It’s been a long and challenging year, one that has tested the mettle of many teams and left their leaders wondering how to support their most vital resource. How do you recognize employee contributions when in-person gatherings and meetings may be impossible?
Data we’ve recently collected from teams in distribution companies suggest that answering this question proves particularly important. Fully 71% of the employees we’ve surveyed report that they struggle with the stress of meeting both their personal and work responsibilities, 41% feel isolated from friends and family, and 39% wish they could connect with their coworkers more closely. Those numbers reveal high levels of stress.
Not surprisingly, the data also show that this stress exacts a toll, as 40% reported having trouble sleeping three or more days in the week preceding the survey, more than 1 in 4 described trouble focusing three or more days in the preceding week, and over 18% reported that they couldn’t get going, felt sad, and felt lonely at least three days in the week preceding the survey. These effects can impact your team, their productivity, and ultimately your bottom line.
Here are suggestions to help you reward your team, reconnect them to each other and to your organization, and bolster morale.
Show Your Appreciation Meaningfully
Write a hand-written note to team members (or if that’s not possible, print a letter that you can sign and send to each team member). Acknowledge the challenges that this year has brought and thank team members for specific contributions or accomplishments. Then, go beyond that to focus also on specific ways in which team members have found novel ways to surmount challenges; persevered through adversity; remained connected to the team and to your customers; and supported each other. Highlight examples, wherever possible.
Create a Virtual “Team Circle”
Invite team members to provide support to each other. Doing so can not only increase morale but also improve your team’s mental and physical health, to combat the effects we discussed. The “team circle” provides an opportunity for your team to give and receive vital support. Invite each member to identify one thing that they need this holiday season--it might be support on a project, help getting gifts if they’re protecting a vulnerable family member, or tips on how to host a virtual family celebration. Share the items among the team and invite them to contribute responses and/or provide help to each other. If possible, provide time off for them to support each other. Something as simple as sharing a treasured family recipe or pitching in on a project can make a big impact on both the givers and the recipients, combatting pandemic and holiday stress.
Invite Your Team to “De-Stress”
Your employees may need “permission” to take some time off to take care of themselves. Consider giving them a day off in which they do something to “de-stress.” Provide a worksheet that lists positive coping strategies and “self-care” activities.
Offering suggestions will help them choose activities that are more effective in decreasing stress. For example, watching television with family members will likely prove more relaxing than “zoning out” in front of the television alone. Invite employees to contribute descriptions and/or pictures of the activities that they enjoyed, so they can share ideas and encourage each other.
Host a Creative Virtual Celebration
Hire a musician to host a virtual concert and send food items to team members to enjoy during the event. Or hire a comedian for a virtual comedy night. Provide a “virtual walking tour” of a city that your employees may never have visited. Bring in a mixologist to show team members how to make festive holiday beverages and send the ingredients to them in advance.
Support Them in Giving Back
Invite the team to a charity event in which they can all participate and/or to which they can all contribute. Whether you collect items for the local food bank, write letters to elderly individuals or send “care packages” to nursing home staff or hospital employees, you can make a difference and unite the team for the cause.
You can also share talents virtually, by editing resumes for unemployed individuals, creating content for nonprofits or finding ways to support small businesses who may be struggling.
Or, if you want to help your team make individual contributions, provide a “give-back bonus” to each team member that they can use for the charity or cause of their choice.
Your team may not be able to gather with family this holiday in the way they traditionally have. Financial stress may have constrained their gift-giving or activities. And, as virus cases continue to rise in many areas, additional restrictions may emerge before we get to the other side of this pandemic.
But, simple activities and projects can help your team not just “get through” this winter, but also find meaning and hope in the new year.
Dr. Jeanne Hurlbert, President of Hurlbert Consulting, developed the Team Touchpoints program to help distributors and manufacturers support their teams so they can engage customers and support the bottom line.