Lifting Morale and Inclusion for your remote team

For many of our clients, the coronavirus pandemic is a crisis unlike any other in recent times. 

Over this past week, I’ve spent some time talking to leaders across a variety of industries to understand the unique ways in which their businesses are facing such uncertain times and how I, as a global diversity & inclusion consultant, could support them.

What I found was that one of the most common questions leaders are asking in these testing times is this: how do I maintain morale and continue to build a culture of inclusion for my (mostly) remote-working team?

It’s a question that I’m sure leaders everywhere are asking themselves so we want to de-silo this question as culture is the secret sauce to happy teams and high-performance but is often the first thing to go in times of crisis. 

To ensure that your teams not only survive this but thrive as a well-functioning team who sees obstacles as opportunities, I suggest these seven practices:

1. Break large teams into smaller daily check-in groups

Daily check-ins are going to be crucial in these early days to stay focused on priorities and maintain team morale and collaboration. We hold 20-minute daily ‘stand-ups’ at 11.15 AEST via Google Hangouts where each team member shares their priorities for the day as well as openly discuss what support is needed. We find this to be an easy and highly effective exercise and suggest no more than 8 people but this isn’t a hard and fast rule. 

2. Establish traditions and routines that work for you

Small things can make a huge impact on lifting team morale. A few of the simplest ways that we’ve implemented tradition and routine within our own team are:

  • IM everyone when you start and finish the day (we use Slack)
  • We’ve created a collaborative Spotify playlist that captures the office mood (it’s super energising and is full of female artists – you’re welcome to listen and add to!)
  • Share photos on your different workspaces for the day or GIF’s to lift the mood – who doesn’t love a GIF
  • Encourage everyone to bring food into to “eat virtually around the table”
  • Hold virtual “Friday drinks” – or whatever that end-of-week team activity is

3. Daily Video Check-Ins

Turn on the webcam. Being able to connect and see people is critical to remain connected and maintain a sense of trust and morale. It also enables leaders to pick up on signs of overwhelm or disengagement much easier than otherwise able to.

4. Be transparent about the impact on the business and what it means for them

In times of uncertainty, our brain grasps onto certainty. Don’t assume your team aren’t already thinking about what the impact of COVID-19 means for them within the business.

Empower your team to speak up honestly about the current problems they see, provide reassurance to the team on their job security (where possible), clearly communicate the impact on the business and help them to prepare for what’s next. Without these steps, it’s all but impossible to know what to fix and how to fix it.

Clarity trumps ambiguity every time. 

5. Set aside time for worry – for yourself and your team. Isolate the time aside to process your stress, anxiety

It’s healthy to take time to hit pause, step away from the desk & do whatever it is that helps you regain clarity. Something I suggested to my team does the day the pandemic status was announced was to take the remainder of the day off to feel all the emotions – free of work pressure. 

Compartmentalising feelings that don’t serve us as leaders is an incredibly powerful way of taking back control over this otherwise volatile situation.

6. Maintain both wider team connectivity and also time/space for 1:1 personal

Be people-first. Your team wants to work for a company that has them personally and their wider community’s best interests at heart. Let your teams know that they come first by fostering connection as a team and 1:1, then work together to maintain business as usual.

7. Support the middle managers 

It can be particularly hard for middle managers as they worry about disruptions to the workflow they are accountable for, and some may feel the most at ease to coach their team if they are physically present as they are still learning how to engage workers from a distance. Make sure you’re checking in with middle managers to ensure they’re not only ok personally, but to check on how they’re managing their reports too.

We’ll be working over the next few weeks to bring leaders of all levels, practical tools to help lead your team effectively while maintaining the standard of excellence you’ve been working towards. We will be sure to share these as soon as available. In the meantime, I welcome you to reach out to me directly if you’d like more specific guidance on what I’ve discussed above. 

Until then, take care of yourself and your teams. We look forward to continuing to serve our community now more than ever.