How managers can help employees navigate through another lockdown and the long winter ahead

Peter Ryding gives us advice for making it through the long winter months. 

The increasing gloom of longer nights, colder days, dreary weather, and the isolation and health fears of the deepening Covid crisis is causing genuine fears for anxiety, depression, lost productivity and business survival.

As we isolate once again in the second lockdown we can see the crisis causing further operational disruption, lost productivity and working hours. Even for those businesses who are still up and running their employees are working in a different playing field with illness, poor communication, less clarity and motivation and more confusion.

Many businesses that I am speaking to are operating way below their potential as a result.

It is now critical to recognise the huge correlation between productivity and a happy workforce and address this. Companies need to equip their employees, especially those that are working remotely with the necessary new skills and insights to stay positive, resilient and productive.

So how can L&D and HR professionals help employees stay motivated, mentally resilient and productive through the Covid winter?

More time and care on communications

Managers need to compensate for loss of face-to-face contact and to acknowledge why this creates more risks to mental health. It is of course important to touch base regularly with your employees, over the phone, video call or email yet managers need to do more than this.

Companies need to equip their employees, especially those that are working remotely with the necessary new skills and insights to stay positive, resilient and productive.

In addition, managers need to dedicate enough time to listen properly to their employees and issues they are raising. We are living in an age of regular video calls yet a common complaint that I am hearing is not all managers are allowing enough time before, during and after each call to think about each individual they are connecting with, what they want to get out of the call and to then reflect on the call.

Education and use of coaching

It is vital that leaders and managers acquire and apply basic coaching skills to understand the mental wellbeing and productivity of the team and individuals that work for them. For instance, it is increasingly important that managers recognise the signs of mental illness, stress or burn out and then know how this can be addressed.

More championing and role modelling of the employer brand

With less exposure to the head office and a wide variety of colleagues there is a danger that the culture and EVP (employee value proposition) gets diluted with less bonding, corps d’esprit, and in the long term less loyalty and retention of talent.

So managers must be guardians and champions of the company, its purpose, values, culture and promote the employer brand. This can be done in many ways such as regularly updating the staff on the company vision, encouraging employees to be ‘brand ambassadors’ and ensuring that company culture is strengthened and not eroded by the lack of physical contact.


Motivation is key – Help your employees to be a HERO

Research shows that organisations will be more productive if they support their employees by building a good psychological contract in four key ways to motivate them to be a HERO. It is about creating an environment in which the individual chooses to take personal ownership and gains pride by doing so:

  • Hope – Provide an exciting vision and strategy for the company or department that employees can proudly build their own plan around.
  • Efficacy – Allow employees to equip themselves with skills, knowledge and behaviours that give them the confidence to achieve the goals that they have been set and bought into.
  • Resilience – Create the culture and supportive environment so that employees have the skills, resilience, tenacity and social connectedness to cope with conflict, stresses and adversity. This will ensure they bounce back from difficulties and disappointments.
  • Optimism – Give them motivating feedback and positive attribution to build a confident mindset in order to learn from mistakes. Employees need to believe that they merit success and will achieve it by applying effort and newly gained skills.

What tactics work and why

The most simple but effective tactic to help ensure employees are happy and fulfilled is to ensure they are mentored which includes short and frequent coaching and ‘checking in’ as opposed to ‘checking up’. A classic coaching question is “Anything else?” which encourages employees to share worries and concerns and engage their managers help and support.

It is also about incentivising. One motivational tactic that is being used in a virtual world, is to continue to use ‘visual boards’. In the office these are boards on the wall with simple ways of tracking performance.

By using these boards employees can be motivated to aim higher and it is a powerful way to focus everyone’s attention on individual and team performance. It encourages discretionary effort and creates a fun competitive environment by giving a common goal to celebrate success.

Driving innovation and continuous improvement is much tougher remotely, yet it is still possible. It is a simple formula = Happy employees equals a productive company.


About the author

Peter Ryding is the founder of Your Virtual Interactive Coach – VIC.



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