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The camaraderie and teamwork associated with building morale can be challenging to find while following a safe social distancing mandate. As the recent COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold, construction executives will need to find ways to bolster morale to retain staff, manage productivity, ensure employee and subcontractor satisfaction, as well as diminish absenteeism.

These eight strategies will help the industry to improve morale and make a difference as the workplace evolves during the toughest times.

1. Allow others to vent and acknowledge frustration and fear 

Uncertain times mean employees will be frustrated and fearful—and they want to be heard. Leaders can help assuage others’ anxiety by allowing them to vent. A simple statement such as, “You may be feeling frustrated—maybe en afraid” can make a difference.

Although many construction executives prefer solving problems, during this crisis and recovery, leaders will be more successful by simply listening while employees, friends and family vent. Leaders will want to assure those in low morale that concerns and frustrations are heard and considered.

2. Be available 

Construction teams are spread out in the best of times. During the COVID-19 crisis, this separation is even greater. In a crisis, team members are looking toward leaders and want access to those decision-makers. For workers not accustomed to working remotely, workdays can feel isolative, which translates to a sharp drop in morale.

Construction executives will want to advise employees when and how to best reach them. Providing specific hours of availability will further ensure individuals to feel confident they can reach out.

3. Focus on the future

Focusing on the past results in further deterioration of morale fueled by frustration, a feeling of a lack of control and blame. Instead, successful construction executives will focus on what happens next while keeping an eye on the proverbial prize. That future focus instills hope, which feeds morale.

4. Concentrate on what can be changed

 Leaders understand that some things cannot be changed. The weather will be what it will be. Other things (attitude, personal response to situations, personal focus and more) can be influenced. Construction executives who concentrate on subjects within their control will bolster morale throughout the workplace. 

Discussions centered around unchangeable subjects can cause strife and lower morale during already stressful times, while conversations aimed toward controllable topics empowers the masses.

5. Exercise personal power and encourage others to do the same

The more individuals do, the stronger they feel; the stronger they feel, the greater their morale. Construction executives know the power of making decisions and taking action. 

By encouraging employees to choose (as opposed to handing down mandates), employees are able to build personal power and, thus, cultivate morale. Some executives will encourage employees to make small choices, such as what time to hold meetings. Others are asking individuals to choose which shifts to work or what projects to tackle. Even in the best of times, employees who are free to make choices have the highest morale.

Planning is not as effective as taking concrete action. Construction executives understand the adrenaline of accomplishment and achieving success. To build others’ morale, leaders will want to encourage others to take action toward achieving goals, celebrating successes and applauding initiative.

6. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

 Fear and frustration are natural byproducts of crisis. As much as a construction executive may believe that everything is communicated well, people at middle and lower levels likely want more. Executives are privy to discussions the rest of the organization does not hear. So many of the questions of a middle manager or frontline employee may not be answered in a short, simple email or statement. 

In the absence of information, people will fill in the blanks. The result can be an increasingly chaotic, rumor-filled workplace with falling morale. Leaders should share what they know and acknowledge the unknowns. 

7. Manage expectations

The more executives are able to manage expectations, the calmer employees will be in a crisis, thereby increasing positivity. It is a good practice to tell employees when they can expect to hear more information from leadership.
Leaders build trust by explaining the goal, encouraging buy-in from the team and building confidence that a worthy goal can be realized.

8. Show appreciation

Surveys report that employees who feel appreciated are satisfied in their jobs, feel less stressed, enjoy a greater sense of belonging and exercise better control in their lives.

A sincere “thank you,” “well done” or “you’re appreciated” will go a long way to build morale. Meanwhile, an executive who focuses on problems and mistakes is discouraging new solutions. Morale will continue to diminish—along with productivity and creative problem solving.

Employees with high morale work harder, are more collaborative, are more productive and are better teammates. They want to work hard because they reap the intrinsic rewards of sincere appreciation and validation. 


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