I manage a team who are all now working remotely and struggling to maintain productivity during COVID-19. Our workloads have obviously shifted, and many of my team members have reported feeling like they’re struggling to move forward with their tasks. How can I keep everyone motivated long enough to cross the finish line of returning back to work as we knew it?
No one really knows when we will return to business “somewhat-as-usual,” and between the constant updates and changes, it can be difficult to maintain a team’s productivity during COVID-19. While we’re all struggling to remain focused during these uncertain times, we’ll share a few ways to motivate, encourage, and even increase productivity while your team is working from home.
Invest in Your Employees
First and foremost, your responsibility as a manager is to ensure that you are staying connected with your employees on a regular basis. To say that your employees, along with yourself, have been shocked by COVID-19 is an understatement. Many team members are concerned about their health and the health of their families, financial uncertainty, and fears of job loss. It can easily pull anyone off the road of productivity and into a world of worry. Now is the time to talk to team members about questions, concerns, and assumptions. Make sure that you’re checking in on them and that they understand that their manager is here to listen, should they need it.
In addition to the importance of you staying connected with your employees, it is also critical that they stay connected with one another. Particularly for teams who were used to working together and seeing one another on a regular basis, they’re accustomed to having quick and easy ways to collaborate with one another. Now that teams are working remotely, it may require a bit of extra effort to make sure that they stay connected and can still have the same efficiencies that they had when working in the same environment. So, encourage your team to use all of the resources they have at their disposal to host virtual meetings and to stay connected with one another.
If you’re struggling to find enough tasks for your team to do (or even struggling with new tasks that your team has not tackled before), a potential solution is to augment their skills through a plethora of learning, training and mentoring opportunities. Provide options for employees to learn a new skill, attend virtual meetings, or complete online training.
To keep your team moving forward on already-established tasks, set short-term goals with each employee and the team as a whole to help maintain productivity during COVID-19. Also, celebrate when milestones are reached – any milestone. Not only does this help move your team and the company forward as a whole, it creates a sense of achievement that is necessary to motivate team members, particularly in a time when frustration or uncertainty can be overwhelming. Thank employees for staying focused in the midst of the toughest of times.
Consider using this time to look internally to find projects that you and your team haven’t had the time for, or services that you have been meaning to enhance further. Ask “what have we needed to change?” In an article for Inc. Magazine, Mark Cuban encouraged small business owners and leaders to use this time to check off the “things they wish they could re-do. Now is the time to make those changes.” Ask employees to use this time to work on process improvements within the business to make the business even better when the pace begins to pick up.
Or, should that list of “to-do’s” be shorter than you would like, perhaps it is time to infuse a little creativity! There is the possibility of customers slowly trickling in when your doors re-open. Get your team engaged by brainstorming ways to offer products or services virtually. Do they see any ways that you could diversify your offerings? Get them involved thinking of ways to address customers’ needs during and after this altered business environment. This is a fantastic way to increase further investment in your employees, as it allows them the opportunity to speak their minds, test their creativity, while indicating that their ideas are valuable.
Crossing the Finish Line
We can all agree the “normal” we knew just a month ago will look very different than the “normal” we will find on the horizon. Many of our team members will encounter new anxieties as we begin to introduce the possibility of returning to working in-person. To help them maintain productivity during COVID-19 and beyond, consider what information your team needs to know to reduce anxiety and improve focus.
Make sure that you have clearly communicated your company’s plans. Answer questions like “what measures are the company taking to make sure we’re safe,” “how will we make sure everyone is healthy,” and “what will the workplace look like when this is over?” By laying some fears and concerns to rest, it allows your team to turn their focus to what necessary actions they need to take to continue remaining productive.
In the end, keeping your employees engaged, invested, and in the loop can increase your team’s productivity while getting through the COVID-19 crisis.
During these uncertain times, be sure to check out our Employer’s Resource Guide to the Coronavirus to help you navigate your business through the challenges you are facing. Still have questions? Contact us– we’re here to help.