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How to Keep Your Team Motivated in the Midst of Uncertainty Here are four tips for motivating employees as they continue to work from home or return to the office.

By John Boitnott Edited by Jessica Thomas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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As the weeks pass, it can feel increasingly difficult to stay motivated during an ongoing crisis. States and local governments all operate on their own guidelines about when life can return to some type of normal. And in some states, many businesses have been ordered to stay closed, or only partially open, until June, or for the foreseeable future.

It's no surprise that this state of life becomes even more difficult as it stretches out further. Some people might feel rebellious, while others struggle with sadness and a lack of motivation. You might even begin to understand the growing frustration in communities around the country, even as you're focused on ensuring that we, as a nation, get past this with as few casualties as possible.

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Now, consider how your employees feel. Even as people get back on the job, it can be challenging to keep that motivation high. Here are some ways to help them and you remain focused for the long run.

Lead with emotional intelligence

Like many, your employees are likely still struggling to balance a range of emotions. Although those emotions might not typically impact their work, they're now coping with a new range of anxieties—from wondering how long their jobs will last to how long they must keep navigating a house full of people. They might be concerned about health and stressed about their children's education, all while mourning the loss of a loved one. For both extrovert and introvert, being at home alone, even if you're working remotely, can be a significant depression trigger.

These workers need a leader with empathy for all the emotions they're currently experiencing. To address their needs, engage in active listening. Obviously, you don't have solutions for all their problems, but pairing listening with a kind word can be enough to help them cope.

Additionally, open up the lines of communication so employees know they can talk about their feelings. Take the lead by sharing some of your own feelings. You can do this in a one-on-one conversation or team video calls. Encourage the team to share how they're doing honestly during digital meetings. Expressing those strong emotions can help them recharge and refocus on work.

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Offer social outlets

Another way to raise motivation is through scheduled distraction and diversion. Working from home can easily turn into hours upon hours in front of the screen. While this seems like a lot of work, it's often not that productive. Energy and creativity begin to wane after some period of time.

As the leader, you can help build in some differentiation by encouraging online social hours, with gameplay or contests to add some fun to the workweek. Since we are all social creatures to a certain degree, these events give your team members something to look forward to and take a break from projects, tasks and deadlines.

Ask team members what they would like to do that would make them feel more connected. Depending on the size of your group, you can either rotate those ideas or create different groups according to their interests. If possible, set up prizes for activities like trivia, best home office setup or funniest stay-at-home work attire.

Shorten the workweek

Consider offering either a four-day week or shorter work days to help keep energy levels high. Even though your employees might no longer be navigating school pickups and drop-offs or other activities, it doesn't mean their load has become much lighter. In many cases, it's become more complex or even distracting.

Related: How to Reward Employees in Uncertain Times

By shortening the workday or workweek, you're reassuring your employees that they'll be able to address family needs, like online schooling, grocery shopping and meal prep. Extra time will also help them keep up with exercise, sleep and other wellness activities that'll help boost their immune systems.

The best way to begin is by simply asking your team what would help them. Consider offering a combination of work-shortening options. Staggering the reduced schedules helps everyone get a time that works for them. At the same time, you're ensuring that possible social distancing requirements, and the company's needs, are met.

Share more

We might not usually share much about our personal lives with coworkers, but our new work environment might change this tendency. Seeing others' work practices or new remote offices can inspire a team member to create a productive space. Moreover, encouraging more personal communication helps create a fun diversion and better relationships among team members.

Employees can share pictures or videos of their new work environments, especially their "new colleagues" like pets, spouses and kids. This should always be optional; let employees decide whether to open up their homes and lives to colleagues.

Related: How Remote Education Is Evolving During the Crisis

A unique way to work

It's important to keep in mind that not everyone has worked remotely before. Add to this an unprecedented context — one that no one has experienced in their lifetime — and it's easy to understand why so many workers are struggling with motivation.

As such, lower your expectations, be flexible and patient and focus on the positives. Everyone is struggling on some level, so it doesn't hurt to try different things to boost morale and productivity. Remember that this is a marathon and not a sprint. Open and regular communication can keep the troops inspired as any crisis situation continues.

John Boitnott

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® VIP

Journalist, Digital Media Consultant and Investor

John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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