Apr 03

Building and managing employee relationships & morale during COVID-19

The looming COVID-19 health emergency has lead to lock downs across countries, forcing companies to get their employees to work remotely. While this has managed business continuity in the current context, it has led to managers facing a new dilemma; managing employee relationships.

Well, employees in most knowledge service firms and certain employee functions in other sectors would have worked from home at some point of time, but working remotely for such an extended stretch, possibly not.

This has thrown up newer challenges for firms;

  • keeping their employees engaged and productive
  • managing employee morale
  • sustaining the sense of team spirit

All this while employees are working remotely from different locations.

These are some practices that firms (including Feedback) are utilizing to ensure that teams are “staying connected + managing the fabric” that hold teams together.

More Face time through video calls

  • Get employees to interact more often and whenever possible through video calls so that they see each other more often and get that in-office feeling.
  • This keeps at bay, any feelings of working in isolation and has a positive impact on employee productivity.

Connecting through Virtual Tea / Coffee Breaks

  • This may seem corny at the outset, but for employees used to running into colleagues in the corridor, or having informal conversations sitting over a cup of tea, this would be a welcome opportunity to e-connect and indulge in some light hearted banter. 

Regular Communication from the management 

  • Frequent emails, e-townhalls to keep employees informed about the managements take on the crisis, how it has impacted their sector, changes in company strategy going forward, any policy changes etc. 
  • Essentially make employees feel that they are being kept in the loop.
  • Encourage two-way communication if possible, through your company intranet, blogs etc.

Frequent check-ins by managers

  • Inquire into the well-being of colleagues and their families. Folks may be concerned about the happenings in the current COVID context and may have a lot more on their minds.
  • Understand if employees need any guidance on any tasks. This will especially be the case with newer employees.
  • With in-person meetings, these activities might have been simpler. However, due to the lack of in person conversations communication gaps could lead to a drop in employee productivity and trust issues. This gap would to be consciously bridged by managers.

Encouraging folks to unplug after work

  • Ask folks to stick to the same ritual as they would, had they been working from office.
  • While working from home there is a delicate line between personal and professional time. Folks tend to stretch beyond their working hours leading to burn outs.
  • This would be especially true when teams work across different time zones.
  • Encourage folks to follow office hours strictly, where they would be most productive during that time. And disconnect post that.

Medical Support

  • Develop and communicate processes to ensure quicker reimbursements of bills, in case any employee or family member is suffering from COVID-19 during these times

Team Bonding Events

  • Continue with team bonding events such as birthdays, anniversary celebrations, rituals etc. These can continue as e-events to ensure you maintain team morale. 
  • Don’t let employees feel they are missing out any aspect of their routine. 

The country in which your employees are located, would largely determine when normalcy may set, and when employees may actually return to their workplace. Above are a set of ideas that firms have employed to ensure that employee morale and bonding is kept intact to the extent possible, throughout this extended period of working from home.

However, when implementing these within your organization, ensure that these ideas:

  • are in line with the culture of your organization
  • have management buy-in
  • do not breach any customer guidelines
  • are possible to be implemented given your technology infrastructure
  • do not go against any processes in place

Keep Healthy, Stay Safe.

Alton Anthony Fernandes

Alton manages Marketing and Sales for the India – South region. He specializes in advising clients on Customer and Brand Experience studies. Alton brings to the fore his cross-industry experience in designing effective and customized research engagements that address the specific business need of each client.

Ganesh Jayaraman

Ganesh leads our Advisory practice and is based out of Bangalore. Over his 13 years of experience in the industry, He has delivered 70+ engagements in Consulting, Service Delivery Transformation, Key Account Management and Customer Service Improvement. He brings in a mix of problem definition, leading workshops and delivering successful programs.