example, Sofar Sounds offer unique private virtual concerts where staff can sit back and enjoy live music from both up and coming artists, and established acts.

This kind of event is ideal for all of your staff as they don’t need to actively engage with what’s happening on their screen. However, if you do have more chattier members of the team, they are able to chat with the artists, ask questions, swap stories and even social media handles. 

If you’d prefer a more hands-on activity, sending each employee some letterbox flowers for them to arrange themselves will have a calming effect. A recent study by Bloom & Wild revealed that 90% of people said that focusing on something creative reduced their stress levels, while 68% of respondents said they felt focused when arranging flowers.

And, on average, after 30 minutes of flower arranging, heart rates dropped by 7.17 BMP.

3) Address any virtual meeting anxieties 

While Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, (the list goes on) have all been great tools for communication during the pandemic, it’s also the source of a lot of anxiety. Some of the top triggers of so called ‘Zoom anxiety’ include:

  • Having tech/audio problems and not knowing how to fix them.
  • Being talked over.
  • Worrying about how you look on the call.
  • Being unable to read the caller’s body language.
  • Worrying about an unprofessional background.
  • Feeling like you’re being unheard.
  • Having to manage the call screen with presentations and documents.

As a manager, it’s important to address these common worries, and assure employees that they are not alone. Companies such as Facebook have set aside one day a week where no client calls are allowed (no meeting Wednesdays in Zuckerberg and Co’s case).

This means your staff should have more time to focus on other work and it can allow them to take a much needed break from virtual meetings. Other HR professionals have suggested that having the camera on during meetings isn’t always required, especially amongst co-workers.

This should hopefully contribute to alleviating any pressure your employees may feel.

4) Get creative with staff competitions

Organising a friendly competition between your employees can be a fantastic way to boost morale, and encourage your team to do things that are notoriously good for their well-being.

For example, a photo competition of the prettiest walks they’ve been on, how many books read in a period of time, or 30/50/100 day exercise challenge. It goes without saying that all the competitive members of your company will take part, but the real dilemma is how to get the entire business taking part?

Including a prize in the competition is a great way to entice everyone! Whether it’s a monetary bonus, a gift card, a bottle of bubbly, the opportunity to choose what the next virtual event will be or a half-day on Friday, you can guarantee an almost 100% participation from your team. 

5) Offer classes and opportunities that promote positive well-being

According to a September press release from TOG, 22% of UK workers want their employer to offer wellness and mindfulness classes to help fight burnout. Offering more than just your verbal support and providing people with classes can go a long way in increasing the morale and motivation of your team. 

Yoga, pilates, virtual personal training sessions, are all great options for the body, mind and energy of your employees. These types of opportunities don’t just have to be physically active as well. Several businesses are providing stress and mindfulness classes or even workplace counselling offering a safe space to talk.

Lara Higginson, founder of Lara Wellness, has seen a noticeable increase in the demand for corporate fitness and yoga classes. She adds, “It’s a great way for employees to do something together again which isn’t solely work related and this boosts team morale and brings back that community feel which is so important for companies to thrive”.

With many of these activities unavailable at face to face level, so many employees will jump at the chance to partake in classes to improve their mental and physical well-being. 

6) Make them feel valued

Making your employees feel valued is something that managers should always strive to achieve, but during a pandemic it’s even more vital to show them that their work is appreciated and doesn’t go unnoticed. A few ways to make them feel valued include:

  • Giving a gift – no matter if they tell you otherwise, people like being rewarded with gifts. A small token such as a bottle of wine, flowers or chocolate will certainly put a smile on their face. Acknowledge your employees with personalized staff appreciation day gift ideas, or give them some simple fun gifts like funny shirts or mugs with coffee jokes and puns that will surely lighten up their mood.
  • Make sure they’re heard – presenting an idea to the team can be daunting for some, so ensure their opinions are always heard, acknowledged and appreciated.
  • Give balanced feedback – employees want to know when they’re doing a good job and what they can improve on. So regularly giving balanced feedback will help them to feel valued and appreciated for what they do. 

How one company learned how to get it right

Antonio Wedral, founder of eCommerce SEO agency, Novos, gave us his thoughts on the importance of keeping the team as together as possible and the lessons he learned during the pandemic. 

“The importance of being together as a team has really hit home for me over the last year. The little things, such as just grabbing a coffee with a colleague when something isn’t going the right way, or chatting through an issue within two minutes rather than a 15 minute heated slack thread – these things I just never thought would be so important, but they have!

We’ve tried many things such as quizzes, virtual events + more – and they are great & something to look forward to, but if there’s one thing I could’ve been better prepared for at the start, it would be how important the little, basic interactions are on your own mental health, but also on the morale of the team. We can try Zoom calls + more, but the in-person interactions is what I’m excited for again, and will never take for granted!”

Being increasingly understanding of your employees’ needs and worries, will put your company in the best position possible for maintaining high morale and promoting a great company culture during the pandemic.

It’s essential you continue finding new and unique ways to improve your company culture. Having a good reputation that cares and supports their workers will only help your long-term success. 

Photo by Helena Lopes