Top 10 Tips for Keeping Employee Morale Up During COVID-19 Layoffs

April 16, 2020 Written by Oralie Chapman

These are uncertain times. Most of us are feeling anxious about the situation we’re in because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For some it’s the stress of having our kids home from school while working from home, for others it’s the fear of not having money to pay our bills because we were forced to shut down our small business or the agonizing decision to have to lay off employees because revenue has dropped.


While workers certainly understand why mass layoffs are happening right now, it doesn’t change the fact that it is a demoralizing situation. When a large percentage of a team is laid off, it’s common for morale and productivity to drop off a cliff. HR has an important role to play in keeping employee morale up during these uncertain times so the business will be able to function as best as possible now and thrive again in the future.


Top 10 tips for keeping morale up during COVID-19 layoffs


Dr. John Sullivan’s tips for improving morale and productivity while laying off workers are helpful during this time:


1. Re-train workers if you can. If one side of your business is shut down but another is thriving, re-train workers from one department to help support the other department. This is a way to reduce the number of people being laid off.


2. Identify bad managers and work with the managers you have. Bad managers are never good for employee morale and productivity but during a round of tough layoffs, they are a dumpster fire. This may be the time to let go of one bad manager and retain two great workers. In addition, incentives should be implemented to reward great people management.


3. Communicate your decision-making process. Before announcing layoffs, let everyone know how layoff decisions were made. This will go a long way to helping employees feel that the process was fair and not based on favoritism.


4. Offer counseling. Let employees know that you understand that large-scale layoffs are hard to process. Provide access to a counselor – in house if possible.


5. Provide resources. Remind your laid off employees about applying for unemployment benefits and let them know the ways that they can apply.


6. Talk about productivity. Communicate with your remaining employees about what each of them can do to remain productive during this time. Provide performance goals and incentives.


7. Be present. If you as the business owner normally allow your managers to do most of the communicating, this is the time to step up your presence. You want your employees to know that you value them and that you are working hard alongside them to keep the business running during this difficult time.


8. Have an open door policy. Remind your employees that you welcome their feedback and that you are there to listen and respond to their concerns.


9. Reduce unnecessary work. With less workers, it won’t be possible to accomplish everything you were able to before. Expecting a skeleton crew to handle the same work load is a recipe for resentment. Let them know what tasks will be set aside during this time and conversely, what are your priorities.


10. Stay in touch with laid off workers. Hopefully when the economy is allowed to get back to normal, you will need to re-hire your laid off workers. Keep in touch with all of them so you can offer the best ones their job back when they are needed again.


How partnering with a PEO can help reduce issues with Coronavirus in the workplace


A PEO provides small businesses with many advantages that they might not otherwise be able to afford. These advantages have become even more important during this international health crisis.


When small business owners’ partner with Makai HR they:

  • Gain peace of mind that they are complying with all of Hawaii’s labor laws, which is especially important when decisions are being made about how to handle a health crisis.
  • Can provide comprehensive health care plans that will give your employees peace of mind about going to the doctor for treatment and testing.


We are also here to support your business when you decide to work remotely:

  • Our cloud-based platform means that your employees can manage their HR needs through a computer, tablet or phone, making it easier for them to work from home.
  • Our cloud based HRIS platform means that your HR team can manage HR remotely if they are sick or everyone is working remotely.


Pro tip: this is a good time to encourage all employees to update to Direct Deposit to reduce in person bank transactions and continue timely payroll payments. Do not delay. Contact us today to get started!