Employee Morale and the Coronavirus Outbreak

March 23, 2020

The novel coronavirus outbreak is ravaging businesses around the world. However, human resources executives can lead the way in mitigating the disease’s psychological and emotional toll on American worker morale.

Improving Morale


Since Qlicket discussed potential supply chain ramifications of coronavirus on March 4, the United States economy has screeched to a halt. At the time of this article’s publication, businesses are asking their employees to work from home, universities are moving their courses online, and grocery stores are running out of supplies. Local governments are asking bars and restaurants to close their doors. The NCAA March Madness tournament is cancelled, as are concerts and vacations. In short, American workers are losing many opportunities for personal recreation and enjoyment.

Naturally, employee morale will suffer. Forbes points to three key actions that can prevent the rapid decline of morale:

  1. Intentional communications. In all communications, leaders should refrain from panic and maintain calm. For instance, instead of limiting communication to reporting bad news, Henry Albrecht—CEO and founder of Limeade—offers weekly tips on “self-care, working from home, travel policies, and staying safe.”

  2. Lax policies. Forbes rightly indicates that school closures will strain employees. As a result, managers should be flexible in response to employees taking time during the workday to care for their children. This also applies to employees who are self-quarantining or supporting family members who are battling coronavirus. Therefore, any policies surrounding excessive employee absence should be reexamined.

  3. Educate. Companies should only share information from credible sources, especially the CDC and the WHO.

Even outside of global pandemics, employee mental health in the United States is dismal. For example, according to Gallup, “67% of employees say they are sometimes, very often, or always burned out at work.” Those who frequently experience burnout are more likely to take sick days, visit the emergency room, or leave their employer.

The coronavirus outbreak is a make-or-break moment for companies who are already struggling with maintaining employee morale.

Showing Care


Genuinely listening to employees is critical in times of crisis as well as calm. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)—one of the world’s foremost human resources organizations—notices several tangible benefits of effectively listening to employees.

  1. Employee initiative. SHRM sees a direct link between managers that develop good listening habits and an “active and committed employee base.”

  2. Engagement and innovation. Asking for employees’ thoughts on company practices encourages workers to invest time, mindspace, and energy into the business.

  3. Staying proactive. SHRM states that real-time employee feedback tools equip management to “take immediate action,” enabling “a proactive, rather than reactive, approach.”

  4. Retention. Over three-quarters of employee exits have nothing to do with wages. Poor communication between employees and management is a direct cause of high turnover.

  5. The bottom line. A combination of better employee motivation, retention, and engagement leads to higher productivity and profits.

The coronavirus outbreak presents American businesses with a rare opportunity to reconsider their human resources practices. Will they rise to the occasion?

Learn how Qlicket can help you collect real-time feedback from your employees.

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