We can’t believe it either, but the end of June marks the half-way point of the year. Since many professionals haven’t stepped foot in their office since early March, it can feel unfathomable that summer is, well… here.
Like the rest of 2020, nothing feels ‘normal,’ so consider the morale of your employees during the most anticipated season. Usually full of vacations and time away from the office, your staff could start to slip into a major slump as they remained locked indoors for the immediate future.
“It may be difficult for traditional teams to remain focused when working from home. This difficulty focusing could be intensified during the warm and sunny summer, when spending time outside is one of few safe activities people can enjoy during quarantine,” explains Roshawnna Novellus, the founder and CEO of EnrichHER.
After all, most states that are opening back up are doing so through various levels based on urgency and safety. Thus, a company with hundreds of employees could be the very last on the list.
Rather than keeping up business as usual, experts suggest implementing a few strategies that boost morale—even when you’re nowhere near one another:
Have friendly check-ins
You don’t need us to tell you this, but in case you need a gentle nudge: as a leader, it’s part of your role and responsibility to remain engaged with your team. When at all possible, Novellus suggests conducting as many 1:1’s as your schedule allows. This creates a trickle-down effect, as every manager at each level, checks in with their direct reports.
“During these meetings, make an effort to ask about personal wellbeing before KPI’s or other metrics. This shows that you recognize the whole person that is each team member, and confirms to them that you respect their life separate from their position as your employee,” she adds.
Create a virtual offsite
During the summer, many companies—particularly trendy start-ups—host super-fun, multi-day offsites. These include all sorts of activities, including hack-a-thons, bowling competitions, field days, and the list goes on. Though you may be tempted to cancel these in 2020 since gathering everyone together is near-impossible, the chief engagement and brand officer at EHE Health, Joy Altimare, recommends keeping these traditions. By giving this annual event a virtual makeover, you can still create camaraderie and morale. “It’s a great way to reintroduce the concept of team building. It allows people to interact with each other outside of the project meeting. It continues the dialogue that is so important to foster positivity, collaboration, and work satisfaction,” she notes.
Think about the in-office happenings that used to bring employees together. Perhaps it was the lunchroom, with benches made for chatting and catching up. Or, weekly meetings where the whole company would recognize accomplishments. Due to the pandemic, these events have likely been on hold. As much as you can, psychologist Dr. Matt Grzesiak suggests finding avenues to honor the successes of those on your team. “When employees feel truly appreciated, they have more self-worth and become more productive employees,” he continues. “Studies prove that employees who receive regular, positive recognition will experience higher productivity, better engagement levels, more loyalty to the company, and higher morale.”
Overcommunicate about reopening
Throughout the past 90 days, leaders within your organization have been answering one question after another. From what the company will approve in business expenses setting up home offices to when doors may open again, sometimes you have the answer, and other times you don’t. And guess what? Altimare says that’s okay—but you have to maintain constant streams of communication. Particularly as some businesses will plan their social-distancing procedures over the next month or so, your employees will likely have questions. Answer them truthfully, and hide nothing to create transparency and build trust.
“Reopening will bring along feelings of anxiety and confusion, so it’ll be more important that leaders offer safe places for discussions, to ask questions, and to feel heard,” she continues. “While some will eagerly welcome the opportunity to enter into a ‘new normal’ that involved traveling into the office, many will hesitate and will not want to feel forced to make an uncomfortable—or life-threatening—decision. Providing a safe space for discussion to address individual needs is imperative to keeping the team motivated, positive, and productive.”
Host an event that’s not related to work
Certified business coach and author Ivy Slater reminds executives that even if all you can think about is your business numbers, employees are dreaming of hot, sunshine-filled days. And they are reminiscing about rooftops, beaches, and adventures. Every week, she suggests having some sort of event that’s not related to work. Maybe it’s a paint-and-sip class, led by a local artist. Perhaps it’s a dance or yoga class, hosted virtually. These will allow employees to disconnect and, thus, feel refreshed when it’s time to return to work the next day.
Don’t skip Summer Fridays
While many aspects of day-to-day life have been transformed, there are some ways businesses can keep some of the old with the new. One of those that will boost your team’s spirits? Having summer Fridays. Whether you allow everyone a half-day or provide three to four full days off per employee during the season, stepping away from the computer and not having to be ‘in the zone’ will give professionals the time they need for themselves, according to entrepreneur Aimee Clark. At her company, Dotted Line Communications, they encourage employees to sign-off at 1 p.m. each Friday. “It is important to have some personal time, even if you cannot do as much as you might in a ‘normal’ summer, you can certainly take time to go for walks, read a book, sit in the yard or park, binge Netflix, or so on,” she explains.