If we were busy in the pre-Covid world of the office, remote working hasn’t done much to stem the flow of work demands. No longer buffered by the brief transition from meeting room to meeting room via a kettle, now we’re back-to-back in little boxes on the screen. We look up to realise it’s 6pm, dark outside and our phone is pinging with the latest doom and gloom dispatch. It’s a hell of a hamster wheel we find ourselves in.
And it’s not just home workers feeling the fatigue – it’s all of us, whether you’re on the frontline, furloughed or in between jobs. We’re all experiencing the same queasy unease that permeates our mindset. No wonder motivation and morale are taking a nosedive.
As communicators, we thrive in our role as connectors, instigators, and informers. Right now, how can we draw on our skills to be the motivators our people will desperately need in the months to come?
Part of being motivated is knowing that our actions will have impact. So we need to show that impact.
You must explicitly connect what colleagues do, at the individual task level, to the positive external impact that work has. For example, showcase the feedback your company receives to highlight how excellent service from your shop floor colleagues is translating to great reviews, repeat business and word of mouth recommendations.
You can also crowdsource this search for purpose and impact by giving employees a chance to uncover this meaning for themselves. One client started a ‘Reasons to be proud’ campaign, which is motivating their people by spotlighting the impact of their work on their local communities.
Your people need to feel confident that ‘this too shall pass’ to feel truly optimistic about the company’s future.
Leaders are perfectly positioned to provide that reassurance. But to do so, they must be visible and make themselves as available as possible.
Film short clips of leaders speaking, arrange ask me anything format Q&A sessions and make sure there’s an increase of company-wide emails from the top to keep people informed of business bright spots.
Feeling frustrated has a huge impact on our motivation. While people may have coping mechanisms at home – a friend they vent to or their daily run – it’s important to have outlets at work too. It might be a quick and anonymous way to leave feedback, to get that niggling issue off your chest.
Many frustrations result from misunderstandings, which are inevitably more common in a remote workplace. We have a tendency to assume the worst – but it’s rare that a colleague is intentionally being awful. Encourage the practice of picking up the phone or sending a quick message to clarify your intentions. It can go a long way in reducing friction.
If there’s been a miscommunication and someone is feeling negative, practice active listening. When people feel understood, they feel more in control, and are more likely to rationalise a situation and adopt a positive outlook.
Sometimes, people just need to have things that make them smile to boost morale.
At the start of lockdown, John Krasinski created a silly show at home, called Some Good News. It featured heartwarming stories, such as getting big musical artists to sing for a stay-at-home prom, or the cast of Hamilton performing a song for a little girl who was upset that she’d miss the live show due to Covid-19 restrictions.
The point was that it didn’t have a point, other than to make people smile.
This kind of spontaneous and novel celebration can bring the feel-good factor into your organisation’s comms mix. It can even be as simple as creating a dedicated feel-good channel in your Enterprise Social Network (ESN).
People need to hear ‘thank you’; it’s an important form of extrinsic motivation and it makes us feel good.
It doesn't have to be a formal rewards programme. Unlocking the praise feature within your ESN and encouraging people to use it, or sending hand-written notes to employee homes to celebrate big accomplishments can make a world of difference. It really is the thought that counts.
Additionally, our need to reciprocate what’s been given to us — in this case praise — means gratitude will quickly spread throughout your company. Look at your digital suite of tools and encourage sharing of both colleague and customer appreciation.
We’ve seen this tactic work wonders on Workplace and Yammer, as well as dedicated microsites built specifically to bring people together and share feedback throughout the coronavirus crisis.
Right now, people need safe spaces to talk about their feelings; to share their stories of how they are, or are not, coping in isolation; a place to swap their best work from home lifehacks with one another. Creating internal communities helps normalise feelings that previously may not have been spoken about at work.
Encouraging your people to share positive reflections can also help. What lockdown learnings do they want to keep? After all, what we focus on largely dictates how we feel. Activity such as this provides another avenue for people to connect with their colleagues.
To address isolation, there are few things we can do until we’re back in the office more consistently. One novel approach is to prompt teams to engage in deeper conversations.
Brilliant research from Irrational Labs and Maritz studied this through networking at an event. When groups were provided with strong conversational prompts, those people had a much more enjoyable conversational experience, learned more about each other and felt more connected.
Digging for deeper conversations doesn’t have to be scientific. In this example, prompts included cards with questions such as:
How are you helping motivate your people right now? We’d love to hear your stories. Tweet us @scarlettabbott or email firstname.lastname@example.org