How to lift employee spirits during COVID-19

HRD spoke to the head of HR at tech firm Clipchamp about how they’re boosting employee morale during the pandemic

How to lift employee spirits during COVID-19

Mental Health Awareness Week is well and truly underway, serving as a timely reminder to check in on how the pandemic has impacted employee wellbeing.

The majority (78%) of Australians reported that pre-existing mental health problems had worsened during the outbreak, according to research led by the University of New South Wales.

Psychological distress levels were also higher, with 62%, 50%, and 64% of participants reporting raised levels of depression, anxiety, and stress, respectively.

If we’ve learned anything from this pandemic, it’s that HR departments need to invest just as much time in catering to psychological employee needs as they do physical.

As Julia Poloai, head of culture and talent at video editing start-up Clipchamp, told HRD - the role of the employer in 2020 is to address workers’ mental health concerns.

Poloai advised HR leaders to be flexible in order to suit the varying needs of employees across multiple locations – taking the time to stay connected in case new issues arise.

“With less separation between work and life during COVID-19, managers might find employees burning out,” said Poloai.

“As some employees work from cities in lockdown, HR leaders should encourage employees to embrace every opportunity they have to participate in physical activity or step outside for some fresh air.”

Poloai added that coaching employees and their managers on wellness opportunities and taking time off when sick, “reminds teams they’re cared for”.

Read more: How to protect employee mental health

“Resources such as Employee Assistance Program providers are a great support for areas of needs the company can’t help with directly, including financial, legal, anxiety, depression, and other counselling support topics.”

Clipchamp have also sent pizza deliveries to lockdown addresses so employees can share a social meal and remember that while isolated, the experience they’re going through is being shared by others.

Teams have also enjoyed celebratory lunches online, and opening RUOK care packages sent directly to each employee’s home, to remind them of their Employee Assistance Program benefit in case they need more than a friendly chat.

Another method Clipchamp is using to boost the spirit of team members is through reward and recognition.

“With pay rises and gala dinners less likely across industries this year, I encourage companies to feel encouraged by the longstanding research indicating money isn’t the top motivator for performance, nor the most meaningful display of recognition for great work.”

There is much research to suggest that too much or too little pay will diminish productivity. According to the Yerkes – Dodson Law, too little pay will lead to unhappy employees, and too much will lead to the employees being too excited about pay to work.

Poloai said pay rises and gala dinners are certainly nice-to-haves, but appreciation and the feeling of reward can be much more timely than annual recognition events.

“Handwritten notes detailing specifically what the company appreciates from the individual and daily thank you’s continue to be meaningful in the day-to-day,” said Poloai.

Read more: The no.1 killer of staff morale

“Companies might not have the bandwidth for pay rises this year, but employees can still be recognised with opportunities to develop, giving individuals the opportunity to open transparent communication about what they’re doing well.”

Moreover, it’s about sharing ideas about what employees would like to do next or participating with managers in conversations regarding what looking after the workforce should look like.

“Personalisation is the key to doing these well.”

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