Boosting Employee Morale During the Pandemic and Beyond: 5 Tips for Water Lab Managers

We're still a ways off from living in a post-pandemic world. For now, your water testing lab is continuing to process samples and manage customers. But dealing with uncertainty for months can put a strain on your workforce. You may even find that employee morale has reached a new low.

As essential workers, your employees have been more vulnerable to COVID-19 transmission than the millions of workers doing their jobs remotely. To minimize interactions and reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, many labs have changed their working hours; some have even added weekends. Others have been forced to cut back hours or jobs as testing needs and revenues declined.

As a lab manager, you need to step up and help your employees stay motivated and productive during the pandemic and its aftermath. These five tips can help you boost employee morale and support your workforce during this challenging time.

1. Keep Communication Honest and Open

Your staff needs your support now more than ever. Your employees are experiencing disruption that impacts their personal and professional lives — and quite possibly their financial well-being. Start by meeting with staffers one-on-one to find out how the pandemic is impacting each of them. An employee may be worried about arranging child care or paying bills without their partner's pay. No matter the scenario, help them brainstorm ways to balance their personal and professional responsibilities.

Also, hold team meetings to discuss the crisis and how it's impacting your team as a whole. Ask your employees what would be helpful during this time to maintain lab productivity and job satisfaction. This could be anything from occasional early exits on Fridays to shutting the lab down for periodic refresh days. Although you may not be able to accommodate every suggestion, your employees will appreciate that you're considering their ideas.

2. Remain Flexible

During a crisis, you must provide flexibility for employees to handle work-related and personal disruptions. Some staffers may need to make schedule changes or take additional time off, whether that's to assist family members or self-isolate due to COVID-19 exposure. Be as accommodating as possible to these requests and remind your employees to put themselves first. Practice understanding and compassion when workers come in a few minutes late or aren't in the best of spirits.

3. Share Techniques to Manage Stress

Your employees will be most anxious when they feel like they have no control over their circumstances. Acknowledge that they're under a lot of stress and empower them to manage it.

Set aside a small space in the lab where employees can meditate or quiet their minds for a few minutes, or encourage them to take brief strolls in a nearby park. Provide information on other resources, including mental health programs, online and outdoor yoga classes, and meditation apps such as Headspace. Consider bringing in a consultant on stress reduction techniques for a lunchtime talk.

4. Recognize Employee Contributions

Show your employees that you know how difficult the pandemic has made their lives, how hard they work despite the difficulties, and how much you appreciate their sacrifices. Inspire and reward staff members by regularly recognizing their contributions. Even a gesture as simple as a heartfelt handwritten thank-you note can go a long way in motivating team members and boosting morale.

Consider weekly awards for the employee who contributes more than expected, who demonstrates exceptional teamwork, or who achieves the biggest gains through problem-solving or strategic thinking. And, if possible, offer time off or a small cash bonus for those who truly deserve something special for their work and can-do attitude.

5. Make Work a Little More Fun

The news around the world continues to be daunting, which is all the more reason to make sure your staff enjoys their hours at work. Find ways to help employees connect and engage in your workplace community. Even sharing a meme or joke with others can lighten the mood.

Your team may also enjoy a pajama day, fancy dress day, crazy hair day, or even a five-minute dance party once a week. Other possibilities could include participating in an exercise challenge, sharing recipes, or playing trivia once a week at lunch. Breaking up the workday routine can boost employee motivation and provide much-needed reprieves from worrying about the rapidly changing world.

When the pandemic is behind us, it's likely that the difficulties you and your team faced together will forge a workforce that's stronger than ever. Your efforts to boost morale and create a more productive, more engaged workforce will be crucial in getting your employees to that place and through the challenging months that lie ahead.

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Diana Kightlinger

Diana Kightlinger is an experienced journalist, copywriter, and blogger for science, technology, and medical organizations. She writes frequently for Fortune 500 corporate clients but also has a passion for explaining scientific research, raising awareness of issues, and targeting positive outcomes for people and communities. Diana holds master’s degrees in environmental science and journalism.