When we first moved to remote working during the first COVID lockdown, many bosses were surprised by the uptick in productivity. Tasks that used to be months worth of work were suddenly achieved in a matter of weeks; employees problem-solving capabilities increased, and delivery times have been cut. Some might say the crisis created a sense of urgency or direction.
As we emerge from the third round of restrictions, most companies are looking at how they can sustain these gains and come out of the pandemic fighting. In addition to operational resilience, we need to think about how to maintain employee morale. With the right strategy, we can continue to drive the transformative power of this newfound productivity. Here are three ways how.
1. Restructure the working environment
From streamlining finances to meeting new consumer demands, the COVID-19 crisis has forced us to reappraise what work adds value. These actions were critical to survival – in essence, the pandemic has compelled us to ‘trim the fat’ off the working day. To maintain these lessons moving forward, we need to assess what work is essential and what is, to put it bluntly, a waste of time.
To illustrate: management should strive for absolute clarity in terms of communicating strategy. This will enable employees to efficiently glean the “must-have” outcomes, alongside a compelling reason as to why they’re essential and the value they’ll create. Equally, this notion of the trimming of the fat could be extended to how we structure the workday; if staff might work better from home or with a flexi-time structure, fine. Give them what they need to flourish.
2. Empower employees
Productivity also rocketed during lockdown because the relationship between staff and management shifted. In the confines of their own home workers were, by nature, more independent. This enabled them to make bold decisions on the fly, whereas before, they would have felt they had to seek permission. If the wisdom of the Agile methodology is anything to go by, the benefits of autonomous, enterprising employees far outweigh the risks.
Naturally, this speed – agility if you will – boosted productivity during the lockdown. To maintain this, leaders need to think about how their management style can facilitate this independent thought. Meanwhile, the clear, goal-oriented communication mentioned in our first point will support this hands-off approach, while keeping the team on course.
3. Develop resilience
Resilience is certainly a positive trait – however, constantly testing resilience can have serious implications for team morale. Remember when we all thought the first lockdown would only last three weeks or so? The fact is, many people are jaded, which is fair enough. Finding a sustainable cadence is difficult, especially in the face of so much adversity.
However, the upshot is that resilience isn’t a fundamental trait, it’s something that can be taught. Resilience is a skill, which means it can be developed, strengthened, and maintained. Via self-awareness and motivation, teams can keep going. Therefore, it’s vital that management invests in developing these skills, even if it’s through simple morale-boosting activities like team meetings or socials.
Creating positivity out of a crisis
Once we fully emerge from the pandemic, hard times will still be ahead. Although many European economies are enjoying a better bounce-back than forecast, the next 12 to 24 months will be challenging. This means that focussing on tangible goals – like targets, structures, and processes – will help focus our minds.
Equally, this approach will enable us to maintain some of the productivity gains we discovered during the lockdowns. By focussing on the things we can control and measure, we can maintain resilience during the years to come – while developing this essential skill.