‘Small Gestures Matter’ - Tips for Keeping Up Staff Morale

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By Rebecca Stauffer


This is a trying time for everyone right now. As we scramble to transform in-person conferences into virtual offerings and expand online content in addition to strategically planning how to return to the office in a “new normal,” nothing is more important than raising morale.


Like many of us, I’m working from home and focusing on managing our growth of online content from weekly articles to a new bimonthly podcast. Below are some tips I have for keeping up morale as we head into an uncertain future:


Meet just to shoot the breeze

My organization uses MS Teams, and my small team meets weekly on the platform. In addition, I meet with other departments. It can be easy to fall in the trap of only discussing work. I scheduled a lunch meeting with my two teammates just to see how everyone is doing and discuss shows we’re binge watching, house projects, new dishes cooked, etc. It was a welcome reprieve for the three of us.


Schedule virtual happy hours

Much has already been written about virtual happy hours, and I think they are great. One caveat, don’t focus too much on the drinks themselves—I think at our last one a number of us were drinking tea. We also banned discussion of a certain word that begins with a “C” and ends in “-19.”


Share your personal projects

Our graphic designer just finished up a puzzle of the Beatles’ White Album. She shared pictures of it on Instagram with us. I’m making jewelry in my spare time and producing a personal podcast, which I’ve shared with some of my team. We’re all working on new things at home and this is a great way to share.


Little things matter

After a mildly terse exchange with a colleague, I shared a video of a koala crying because it was kicked out of a tree. I knew she would like it. Right now, small gestures matter more than anything. Even something as a small as a picture can help lift someone’s spirits.


Here’s one from my AM&P colleague, Melanie Padgett Powers:


Recognize the tough situation.

Too many association staffers are sharing stories right now about bosses who seem to expect them to work 24/7. Content creation has been in overdrive. (Have you actually polled your members to see what they want and how often?) Even a regular 9-5 schedule is tough right now. People are not simply working from home—they are stuck at home during a scary global pandemic! They are dealing with extra stress and responsibilities that have nothing to do with their jobs. Be sympathetic and kind, but walk the walk too. Your words are meaningless if you’re still piling on the work. Be vocal about wanting your staff to take off nights, weekends and holidays. And then don’t give them assignments that require them to work those extra hours. Consider new perks and special recognitions too, such as implementing half-day Fridays this summer.


And one more from a past article here:


Be understanding.

We're all human. Right now many employees are balancing work with kids at home. One colleague tells people on the phone that “I could be disrupted. For example, the other day, while I was on a call, my daughter yelled from the basement that she was stuck. Clearly I had to go fix that." So take a deep breath before addressing any problems.


I hope these tips help with keeping up morale. While many of us are anxious to return to the office, it is likely that this will take place slowly due to phased reopenings. Morale is key and necessary as we inch closer to returning to work.


Rebecca Stauffer is managing editor for the Parenteral Drug Association.