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January Blues - How to keep staff motivated and happy when working at home

Even as the vaccine rollout begins, it’s likely that remote working will remain a part of our lives for the coming months and will likely become much more accepted and integrated even post-pandemic. The winter is often a hard time to build motivation amongst your workforce anyway, but with mass working from home, the tier restrictions and cold weather limiting socialisation, as well as general frustrations with the seemingly never-ending nature of the pandemic, morale may be harder to foster than with the ‘we’re all in this together’ camaraderie of the first lockdown. Here are some tips for fostering and maintaining positive morale throughout the winter.

Establish expectations, but respectful boundaries Work still needs to be done, so it is important to establish expectations in terms of productivity and the delivery of work. However, it is also important to make clear that you recognise that this is not a normal time for anyone. If any employee is uncharacteristically underperforming, then ensure you are understanding of any difficulties they may be having with their mental health. Make sure that they know you respect their boundaries and that there are processes and services available to them. Find out more in our blog on workplace mental health from earlier in the year.

Foreground communication and feedback Having regular video conferenced catch-ups with individuals and teams is a great way to ensure that everyone feels included in a wider team, recognised for their individual efforts, and that they’re maintaining connections. Of course, it’s important to get things done in these meetings, but if they begin to get off track, perhaps be a little more lenient in terms of allowing tangents and non-work-related chatter. This will help employees do some socialisation, lifting their spirits and raising morale. Conversations that would have happened while grabbing a cup of tea or on lunch breaks should be allowed to happen, simulating the social aspects of the workplace too.

Recognise the situation and reward achievements Not being recognised by the people around you can be a real drainer of morale, especially when you’re having to put extra effort in and overcome unexpected hurdles when you’re working from home and impeded by a global pandemic. As a result, it’s important to ensure that employee’s successes are properly acknowledged by their line managers and their teams, with proper recognition of the difficulties everyone is facing. If you have the resources to reward these successes materially, such as via voucher reward systems, then this can be a great way of fostering and maintaining morale.

Involve employees It is key that employees are involved as early as possible. While the nature of the change and the aims will be decided by the board and management, consulting employees helps them feel involved and will assist in dispelling any reservations they may have. Organisations are naturally disinclined towards change and even more so when it feels as though it is being imposed on them, so hold sessions for teams to discuss changes to their day to day process and operations. Avoid phrases like ‘attitude change’ or ‘shifting mindsets’ as these imply a fault on the part of the employee, whereas they have just been operating in the current environment and doing their jobs.

Be open to change At a time where staff may not be feeling happy away from the office, there is nothing more frustrating than not feeling listened to. Encourage discussion of workplace practices and procedures to ensure staff are able to share their thoughts around what may make working from home easier for them or working during the pandemic in general. Whilst you may have ideas around how people are feeling, nothing is more valuable than encouraging honesty and creating an accepting working environment where employees can share their difficulties.

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