August 09, 2021

4 tips for managing workplace morale in the new normal

Living amid constant uncertainty for more than a year has taken a toll on us. The direct and indirect impact of the pandemic continues to linger on. According to the Work Trend Index report by Microsoft last year, about one-third of employees in organisations from Asia-Pacific reported symptoms of burnout1. Unlike typical burnout, this exhaustion is a symptom of what has been termed as ‘pandemic fatigue’, a lesser discussed but prevalent effect of COVID-19.

The long-drawn pandemic has impacted society and the economy alike. As more people get vaccinated, the overall situation seems to be swaying in our favour, and activities will steadily return to normal. Humans have an inherent survival instinct that keeps us going. We may pause in pursuit, but we never stop in defeat.

Here are some ways to help each other keep the morale high at work in the changing normal:

1. Check in on colleagues

‘Well-being’ and ‘belonging’ ranked as the top two of Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends in 2020, with 80 per cent and 79 per cent of organisations, respectively, considering them fundamental2. This is an encouraging indication that global business communities are acknowledging the value of human connections in the workplace and their effects on the way people work.

Instead of limiting all interactions to work-related matters, take a moment to check in on your friends and colleagues. Someone’s family member may be battling COVID-19, or someone may be anxious about the future. Knowing the behind-the-scenes of one’s moods and being aware of a colleague’s mental state helps develop empathy among team members. This, in turn, maintains our collective morale.

2. Prioritise health and wellness

A McKinsey survey revealed that compared to respondents who were dissatisfied with their organisation’s COVID response, those who were satisfied are four times more likely to be engaged at work and six times more likely to report a positive state of well-being3. It shows that the way organisations have been responding has a tangible impact on employees. Physical, mental and emotional well-being must be the top priority for everyone – the organisation’s responsibility towards its employees and of employees towards each other.

Remember to ease into the day instead of diving into a flurry of activity immediately after waking up. Listen to relaxing music, meditate or do any activity that calms you. This will help you to focus better when you’re working. For physical health, you can do some brief indoor exercises like chair squats and calf raises. Give yourself a break from the screen and desk every 45 minutes and take short walks. Holistic well-being makes work more satisfying.

3. Celebrate achievements

In these exceptional times, we should be more openly appreciative of each other’s achievements, big or small. Even milestones that may have felt minor in pre-COVID times are significant today, simply because we are achieving them despite the additional stress we’re experiencing.

Express gratitude and give a shout-out to colleagues that you wouldn’t have otherwise. Be more verbal with appreciation even for small efforts. Such little actions go a long way in boosting morale and building a culture of optimism and respect for each other.

4. Have some fun

Fun is probably the last thing on people’s minds these days as they struggle with a range of emotions like fear, anxiety and confusion. But it has been observed that when a shut-in family engages in games, music or dance, it helps them manage unpleasant feelings better. Similarly, engaging in light activities like games, karaoke and quizzes, is a great way for workers to feel a sense of normalcy.

Such activities have been proven to instill a sense of camaraderie among employees and strengthen their bond. In this pandemic, part of our problems is physical and part psychological. While the former will be overcome in due course of time, we can choose to end the latter through sheer force of will. So, participate in light activities and lift each other’s spirits together.

As communities, businesses, institutions and governments continue the fight against COVID-19, we may feel the need to be stoic, but we must not lose touch with our emotional side. Continue to act in a realistic manner, but also be optimistic in your thoughts. Exercise caution without compromising on compassion. We are in this together, and togetherness will get us out of it.