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How to Boost Morale During a Disaster

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As the reality of the impact from COVID-19 sets in, the levels of stress and anxiety are rising along with the number of diagnosed cases.

Most successful business owners and corporate and nonprofit directors have consistently focused on building a strong work culture without waiting for a disaster!

These smart leaders typically don’t wait for an emergency of this proportion to nurture a supportive environment where employees flourish. Looking to exemplary organizations and the way they function on a regular basis can provide insights about how to manage through this global disaster.

1.  Be trustworthy. Honesty is always best. The same philosophy that applies to merger situations, business bankruptcies, damaging industry trends, and other significant disrupters, is one of the most important steps in managing morale. Surprise announcements feel like bombshells to a skittish staff, so keep everyone prepared and educated about the situation. It is hard to admit, “I don’t know” when asked what the future might bring.  But that may be the reality in today’s fluid climate where things are evolving rapidly. If you have no answers yet, say so. Unanticipated disclosures only underscore that the company or nonprofit leaders are not dependable.  

2.  Communicate often. Unfortunately, even in the best companies, the “water cooler” conversation fills in the gaps when leaders do not share updates and information regularly. Nothing can destroy loyalty and morale faster than unfounded rumors based on supposition. When building a high morale culture, do not leave openings for assumptions. (You know what they say about “ASSUME” – it makes an ASS out of YOU and ME).

3.  Demonstrate sincere appreciation of everyone’s contributions. As employees work diligently, whether in good times or challenging times, they should be recognized. This is even more important during an emergency situation. It is a little easier to be exemplary under great circumstances.  But when calamity strikes, as it has today, everyone on your team – who are often on the front lines – need an extra boost. Genuine praise (privately or publicly expressed) can bring a smile in the midst of a tough, stress filled, day.

4.  Be understanding of each employee’s unique situation. Building morale is accomplished person-by-person. As the world moves to a shelter-in-place situation, parents will have to work from home while perhaps juggling the demands of their family. It can be difficult to concentrate in a home office with small children, school age children, or teenagers and college age children who have returned home, all vying for attention. Some families are also multi-generational and have elderly to care for. They too, will need flexibility. Flexibility can take many forms – and may include the hours employees are available, what the work load will include, and other parameters to turn working from home into an effective strategy.

5.  Inject some lightheartedness and fun into the day when possible. Staff frequently measure their employers based on the quality of life in the workplace – looking to opportunities they have for learning and professional growth, the way they are treated, and the value and impact of their work. But they also appreciate having a little fun. In times of extreme crisis, like a pandemic, it is very hard to be lighthearted. But there can be virtual lunch meetings where everyone sits down together via an online chat platform to share lunch, meditation moments can be scheduled, sharing of heartwarming stories, or the ‘joke of the day’ can be assigned to different staff with a goal of making fellow employees really laugh out loud – even if only for a moment. A  small ‘fun’ committee can be formed to offer suggestions of ways to keep each other’s spirits up.

Cutting across the entire organization, eliminating silos, incorporating some fun and light heartedness when possible, along with demonstrating honesty, an adherence to core values and a deep concern for the employees well-being all contribute to building morale always and especially now in a time when we are experiencing an unprecedented, dangerous scenario.