How to boost telecommuters' morale during the COVID-19 pandemic

The coronavirus is forcing companies around the globe to move toward a distributed-team model. While your employees may be working remotely, this new virtual environment doesn't have to hurt morale.

Handsome casual businessman talking online via headset.

Image: nortonrsx, Getty Images/iStockphoto

These are unprecedented times calling for unprecedented actions throughout the global business world, and that means moving to a virtual workforce. Remote work may be here to stay now that companies have had to grapple with the impact that COVID-19 is having on day-to-day operations and team interactions. Of more concern is that the virus may remain a devastating health crisis for a while, getting much worse before it gets better. 

SEE: IT pro's roadmap to working remotely (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Long after the self-isolation and quarantines are lifted, the impact is likely to leave companies wondering whether they should be considering a fully or partially remote workforce going forward. Until a solution to contain and slow COVID-19 is found, it's going to become increasingly important for companies to find ways to boost morale for telecommuters. Here are some tips to keep teams connected and productive. 

Host virtual company-wide video COVID-19 updates

We are dealing with what is now officially a pandemic, with few things feeling more concerning to most employees these days. Helping employees remain calm is a vital undertaking and one that your leadership team should enter into seriously. Morale is likely low during this time because of the uncertainty it has created. Hosting weekly or periodic video conferences to keep employees up to date on COVID-19 facts is essential. Leaders can do a lot to calm nerves by sharing not only current facts but also the things that they are working on to help employees and their families cope. 

SEE: 8 communication tips for telecommuters to master (TechRepublic)

Team wellness check-ins

Set a weekly virtual team meeting to discuss not only work-related topics but also do a check-in to see how team members are doing. This is an excellent way for team leaders and team members to show their support for one another and to offer up tips that they find helpful in staying healthy. This is a good time to share fact-based videos and news from authority sites for discussion. Sorting through myths and keeping heads calm is important when dealing with low morale during this time.

Revisit health care programs

The health of your employees has never been more at risk or more on their minds. Now is the time to revisit your health care programs and identify what additional measures can be taken to protect the health of your employees. Maybe online health care claim processing hasn't been an option in the past but should be now. Are there options to offer online counseling services or virtual doctor's visits? The key here is ensuring that your virtual teams have access to healthcare without putting themselves at risk. 

SEE: The tech pro's guide to video conferencing (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Virtual coffee or perks

Coffee with your team at their favorite bistro may be off the table for now. Instead, schedule a virtual coffee get-together. Leverage video conferencing software, and ask your team members to grab their favorite drink and a snack, and to come prepared to share something funny or exciting. No work: Just fun. Talk about your pets, something that you find engaging, like a hobby, whatever anyone wants to share. As a small pick-me-up, you may want to reward your team for being so awesome during a difficult time by offering a virtual gift card. Keep in mind that this doesn't need to be costly; it's about giving your team members something to look forward to. 

Watch a game or an event together

Maybe watching a previously aired game or event together may be what your team needs as a pick-me-up during disruptive times. Large gatherings are still possible (virtually) — all you need is an invite, some snacks, and an interest in spending some time together — and of course, the right technology.

These aren't the only ways to boost your virtual team's morale during COVID-19 and beyond. The key is first recognizing that your teams are likely to suffer decreased morale and then making the decision to do something about it. 

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