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How do I keep my team motivated during lockdown?

Written by Juliet Hodges on Monday, 01 June 2020. Posted in Leadership, People

A tight deadline? Another cup of coffee? Or perhaps it’s some inspiring words from a colleague?

How do I keep my team motivated during lockdown?

For those able to work from home during lockdown, adjusting to a new working environment may have taken a while. Now, over two months in, some employees may be tiring of daily similarity, and even those with the best intentions may find that their concentration and production levels are beginning to fade. Don’t panic, though! As a manager, there are still plenty of ways you can help to drive your team’s performance from afar. Juliet Hodges, Senior Behaviour Change Adviser at Bupa UK, talks us through some simple tips to help motivate your team during these uncertain times.

Stay in touch

Regardless of whether your team members live alone or with loved ones, anyone can feel lonely during these unique times. If a person is feeling lonely, their work performance is likely to suffer. If you suspect that one of your team members is struggling with loneliness, you can help them by fostering a work culture that’s open, caring and supportive. Why not set up a regular team call, where your team can discuss non-work-related items, like how they’re feeling, if they have anything positive to say or if they have any concerns?

If you’re arranging a meeting, try and organise it over videocall. You could even encourage remote teamworking groups for tasks, to promote more colleague interaction throughout the day. Face-to-face interaction virtually can be just as beneficial for your brain and happiness levels as having a conversation with someone where you’re both physically within the same space.

Setting work goals: together

At a time when many of us already have extra emotional demands competing with our work responsibilities, now isn’t an ideal time to be loading complex goals onto your team members. Under regular circumstances, discussing what your employee would like to achieve, along with step-by-step plans of what they’re doing to achieve it, could be something that works quite well. However, it’s important to be mindful that some team members may have other commitments, such as childcare or delivering supplies for someone vulnerable. 

That said, setting small goals relating to wellbeing can be a great way to inject some new motivation and enthusiasm into your team’s working day. We might think about setting goals on a desired outcome basis; for example, what do we want to achieve, and when do we want to achieve it by? However, it can be more effective to look at goals in the reverse, focusing instead on the process of adopting a new behaviour into your routine and prioritising consistency over results. To combat the feeling of being easily distracted, it could be useful for all employees to incorporate mindfulness sessions at set times throughout their working day. Discussing behaviour-geared changes and setting them, together with your team, should help to make those changes feel more achievable. Plus, this way, all parties can feel satisfied that any goals set seem both healthy and realistic.

Break it down

Some employees may be finding that homelife factors make it somewhat difficult to commit to a regular working schedule.  Help your team overcome these barriers by using ‘if-then’ planning: anticipating what could go wrong (the ‘if’) and what you could do instead (the ‘then’). This can be useful to help achieve little wins throughout the day, that can contribute to longer term changes in workplace habits. For example, if an employee has decided that they would like to exercise at lunchtime to boost their concentration in the afternoon, they can use the ‘if-then’ technique in case any unforeseen barriers come their way: e.g. if it’s raining, then I’ll do an online yoga class instead of going for a walk.

Supporting your colleague by suggesting a high-low commitment range for their goal can be useful too. For example, if an employee has back pain from their home-working set up, they may aspire to carry out desk-based exercises to alleviate the pain and make them feel more comfortable and motivated to work. Instead of setting themselves the goal to carry these exercises out a definite three times a day, you could instead suggest that the stretches can be done between one (low range) and three times (high range) a day. This will help them to set a goal that is more achievable for them.

Rinse and repeat

Encourage your team members to keep on track with repeating the behaviours linked to achieving their goals. Making something a habit isn’t always easy, but repetition is key to make the behaviour run like clockwork. When you do something for the first time, your brain must create a new pathway in order to make it happen. The more you repeat this behaviour over time, the more likely your brain will start carrying out the behaviour automatically.

Context is also important here, as linking a new behaviour to cues in our environment or existing routine can act as a reminder. Just as going to bed prompts behaviours like brushing your teeth, linking new behaviours (like a few minutes of mindfulness) to existing ones (e.g. putting the kettle on in the morning) can facilitate it becoming habitual. The support and encouragement of the team can also be invaluable to help people keep these behaviours up consistently. You could start a leader board within your team to make it like a competition, or instead suggest that your employees start a journal to record their progress and even share tips with each other. Seeing how far they’ve come can be another effective motivation tool.

By keeping in contact with your team and working together to support them towards individual, achievable goals, you can help to keep morale high during social distancing and strengthen team rapport. And who knows, you might even develop some healthy habits that last long after lockdown, too.

About the Author

Juliet Hodges

Juliet Hodges

With an academic background in psychology and behavioural economics, Juliet is fascinated by why people think and act in the way they do. She started her career in advertising, applying this science to everything from menu design and supermarket layout to billboards and voiceover scripts for a range of well-known brands. She moved to Bupa as a behaviour change advisor to help people change their habits to be healthier and happier, particularly in the workplace.

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