6 ways for managers to keep employees engaged during a crisis situation

Appical Team
Christophe Wallecan
April 2, 2020
min read
Table of Contents
Organizations around the world are confronted with the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This pandemic has challenged even seasoned organizations around the world to rethink the way of working. In times of crisis, employees experience a lot of stress, receive mixed signals, confusion, disconnection, and loneliness while working in a more isolated situation. As a manager, it’s crucial to keep your employees engaged during this crisis situation, so we created a list that includes 6 ways you can implement to keep your employees engaged.

1. Keep people connected

As a manager most of your team members are probably working remotely, it’s your job to keep them connected with the company. You can do this by:

  • Creating a “bullshit” channel (on Slack) for posting jokes, pointless debates, random news, cartoons, Gif’s to mimic the camaraderie that normally happens over lunch/coffee/Friday drinks.
  • Shifting your focus towards goals and output instead of clocking hours of your team members.
  • Planning weekly 1-2-1 meetings with each team member to be updated on their accomplishments of the current week and what they will achieve next week.
  • Scheduling Virtual Team Meetings, to keep up the team spirit it’s important to schedule frequent virtual team meetings with all team members.
  • Changing habits or routines to fit the current situation and the new way of working for your team.
  • Go the extra mile and give your employees one-time remote allowance through their expenses (Shopify said it would give its employees a $1,000 stipend to furnish their home-offices) 


2. Be transparent

In this time of crisis, the natural reaction of some employees might be more reserved. Give them their space but beware: lack of openness and honesty is going to lead to more fear and anxiety. Even though you probably can’t share every detail of what’s happening, try to be as transparent as you possibly can. Allow people to ask questions and share their concerns and keep an open dialogue. To ensure your team feels connected and heard, send out regular (daily) updates to your employees, even if there’s little news to share, (your employees will thank you).

3. Be careful with what you say

Undoubtedly transparent communication is essential when managing a crisis, but as a manager, you have the responsibility to coordinate what information gets spread and what is better kept quiet. Mismanagement could be costly for your employee engagement and therefore needs careful planning. Right and wrong differ from company and type of crisis situation but knowing what to say and when to say it is a very important part of crisis-management.

If you don’t know for sure if you can share certain information, make sure to collaborate with your boss or other managers. You don’t want to be the person who is spilling all the beans on things or is holding important information. Alignment on company briefings on what to share and what not is crucial for a company's communication in critical times.

4. Don’t forget to share successes and keep it optimistic 

During times that are tough for many, human beings have the habit to shift towards a negative spiral. Taking care of sick family members, job and income insecurity, working from home while having to entertain your kids at the same time. 

Although we have a habit of giving more attention to problems, a lot of positive things are happening around us. Let your team know they can make a difference in their work at any given moment.   

Rewarding small wins in times of crisis shows that a manager knows what’s going on and is grateful for every step forward. In tough times, keeping people motivated and optimistic is more crucial than ever to keep employees engaged. Do something, whether it's a kind word, a box full of sweets, a bottle of wine, flowers or even an award to recognize their work.

Tip: Appical surprised all of their employees with a take care & love package that came with a powerful message and a special thank you note:

 “Please know that we are together in this situation, and therefore please look after each other! All your colleagues are just a hangout away, so do make sure to check in with them regularly.

Image from iOS (35)
Image from iOS (36)

5. Stay organized 

When managing a team in a time of crisis you are in a roller coaster of fast-paced changes and will have to take new tasks and responsibilities. This additional work and pressure can be very stressful. 

It’s fundamental to stay productive and organized during these tough times. Not only to keep everything in check for yourself but to help your employees to view the crisis as being under control, take care of and well managed. If this is not the case and it looks like you’re dropping the ball and let things fall behind, your team will think it’s okay to do the same and that’s the last thing you want.

Tip: Lead by example, if you're in a leadership position, then you know you have a responsibility to your team. Being a good leader is showing guidance and strength, your responsibility is to lead your team with your own actions.

6. Create problem-solving groups

Create problem-solving groups to help energize and engage your employees. People want to make a difference and want to have a purpose. You as a manager give them a sense of control and make them feel good during a difficult time.

The problems these groups look into are diverse, but some common problems include discussing customer complaints, budgeting funds, raising funds, organizing events, creating or adapting products or services to fit needs, supporting employees, and raising awareness about problems or causes. 

These tips can't help prevent the crisis, but they can help you get through it with a more engaged team and optimistic view. These crises are an incredible way to learn, get stronger, more connected and become more skilled in how to help your organization work and act as one team. If you need any more tips on how to engage your (new hire) team here are 7 things you can do to improve your remote/virtual/digital onboarding.


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