How You Can Inspire Productivity — Even During Uncertainty

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Jun 9, 2020
This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.

On social media platforms, there has been a push for productivity amid COVID-19. Although it may be meant to motivate, there is some backlash. Many people are even experiencing anxiety with the pressure to be productive. Whether you are the most productive right now or the least productive, uncertainty is uncomfortable.

When employees are concerned about the future they are more likely to be distracted and less productive. So what should you do to keep them focused and help them cope with how they are feeling. All of us feel overwhelmed, anxious or upset when we are faced with uncertainty. There is no way to determine how an individual will deal with stress. Some become uber productive while others sink into depression.

One of the symptoms of distraction is a further distraction. In turn, we can feel even more anxious. In a team environment, this can be detrimental. Humans subtly take on the emotions of those around them and begin to feel or mimic those same emotions. Compassionate management is the key to helping people remain focused regardless of what is happening in the world.

What is Compassionate Management?

Compassionate Management seeks to understand ways to be of service to employees and benefit them while balancing the goal of keeping them on task. Check out the ways that you can do this effectively.

Make sure you are OK first

It will be easier for you to show support and model resiliency when you acknowledge and manage any anxiety or stress that you may be feeling yourself. Take the time to assess and comprehend what you feel. Lable your emotions and then look at them objectively by distancing yourself from them. This gives you room to make a conscious decision of responding in a way that matches your values. Ask yourself who you want to be in the situation and what is most important to you. If at your core you value collaboration, ask yourself how you can help others feel more like a part of the team.


When you sense that employees feel concerned about the future of our country, their jobs, and their family members, don’t just go on with business as usual. These are all very real experiences for people and they can’t be repressed, denied, or ignored. Bottling emotions and expecting employees to do that as well is dangerous. A rebound effect can occur when people feel uncomfortable about voicing their feelings or things that concern them.

Acknowledge things that seem unpredictable and chaotic at the moment but only commiserate to a certain point. You do not want to brood and get stuck in a negative spiral. Acknowledge people’s feelings but talk further about how you will move on and act as a team.

Foster self-compassion

Some members of your workforce may wonder how their co-workers seem to be holding it all together so well while they are having sleepless nights and a loss of productivity. Encourage these individuals to practice self-compassion. They can do this by acknowledging their stress as a normal response to feeling a loss of control or normalcy. When people feel stressed it is best to admit it or talk it out with others so they know they aren’t alone.

Ask people directly what they need

Have one-on-one conversations with your employees to let them talk about what they are dealing with. Talk prospectively and put yourself in the employee’s shoes. It’s important to get a real sense of what they are thinking and feeling even if you don’t feel the same. Empathy is the basis of the trust needed to move on to problem-solving. An employee might require extra guidance on reducing distractions and prioritizing work. Perhaps there is a need for increased flexibility.

Model and encourage self-care

Good nutrition, proper sleep, and exercise are proven to eliminate stress and enhance productivity. It is important to encourage employees to practice these habits. If you see employees engrossed in social media or having unhealthy conversations during lunch breaks, perhaps you can invite them into a healthier conversation or activity. A manager never has to dictate how team members spend breaks or lunches however, it is acceptable to lend advice based on experience or what has worked for you. Perhaps you can lend a minute or two for a mindful breathing session. This activity calms anxiety and increases focus.

Even the smallest rituals can improve performance and reduce stress. Incremental progress toward goals that have been clearly defined works in the same way. It may be beneficial to give employees the flexibility to dictate their work schedule as long as they understand and can meet the needs of the same performance expectations. Overall, foster an environment that is caring with the expectation of team effort.

This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.