How to Motivate Your Team After a Year of COVID Fatigue
13–16 minutes to read
We know. You’re “over it.” But just because you’re over it, doesn’t mean it’s actually over.
Now, don’t get us wrong. While COVID-19 still actively affects the world around us, this doesn’t mean you have to hide in your house and never come out. Quite the opposite.
It is important to recognize the facts: this pandemic is still very much present. Your clients feel it, your team feels it, and you probably do too — whether you’re willing to admit it or not.
But you can have a safe, productive work environment without losing the team’s motivation if you do it right.
Ultimately, you don’t have to do anything. But if you’re not willing to evolve your strategy, you will not grow your firm. Crisp Founder & CEO Michael Mogill gives it to us straight:
There’s no denying that 2021 has been off to a rocky start — but are you willing to push through to reach the goals you set for yourself, despite all odds? The first step to making it happen is not ignoring reality — rather, accepting it, embracing the changes you have to make, and moving forward.
So, yes, we’re all “over it,” and that’s exactly what we’re here to discuss. This “over it” phenomenon has a real name — COVID fatigue. It comes in many forms, and it’s new to all of us. Join us in resolving it by discovering how to motivate your team after a year of pandemic fatigue.
What is COVID-19 Fatigue?
Within the last year, the term “COVID fatigue” has been gaining traction as one of the most-used buzzwords in every industry. It’s competing for space at the top against phrases like “social distancing” and “Zoom” — let’s just say we’re all feeling it.
In an episode of The Game Changing Attorney Podcast that aired shortly after the onset of the pandemic, Dr. Jason Valadão spoke on the way COVID-19 has changed the world.
So, what does it really mean? COVID fatigue is a very real and very serious phenomenon. Apart from the obvious ways COVID wears on most, there are more nuanced ways to look at this issue.
Here are some different aspects to consider for clarity:
- Caution fatigue – a mentally and emotionally drained state different from physical fatigue as a symptom of depression or COVID-19 that leads to blatant disregard for continued safety guidelines in place.
- Mental fatigue – when the brain enters overdrive, caused by a sharp increase in necessary decision-making and a lack of clear information to be used in the decision-making process.
- Crisis fatigue – initiated by an onslaught of bad news that creates chemical reactions in the body, resulting in burnout. This can cause a person to be easily triggered or completely withdrawn. It is also the stage when people are more likely to engage in risky behaviors that are detrimental to themselves or others (think: alcohol abuse, drug overdoses, and even suicide).
- Moral fatigue – everything we do right now involves a moral decision. Simple things that wouldn’t normally require much thought now feel heavy and require deep consideration.
Whether you’re feeling none of these symptoms or all of them — these effects take a toll on the population at large.
“Our brains are like a mental gas tank. When you’re constantly having to dig deep and worry about all these extra concerns even on simple things, our energy is limited and when that gets depleted, people do experience that fatigue.”
– Phyllis O’Connor of the Canadian Mental Health Association
All this to say — these feelings are normal. On top of it all, people are working three hours more per day on the job than before city and state-wide lockdowns. More work with likely lesser results are becoming the norm, and it all takes a toll. Your responsibility in it all is to encourage your team to not only get through it, but also improve despite it.
How to Combat COVID-19 Fatigue
While this can all sound arduous to overcome, there are overwhelming benefits to accepting this information and combating it. Not only can you improve your own life, but you can also actively work to improve morale on your team so that their lives are improved, and therefore, the lives of your clients improve as a result.
Looking for advice on how to motivate your team? You’ll need to take a look in the mirror first.
Start with You
Whether you recognize COVID fatigue in yourself or not, making a conscious effort to improve your own lifestyle and state of mind will inevitably benefit your firm.
When you place an emphasis on operating at your peak capacity, you increase your impact on your firm and your team, creating a domino effect.
So, what are you doing to level up your wellbeing? Here are some ideas about where to start.
Stay Committed to Your Vision
The first, most impactful changes occur within your mindset. You set out to accomplish a mission well before the pandemic began, and it’s important that you keep that mission your focus. There may be new barriers — but nothing can keep you from accomplishing your goals unless you allow it to.
If your vision for the future was never clear or has lost clarity over the last 10 months, your immediate priority should be to sit down and determine what direction you’re heading. Anthony Johnson of Attorney Group discussed the importance of a cohesive vision when he joined us for a conversation on The Game Changing Attorney Podcast:
Focus on your short- and long-term vision — not only for your own life, but also for your firm and team members. This should be a personal initiative that then grows into a team initiative that you can use to encourage your team.
Need a place to start? We created The Law Firm Owner’s Guide to Goal-Setting for Transformational Growth specifically for you. With space to input your own vision, goals, and thoughts, this tool will walk you through a smooth plan for transformational growth. Get your copy for FREE!
Check In on Your Routines
Before the onset of COVID-19, your schedule probably looked a little different than it does currently.
Cultivating a better routine for yourself empowers you to focus on good habits, consistent schedules, and your overall wellbeing.
Make it a priority to rebuild the good habits you had before and halt the bad habits you may have started. It’s okay to fall off — just as long as you’re willing to get back on.
Find Stress-Reducers and Stick to Them
This will look different for everyone. Some easy ones to start with are:
- Working out consistently.
- Prioritizing time with family and friends.
- Making time for your hobbies and passions.
Creating time for stress-reducing activities is one of the most effective ways to increase productivity. Some stress is motivating, but too much stress can be detrimental to concentration, impulse control, memory, and focus. It’s essential to keep those stress levels in check.
Fuel Your Body
Ever have so much going on at work and outside of work that you…forget to eat?
Unfortunately, neglecting such a necessary function in life is common when you’re focused on so much else. But there’s more that fuels your body than just food. Stick to the basics here:
- Hydrate. You quite literally cannot function without water. This is a pretty easy one if you fill up a big jug and keep it next to you throughout the day.
- Prioritize your sleep. People who claim to function efficiently on 4 hours of sleep per day are either lying or not really performing at optimal levels. Get a sufficient amount of sleep to keep yourself focused, alert, and healthier overall.
- Provide yourself access to nutritious, whole foods — and actually eat them. There’s a difference between buying vegetables that wilt in your fridge and using them to nourish your body. Food is fuel to get through the day productively, so use it.
If performing at your peak to benefit your firm interests you (and it should), then we have a podcast episode made just for you. As big fans of WHOOP, we hosted CEO and Founder Will Ahmed on The Game Changing Attorney Podcast. Check out the conversation we had with him about unlocking human performance.
Create a Healthy Work Environment
Once you’ve implemented consistent healthier habits and routines in your own life, you’ll start to see the effects. This puts you in a good place to then encourage your team to tackle the same items in each of their lives.
It’s vital to spread those priorities to your team, because the results you see in your own life will be far more powerful when multiplied by an entire team working under the same circumstances.
Creating a healthy work environment within your office (or remote “office”) space is just as essential as the personal healthy habits you establish. Not only is this doable, but it’s ideal for the entire team — and it’s on you to make it happen.
So, how can you create this healthy environment that motivates your team and simultaneously combats COVID fatigue?
Make Time and Space for Discussion
Your team will require more touchpoints now than ever before, especially if they’re working remotely. The decrease in face-to-face interaction as a result of remote work places team members in lonely environments and negatively impacts individuals in more ways than we can even measure.
The implicit, almost unconscious ways we get information and reassure each other are lost when people go remote.
Luckily, when an emphasis is placed on creating more touchpoints for employees — both one-on-one and in group meetings — we can combat these consequences of remote work.
Make it a priority to implement a regular cadence for one-on-one meetings for direct reports and group meetings alike. Each meeting should have a purpose, a clear agenda, and a goal, or the recurrence of these touchpoints can feel forced and unproductive.
The team member that leads these meetings should be able to keep everyone on track, but also create a space safe enough for other employees to feel that they speak freely. The key here is for regular, healthy discussion to be a productive means for progress.
Encourage Constructive Thinking
We can’t change what goes on in the world around us, but we can change how we react. Constructive thinking promotes growth — which is exactly what the goal within your team should be in order to produce results while combatting the pandemic fatigue.
Here are some simple steps to implement regularly within your firm to encourage your team to think constructively:
- Stick to a positive focus: at the start of each meeting or discussion with your team, ask everyone to share a “positive focus” — something positive that’s happened personally or professionally.
- Embrace mindfulness: identifying the patterns in which you think can be a powerful tool. Check out the 7 Mindset Habits of the Attorneys Behind Today’s Fastest Growing Law Firms and put them into action.
- Cultivate gratitude: being thankful for what you do have and can accomplish is the ultimate hack for progress. Create a platform for the team to publicly state what they’re grateful for on a regular basis — whether it’s in a meeting or or an email chain — and they’ll have no choice but to reflect and grow.
Don’t Let Off the Gas
Why spend this time just surviving when you could be thriving?
We’re not in the business of advising complacent attorneys. We’re in the business of law firm growth — and sometimes — growth is uncomfortable.
It’s vital to prioritize health by taking care of your mental and physical well being, as well as your team’s. But it’s equally as vital to challenge your team with goals that align with your vision. This is the kind of engagement that motivates your team to focus and achieve.
While it may seem counterintuitive to push harder when the going gets tough, it’s actually the best course of action for you, your team, and the firm as a whole. After all, the problems your clients are facing don’t just stop when you do. They need your help more now than ever before.
Staying focused on the right goals not only motivates your team to stay on track and moving forward together, but it also distracts from other negative external factors that could slow momentum and cause individuals to feel “stuck.” The feeling a team member gets from real contribution to a team goal trumps any apathetic substitute you can offer them.
So do you just want to “go through it”, or do you want to grow through it?
How to Motivate Your Team Again
With a healthy home and work life, how do you continue boosting motivation and upkeeping morale? Healthy habits are the best place to start — but putting processes in place to check in on consistency and the actual work each team member is responsible for is essential to continued success.
Ensure They Really Hear You
Capturing the attention of your team when relaying an important message and, more importantly, making sure they actually believe your sincerity can be difficult.
Whenever change occurs, you’re likely to be met with resistance. When implementing new processes, systems, or anything else that motivates your team, even the most well-meaning ideas can be misinterpreted in translation. But that doesn’t mean that positive change should have a negative reaction from your team.
Keep these key points in mind when speaking with your team:
- Maintain a calm, positive demeanor — it’s hard to garner a negative reaction when you’re delivering information as a level-headed leader coming from a place of good intentions.
- Remain open-minded — everyone has different coping mechanisms and beliefs. What you think is best for the team is not always right, and productive conversations can lead to even better ideas.
- Practice mindful management — this is a challenging time for all. Your team needs empathy and professional support from you.
- Enforce consistent guidelines — ultimately, decisions must be made and rules must be implemented in the workplace. Stick to goals that push your team to grow and reasonable accommodations that keep everyone physically safe. Most importantly: be consistent with it.
Continue Offering Opportunity
There are many benefits of professional development that have a powerful impact on your law firm’s bottom line. Trained employees are more engaged and perform their tasks better at all levels. It’s also one of the most sought-after employee benefits.
In a survey of over 400 professionals, 70% of respondents said that job-related training and development opportunities influenced their decision to stay. And that number is even higher with Millennials. 87% say that access to professional training and development is very important to their decision to remain at a job or leave it.
In fact, 68% of workers claim that training and development is the most important company policy.
Use opportunities for your team to develop their skill set as both an accelerator for team growth and a motivator for individuals. Leveraging our resources for continued team development is a great place to start.
Communication is Key
We cannot stress this enough: clear communication with your team is invaluable. Your tone in an email can be easily misconstrued, a missed Zoom meeting can send the wrong message, and those communication errors add up.
This one bears repeating: remote teams can lack the nuances of in-person interaction, which can lead to feeling disconnected. Make a concerted effort to keep everyone on the same page with more consistent and purposeful touchpoints.
Improvements in communication can look like:
- Shifting the focus from hours to output. Your entire team should be results-driven, rather than effort-driven. Focusing on quality of work and the results that come from that work can boost productivity and morale.
- Consistently enforcing boundaries, participation, and expectations. An engaged team still requires reminders. Provide clear expectations ahead of time, make participation a non-negotiable, and set the same boundaries for all employees.
- Increased frequency of one-on-one meetings that have substantial purpose. Think; reviewing KPIs, planning goals, or prioritizing projects.
- Implementing a “Top 3” system on a daily and weekly basis. Make it a habit to prioritize the 3 most essential tasks that must get done. Try using a platform like CommitTo3 to share these priorities as a team.
- Boost momentum early in the year with a 2021 kickoff meeting. Bring the team together for an exciting, collaborative, growth-minded start to the year by creating a vision and goals together.
An ongoing global pandemic undoubtedly casts a shadow over workplace productivity — if you let it.
“Early during or right after a disaster, communities tend to pull together. People support each other and create a sense of community bonding. Eventually, that heroic spirit wears thin as the difficulties and stress build up. That’s when we hit the disillusionment phase… We lose our optimism and start to have negative or angry reactions.”
– Kaye Hermanson, UC Davis Health psychologist in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
The reality of living and working through COVID-19 is that it impacts us all — but we have the power to choose how we react.
There is no silver bullet here. The COVID fatigue doesn’t just go away overnight with a good 8 hours of sleep. You have to work at it, and you need buy-in from your team.
Ultimately, any law firm owner’s goal is to have a positive impact on their clients. It’s really a domino effect: you improve your life, and this sets you up to improve your employees’ lives. When their lives are better, they provide a better client experience — and when your clients are well taken care of, your firm reaps the benefits.
So check in on your team, because COVID fatigue is real and it surely isn’t glamorous, but there are proactive steps you can take right now to improve your life and the lives of those around you. You have the choice to nurture a team that works collaboratively to produce results despite the situation.