Boosting Employee Morale and Happiness During the Pandemic

Five things you can do now to boost employee well-being—and productivity.

Posted Jul 16, 2020

A recent report by McKinsey revealed something that all of us instinctively know to be true: the pandemic has been brutal to employee happiness and morale. So, an important question arises: How can leaders enhance employee happiness morale? Here are top 5 things that leaders can do:

1. Provide reassurance—especially on job security (if you can)

These are times of great uncertainty and employees around the world are primarily looking for one thing: reassurance. If your organization can afford it, assure employees that they will not be fired. Tell them that there will be a salary cut and that they may not get their promised hikes but reassure that they are not going to be laid off. 

2. Keep communication channels open

Give employees all the possible information that you can, even if it is only to say, “We haven’t yet decided on the exact course of action on this particular issue yet.” When you don’t meet people, information flow, particularly what’s called ‘tacit’ information—informal exchange of seemingly unimportant, but actually useful stuff—drops drastically. So, it is particularly important to keep communication levels as high as possible. Let employees know that they have the option to ask you questions and to reach out to you anytime they want. (Needless to say, be accessible to them.)

3. Organize regular informal—ideally fun—online meet-ups 

You may have several emails, meetings, and calls with your employees, but it is also essential to plan non-work related, fun meetings over video (e.g., Zoom). When you don’t meet people, people quickly start feeling lonely and isolated, and that can really deflate our happiness and morale. By contrast, when we can see others, even if only on video, non-verbal communication is established—through expressions, behavior, and tonality—and that, in turn, enhances our well-being.

4. Let employees do it their way

Having a sense of control over life is critical for happiness and because of the high levels of uncertainty due to the pandemic for many employees, that sense of control is at an all-time low. This is why it is critical for leaders to give employees as much autonomy and freedom as possible. This translates to letting employees deal with challenges their own way, without constraining them in any way—unless it is unavoidable. The less judgmental we are in how employees deal with things, the better off they will be. One way to be less judgmental is to recognize one thing: Times of great stress and upheaval always lead to great innovations. Everyone has different ways of dealing with the pandemic and the crisis. It is important to give people the space and time to find their own way to an effective solution. One year from now, a lot of great things would have emerged from this pandemic. And for all you know, your employee doing something differently from how you want them to do things may lead to this great thing!

5. Keep your own morale high

Employees look up to their leaders for not just strategy and direction, but also for emotional well-being. So, it is critical that you keep up your own happiness and morale. The best way to do this is by prioritizing your own well-being. Here are three simple (but not necessarily easy) things to keep up your morale:

  • Lead a healthy lifestyle. That is, eat healthy food, exercise every day, and get adequate sleep. To eat healthy, get rid of unhealthy snacks because we tend to eat whatever is easily accessible. Get at least 20 minutes of exercise each day by following online routines like this one. And finally, be regular with sleep habits—that’s the best way to get adequate (think at least six, ideally seven hours, of sleep every night).
  • Avoid negative people and news. You get a bigger boost to your positivity by avoiding negative people and stimuli than you do from seeking positive stimuli. So, to the extent possible, avoid negative stimuli. That includes the news, by the way! Restrict news consumption to one, max two, hours a day.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. At the end of each day, write down three good things that happened that day—e.g., “I managed to get three hours of solid work done today,” or “I spoke to my friend after a long time.” It will help remind you that things aren’t so bad after all!