How to get your team back in the zone

With lockdown and social distancing restrictions taking up the majority of the year, people may be feeling fed up from the tumultuous events that have happened. And with a little over a month until Christmas, they might be anxious to get a bit of a break already. Everyone’s lost energy and focus, no-one’s sure what they are supposed to be doing, and productivity has taken a nosedive.low battery staff

It can be a challenging time for managers, who need to make sure they keep their team goal-oriented and motivated when, to be honest, they’re probably feeling a bit lack-lustre themselves.

So, what can you do to keep your people operating at the top of their game?

1. Remind people of their goals

For people homeworking and away from the office and colleagues for so long, it can be easy to forget exactly why they’re doing what they’re doing. They fritter their time away doing ‘easy’ but unnecessary tasks and put off more important tasks for later. But we know that if you can persuade people not to take their foot off the gas, people are very productive working from home. With fewer interruptions and more flexibility, people have the chance to really concentrate and get their heads down.

Keep up (but don’t overdo) regular online team meetings. Use it as an opportunity to remind people about the overall vision and how their work fits in. Setting short term goals can be a good tactic at a time when people are a bit distracted. It will help them focus and will feel more manageable.

2. Monitor the mood

One person who’s not in the right frame of mind can drag the rest of the team down. But while you may not be able to pull them out of their slump, there are actions you can take as a manager to dilute the impact they are having on their colleagues.

If someone seems seriously out of sorts, talk to them and try to find out what’s wrong. Sometimes just the chance to talk about what’s going on – either personally or professionally – and to feel that someone is listening, is enough to lift people’s mood. It’s also important to recognise that there is a strong correlation between mood and energy levels, which means people will be more suited to certain types of tasks, depending on where they are sitting on the mood spectrum.

If someone in your team is bouncing with energy, for example, get them involved in generating new ideas or driving a project forward. If another team member, however, is clearly not in the zone, try to direct their efforts onto more routine, less demanding tasks which are important but tend to get put on the back burner when everyone is busy. That way they can be productive while rediscovering their mojo.

3. Schedule informal check-ins

During slow days, seize the opportunity to catch up with people and talk about their aspirations. What do they want to achieve? How can you help them maximise their strengths and do more of the kind of work they enjoy?

Make training and development part of the conversation. Even if there is limited budget for formal training programmes, you can find other more creative ways for team members to build their skills. If people can see you are willing to support their development, it will give them a real boost and help to renew enthusiasm for the months ahead.

4. Sort the small stuff

Often, it’s the small everyday niggles that drag people down. Their computer is running slow, they find the software they use confusing, and it takes three people or so to have their annual leave request approved. It’s amazing what a difference it can make if, as a manager, you can step in and sort these irritating issues out so that people can just get on with their jobs. It’s not just about having a hotline to maintenance, it’s also about making sure you are exploiting the technology solutions that are now out there to help you manage your team effectively.

The latest generation HR software systems, for example, offer employee self-service so that people can access HR policies, update their own personal data, log absences and check on annual entitlements without having to wait for answers from their manager or the HR team. These small measures make it much easier for people to manage their working lives and cut down not just admin, but also frustration levels.

5. Give people something to look forward to

Part of getting people motivated is giving them something to look forward to. While planning for a face-to-face Christmas party is most likely a no-go, why not do it online? Ask people what they’d like to do (a quiz, competitions, etc.) and get them involved in the planning to build a sense of excitement. It doesn’t have to be a big expensive event.

If you can find small ways to help people gel and to make work more fun, it can have a real impact on energy and enthusiasm levels.

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