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Motivating employees during the Covid-19 crisis seemed easy at first. (Almost) everyone loves a crisis: the adrenaline rises, minor irritations pale, and new ideas emerge. But as the long-haul approaches, uncertainty, depression and even dysfunction can take hold. Employers will need to re-energise remote teams and reassure anxious workplace employees. But how?

I postulate that fairness, or lack of, lies behind the levels of social disruption and protest we are seeing currently. We all know this is a crisis and some are more insulated from it than are others. Many of those most affected, and dying, are in low income groups, with essential jobs that demand proximity such as taxi driving, cleaning, or caring. Not for them the relative comfort of furlough.

Other low-income groups, currently furloughed, face the prospect of reduced income, redundancy or an uncertain, potentially unsafe, working environment.

Employers need to take account of this if they are to maintain motivation in employees. It means avoiding favouritism, discrimination, or reprisal. Where employees may need “to take a hit” on earnings, distribute the pain among employees as evenly as is reasonably possible. Where the pain needs to be uneven let it be openly so. While recognising this could difficult, (especially in a remote environment) you need to be able to give employees genuine explanations for actions that might affect then adversely.

Lockdown, redundancies and fairness


Certainty is a rare commodity at present. Admitting that you just don’t know may be honest; unless of course, you should know. So, keeping up to date with all the relevant guidance, talking to industry groups and making some flexible forward plans must be essential.

Following the Government guidance, and addressing issues of safety, risk, and security, should go without saying.


Responding to concerns, sharing forward plans (with all the provisos being explicit) and being honest, helps maintain trust. It should also go without saying that trust is essential if you wish your employees to be motivated. It also provides the platform whereby employees will accept assurance.

Listening is a difficult skill and here is not the place for a tutorial. But being aware of the need to listen, its importance in maintaining trust and its ability to empower others cannot be over-emphasised.

Trust, engagement and well-being initiatives


Being part of a team, or the social group that work represents, is highly motivating for most employees.

Communicating with millennials

Ideas, to which you might give attention are:

  • Talking to all your employees, or at the least your direct reports, frequently and regularly. Encourage managers to do the same. This might be at a distance, on the phone or via conferencing.
  • Making sure employees know how (or to whom) to raise concerns.
  • Encouraging employees to talk to each other through platforms you provide (remember GDPR issues will prevent you from disclosing employees personal contact details). Such a platform might include private areas so employees can share personal experience.
  • Investigating social enterprise software such as Axero, Yammer or Oracle.
  • Setting up “coffee breaks” where employees maintain social contact via conferencing (or with social distancing) at a predetermined time or times.

Obviously, we hope these ideas are helpful. If you would like to bounce any of your own ideas off us or you seek a “sounding board”, please get in touch with us at Employer Solutions.

Government guidance

Malcolm Martin FCIPD

Author Human Resource Practice

Blogs are for general guidance and are not an authoritative statement of the law.