Museum Leader Resources: Staff Morale, Stress, and Communication in the COVID Era

Whether your staff is still working from home or returning to the office, COVID-19 has undoubtedly changed the way we all go about our job. From balancing childcare and family life to meeting work deadlines and staying relevant to your audiences, employees are dealing with a lot right now. These days, there are certainly no shortages of small How To Talk With Staff COVID FB.jpgmicro-stresses that can add up to bigger problems like burnout, detachment, and depression.

And maybe you’re asking yourself, what can I do to help my staff through this difficult period?

Well, first of all, it’s key to realize that stress is a highly subjective experience. Every full-time, part-time, contract, and freelance employee are experiencing varying levels of stress and trying to cope with their own state of mental and physical health. With such variation, there is no perfect answer for how you can help. But we can point you in the right direction to establish a more stress resilient community within your team no matter how big, or how small.

The following resources are designed to help you better assist your staff in recognizing and coping with a variety of emotions and symptoms of stress while they continue to work isolated from home or readjust to a new kind of office life. Adapt these guidelines within your own work and generously share these resources with your staff.


Guidance for Managers, Directors, & Leaders

Be open, honest and empathetic.

In this Workflow article, HR technology expert Josh Bersin suggests that now is the time for truly empathetic communication. “People don’t want to hear grandiose platitudes from leaders. They want to know what you are doing today and every day, because things are changing so fast that people are worried about their jobs, their families, and their health.”

Connect with your staff through regular 1:1 check-ins

As a leader, one of the easiest and most important things you can do to offer direct support and build trust is holding one-on-one meetings. What are the benefits? According to Peoplebox, one-on-one meetings can benefit your remote teams in five significant ways:

  1. Boosts employee productivity and engagement
  2. Helps the manager individualize their guidance to the direct report
  3. Enables an exchange of feedback between manager and their direct report
  4. Keeps managers informed about what is happening in the team
  5. Strengthens the relationship between manager and their direct report

When it comes to scheduling one-on-ones, first consider how many staff members you are directly responsible for and how often you will be able to call each one. Keep the call between 15 to 30 minutes and extend that period to 45 minutes or 1 hour for those that need more assistance. And keep in mind that every single call will be different, so you must tailor your communication to fit each person’s needs.

How to speak with an employee who has tested positive

If one of your employees tests positive for COVID-19, according to Harvard Business Review, your automatic response should be one of sympathy. Calmly express your “understanding” of the situation and acknowledge that you will help them through this tough time by managing and dispersing their workload. After which, you will need to follow certain protocols as established by the CDC. Another great resource is the BGC Group’s What to Do if Someone at Work is a Suspect Case.

How to alert those who have come in "close contact"

When it comes to alerting employees who have been in “close contact” with the infected individual, the appropriate means of messaging is by video or by phone. Email will suffice. As a natural response, these people will automatically be nervous and ask you a lot of questions. Do not speculate, but simply refer them to their own physician and the CDC website. Afterwards, follow up with an email to document the communication and make sure they received all of the necessary information.

As for your message, Harvard Business Review offers the following example: “Someone in our workplace has tested positive for Covid-19, and they have identified you as a close contact according to the CDC definition. We are here to support you. If you are at work, please prepare to leave as quickly as you can. Once you get home — or if you are already working from there — find a place to self-isolate, monitor yourself for any symptoms, and talk to your doctors. How can I support you in doing all this?”

Boost employee morale

Unfortunately, as an employer or leader you cannot gift an employee positive morale. You can, however, help to control their work environment which lends to their overall outlook, attitude, satisfaction, and confidence. The Balance Careers breaks down moral contributors and detractors and offers steps to improve employee morale. Additionally, LinkedIn offers 5 great tactics for maintaining employee moral during this difficult time.


Beneficial Resources to Share with Your Staff

The CDC’s Resuming Business Toolkit is a great and reputable place to start. This toolkit is filled with printable materials and infographics to help make returning to work and resuming operations easy, safe, and healthy.

Presented by AstraZeneca, the Effectively Working Through COVID-10: Employee Toolkit contains practical resources aimed at helping employees maintain physical and emotional wellbeing. You’ll find articles, videos, and additional resources packed with tips on areas such as working from home, dealing with anxiety, building resilience and virtual collaboration.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers a COVID-19 Ready-Resource Tools and Samples Toolkit. Update regularly, this combines quick-reference information and sample tools ready for your modifications to use in the workplace.


Written by Jessica Noyes, Communications Coordinator, WMA

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