How to foster team morale during the pandemic

As we all adjust to remote life and deal with  pandemic-related life changes, leaders may need to try new tactics to care for team morale. Consider these strategies 
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The COVID-19 pandemic has caused tremendous economic volatility and many workers are struggling to adjust to social distancing and remote work. Business leaders also face new challenges as they adjust to effectively lead offsite teams while also providing support for individual team members.

Managing remote teams is challenging enough: But with world events causing additional stress and life changes for everyone, traditional leadership tactics may need to be put aside to maintain a cohesive team. What can leaders do to maintain team morale while also keeping productivity in mind?

[ Read also Remote teams: 5 ways to build culture. ]

Establish a foundation

Morale reflects the confidence team members have in their leaders and their mission, as well as the overall enthusiasm they bring to their work. This confidence starts with preparedness and having the right foundation in place – including collaboration tools and a new strategy for how meetings and work will be conducted.

Without the convenience of in-person strategy meetings and check-ins, strive to make virtual meetings as seamless as possible.

When shifting to remote work, be prepared to increase communication with team members. This should include a combination of formal and informal communication methods. Without the convenience of in-person strategy meetings and check-ins, strive to make virtual meetings as seamless as possible. Making the switch effectively requires clear communication and instruction, role clarity, and camaraderie. Moving to video conferencing is a must; it will make meetings feel more personable and provide a level of transparency that traditional conference lines lack.

A lack of access to tools that can make work easier can also impede employee morale. If team members are spending more time on the phone with IT than getting their work done, they’ll quickly grow frustrated and disengage. Having the right collaboration tools in place will make a world of difference when adjusting a team to remote work. For example, consider adopting tools that enable real-time collaboration such as apps through G Suite, an Asana board for project management, and Slack for team communication.

Be human

In times of crisis, it’s easy to put up a shield and lose empathy. While your goal may be to communicate that you’re a fearless leader who can handle anything, these actions can negatively impact those on your team who need to connect. Without an authentic social connection to a team leader, it’s difficult for remote team members to bring their full effort and impact to their work.

Social connections play a big role but aren’t enough to boost morale. Morale requires confidence on the part of the remote worker. That confidence stems from a sincere belief that the team can produce high-quality and high-impact work that matters to the business.

To foster this feeling, consider company-wide recognition for successful initiatives and provide insight into the business benefits of each initiative. That doesn’t mean you should become a hollow cheerleader – be serious and realistic. Even constructive criticism can boost morale when delivered respectfully. These tactics will provide important social connections and help individuals feel appreciated and motivated.

Be mindful of different personalities

Adapting to a remote work schedule is challenging for everyone, but some may be affected more than others. It’s important to be mindful of the personalities on your team and nurture them appropriately.

It’s important to be mindful of the personalities on your team and nurture them appropriately.

For example, remote work may be particularly difficult for highly extroverted people. Try to accommodate these individuals’ needs for social interaction and work to offer a feeling of connection.

On the flip side, make sure that more introverted team members don’t get left out of the dialogue that takes place during remote team sessions. Find safe ways to encourage all team members to participate. You can do this by starting each meeting with prompts such as “I’m going to ask everyone for one new idea,” which allows more introverted personalities to gather their thoughts and feel more confident communicating with the team.

Practice makes perfect

Working fully remote is a new reality for much of the workforce these days. As a leader, it’s important for you to be patient with yourself and your teams. Practice makes perfect, and as time goes on, work will become more seamless.

There will certainly be bumps along the way, but if you enter this new way of work with clear intentions and a deep understanding of the needs of each team member, you can feel confident that you will all come out of this situation stronger.

[ Build your leadership EQ: 10 emotional intelligence must-reads for leaders. ]

Matt Poepsel is the Senior Vice President of Product for The Predictive Index, where he is responsible for overseeing the company’s product portfolio and innovation roadmap.