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Office Hours #7: Motivation, Morale and your team

In a time of global crisis, managing morale can be incredibly tough. Employees and businesses everywhere face growing uncertainty over their futures, meaning your approach to motivation looks very different than it did six months ago. Here to discuss ways in which you can tackle this are Constance Scholten, Director of Slingshot Ventures, Dewi van Joost, HR at Withlocals and Jurrian de Graaf, Head of HR at Aidence.

In a time of global crisis, managing morale can be incredibly tough. Employees and businesses everywhere face growing uncertainty over their futures, meaning your approach to motivation looks very different than it did six months ago. 

Here to discuss ways in which you can tackle this are Constance Scholten, Director of Slingshot Ventures, Dewi van Joost, HR at Withlocals and Jurrian de Graaf, Head of HR at Aidence

1 - Communication. Communication. Communication

That uncertainty means keeping staff up-to-date is more important for morale than ever. If staff are kept in the dark, it’s bound to have a negative impact. 

Dewi begins by talking about how her company’s mission statement translates from consumers to the people working there. 

“The mission of Withlocals is connecting people, we do that with our product but it’s also our mission internally. What we’re trying to do as much as possible is to make people feel connected.”

Like many others, Withlocals was forced into letting people go. Following that decision, a survey was given to staff to assess how people were feeling and the biggest concerns they faced moving forward. 

“One of the main challenges was people find it hard to focus and concentrate when there’s such an information overload on COVID-19 and also on internal communication channels."

“What we’ve done here is created, we call it ‘week in review at Withlocals’, where we summarise all the highlights from Slack, important coronavirus updates, achievements from colleagues and working from home chronicles with funny pictures - just to make sure all the highlights are in one place.” 

Constance echoed that need for clear and concise communication, from both a business and personal aspect. “You have to over-communicate, the more communication the better.”

2 - Encouraging work-life balance

Another hurdle that comes with working from home is switching off and making sure you take breaks. Encouraging people to take time for themselves is essential, says Constance. 

“Let people know that it’s fine to do your own thing, it’s fine to be with your children and to leave your phone.”

Despite budgets taking a hit, Dewi says Withlocals ensured team-building exercises and workshops still happened, by tapping into the expertise of its staff. 

“We organise masterclasses, we gather all the knowledge we have internally, this really helps in keeping spirits high. For example, one of our copywriters did a masterclass on creative writing. We have so much knowledge internally, it’s a really nice way to use that.”

She also talked about using her company’s innovation to organise online events. 

“Withlocals has launched a new product called Withlocals Live. Basically what we’ve done is offer tours, workshops and cooking classes online. We’re using it ourselves as a team-building activity, for example, me and my team are going to watch a live concert from a host in Milan.”

Jurrian also advised that while it’s great to offer these kinds of initiatives, it’s also important to understand each individual’s circumstances, ensuring that there is something for everyone. 

“Make sure that you give space to the different sub-groups who have different needs. For example, singles at home probably have different needs to parents with children.” 

3 - Handling tough decisions and their aftermath

While breaking bad news is always an unpleasant experience, doing so when unable to meet face-to-face makes things more complicated. 

When it comes to letting staff go, Dewi says: “Over-communicating is the key here as well. We did regular talks, we did after talks with the people who had to leave, be as transparent as possible. We offered to help with finding new jobs, the only thing you can do is help as much as possible and be there for them.”

“It’s the same for people that are staying, we’re still not sure what’s going to happen in the future, the only thing we can do is be as transparent as possible and communicate all the information that we have.”

Constance reiterated that need for transparency, again stressing that communication is key throughout this process. 

“There are so many things going on, a pitfall can be to not spend enough time communicating with the team. Once people are not up to date or don’t understand the ‘why’ behind it all, a negative spirit can grow. On the flip side if you explain the direction well and work on the right initiatives, then a positive spirit will follow.”

Jurrian also raises the topic of legalities when making these decisions, adding that it’s vital to know what can and cannot be done in terms of employment law. This allows you to not only protect yourself but offer fair reasoning to the people affected. 

The reality is this, we are in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, people are not working from home because they want to, they are doing so as they have no choice. It’s natural for morale and motivation to dip and it would be naive to expect otherwise. 

This means it’s essential as leaders, to ensure you do all you can to accommodate where possible and to adapt to how you manage your team. The way in which you handle this period will extend far beyond the pandemic, in terms of both your finances and reputation. With this being said, it’s time to ask yourself whether you’re doing enough to ensure the wellbeing of staff?

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