October 28, 2021

How to keep your people motivated through uncertainty

It is hard to stay motivated in uncertain times, and there has rarely been a more uncertain time than this. We look at how you can keep your staff productive and engaged through COVID-19.

By its very nature, business is uncertain. Conditions can change, technological disruption can happen and, as we’ve found out over the past 18 months, a one-in-100 year pandemic can occur. 

The uncertainty caused by COVID-19 has been like nothing most people have experienced in their lives. Restrictions have forced us out of the office, the way we’re working has changed and some of us haven’t been able to work at all. Meanwhile, many careers have been put on hold and the connections that we took for granted in the workplace have disappeared. All of this can reduce morale and become very demotivating for staff. 

So if you’ve noticed your people becoming demotivated, lethargic and unproductive in the face of this uncertainty, here’s what you can do. 

1. Be upfront

One of the worst things you can do as an employer is to pretend it’s all ‘business as usual’. Sweeping things under the carpet and expecting people just to keep going is likely to have the reverse effect, causing many to become disillusioned and disengaged

You need to acknowledge that your people are likely to be fearful and that this is a normal reaction in times like these. So let employees have their say and provide the space for them to voice their concerns. 

Just remember, that you also need to acknowledge that there are many things outside of your control and, while you’ll do your best you can’t guarantee everything. 

2. Ask for feedback (and act on it where you can)

If you want people to stay motivated and keep getting their work done ask them how you can help facilitate this, especially with so many of us working from home. These aren’t normal times and, to some extent, you still need to be prepared to allow people some space to process what’s happening. 

Find out what they would like to help get their work done and what you can offer them to make it happen. That might be something like allowing extra autonomy, providing better tech support, moving meetings to different hours or allowing earlier or later starts.  

3. Control the controllables

While you can’t control everything, you can control some things. You can probably also adjust some of these to help your employees stay motivated. For instance, letting people work different hours, readjusting meeting time to take account of people’s lives or focusing on productivity rather than time spent at the desk, can all help people stay engaged. 

Alternatively, now that we’re returning to the office, allowing people to continue to work from home a few days a week could help people stay positive. 

4. Check in

One of the most important ways to stay motivated is simply to check in regularly. After all, with little water cooler conversation happening right now, we’re missing many of those little interactions where we talk about things other than work. If people are at home, you could arrange a Zoom chat once a week or every other day, where interacting comes first and work second. If you’re back in the office, you could make this face-to-face. Just five minutes can help you feel as though you’re working on the same page and towards the same goals.

5. Keep up the social side

For many people, the social side of working for a team is the best part of it and COVID-19 has largely taken this away. That can be a major demotivator. So do what you can to keep this alive. If your people are working from home, why not arrange a weekly Zoom call for your group where you talk about things. If you’re back in the office, make sure you keep that Friday (or Thursday) drinks going – at least to the extent you can within COVID restrictions. You could even hold virtual trivia nights or other games nights, just to keep up the fun and remind people that they’re part of a good team. 

Read more about how to how to keep workplace culture when working from home.

6. Let them in

No one wants to be working towards a goal and then have it pulled from under them. Few things are more demotivating than constant surprises. In uncertain times, one of the best ways to keep employees motivated is simply to let them know what you’re thinking and where you’re headed. Share your business strategy with them, so they know the bigger picture. Let them know why you’re doing things the way you are and how you intend to do them going forward. The worst thing you can do is to allow unnecessary ambiguity because people will fill that space with their fears.

Read more about keeping employees motivated.

Want more? 

With so much uncertainty, it’s little wonder that people are unmotivated right now but there is something you can do to make it better. If you’d like to know more about what your organisation can do, get in touch.

say hi to our author

Merilyn founded Catalina Consultants in 2012 on the belief that all organisations, regardless of size, should have access to top quality bespoke HR services. She enjoys working closely with her clients and believes that the best results are built on relationships of rapport, trust and authenticity. Growing up, Merilyn had her sight set on stardom and dreamed of becoming an actor. She also sang and played the piano, but ended up studying accounting and HR. Whilst she hasn’t won her Grammy just yet, she still loves a good karaoke night. Merilyn loves to travel with her family, with South Africa being one of her most memorable destinations.

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