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Team morale at work was among the many aspects of our lives that was upended in 2020. The massive shift to working from home had a clear and direct impact on that morale because we couldn’t be with our fellow team members in person. That separation, even if bridged by technology, takes a toll. Not surprisingly, a Society for Human Resource Management survey from April found that over 65 percent of employers said that maintaining employee morale has been a top issue.

Challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated a number of changes that were already taking place in how and where businesses work. This article is the final in a five-part series about the ongoing evolution of offices and what businesses can do to adapt and succeed. The uncertainty unleashed this year has been harrowing for many businesses, but there are opportunities to grow amidst all the disruption. The first part of the series focused on employee communication while the second part examined physical office spaces and how they’re changing during the pandemic. The third part of the series explored how businesses can adjust their office and work policies to reflect our new reality and the fourth post covered how to maintain relationships with clients, especially remotely. This final part of the series takes a closer look at bolstering morale among team members.

As I’ve detailed in other articles, the need for human connection is powerful and applies to all types of relationships. Finding ways to maintain and enhance personal connections and team morale is paramount to the success of any business.

Three strategies can prove especially effective at boosting team morale and they’re explored below.


A common theme across this series is the vital role of communication. In most circumstances, more communication is better than less. That certainly holds true with employees. Business owners and executives should set a strong example with clear and consistent communication for all team members. Identify the information that you want to relay and then do so across a variety of channels, from emails and memos to telephone calls and meetings (whether socially distanced or virtual). Not all employees will digest information in the same manner, so providing updates in a variety of contexts will ensure the message is received.

An effective tool is a weekly email update. This email should include important company information, details about policy changes, and friendly reminders. Finally, don’t forget to make it feel personal by adding appropriate humor.

Another valuable rule to keep in mind is don’t assume that employees will read between the lines. Be direct and overt. Your team will appreciate it because this level of transparency will instill confidence.

Embrace Empathy

As leaders have learned repeatedly this year, empathy is a crucial quality. Employees look to their bosses for guidance, strength, and support, especially in times of disruption and chaos. Demonstrate your ability to be empathetic and open to the needs of your team. How?

Perhaps the easiest step is to ask your team members how they are doing on a frequent basis. Whether something seems off or not, check on your team. Ask how they feel and if they have any concerns. Of course, inquiring about them is just the first part. True leaders then make themselves available to listen and offer encouragement.

Honesty is another way to show you’re empathetic. Although it’s important to emphasize what’s consistent, don’t sugarcoat what’s changing. For example, company retreats or holiday gatherings are unlikely to happen until the pandemic subsides. The annual retreat is a real highlight for our company because it brings our teams together from different offices. It was disappointing to cancel the in-person components of the retreat, but we pivoted to some virtual gatherings. It wasn’t the same as previous years, though our employees appreciated the honest and clear manner in which we discussed these decisions.

A final way to be empathetic is to demonstrate that you value your team’s opinions. As business owners, executives, and managers talk with your team members, ask each person how they would change, update, or adjust policies based on their experiences. Listening to this feedback shows that you care about them and their perspective.

Treat Your Team

It’s true that communicating frequently and being empathetic are important to bolster team morale. So is having fun!

If nothing else, 2020 has been all about adjusting and adapting, so don’t stop now. Business leaders would be wise to find a few ways to treat their teams as a sign of appreciation. If your budget allows, order some new company swag or small gifts. Make it a surprise because everyone likes an unexpected gift.

Another option is to consider forming a Fun Committee. Pull together a few of your innovative, creative, and extroverted team members to brainstorm ideas for how the team can have fun together, even if they’re apart physically. Spread the wealth among a few employees who enjoy planning so they see this as an opportunity and not a chore. Start by setting some parameters, including a budget, and then let them go wild and get creative.

Even though team morale may have suffered this year, there is hope for improvement in 2021. Regardless of what next year looks like, business owners and executives can take steps now to proactively bolster team morale as we head into the new year.

Success is made possible thanks to teamwork, so let’s celebrate all that we can, and have, accomplished together!