Denise Katula, CPM, the Manager of Leadership and Talent Development for County of Somerset, New Jersey compiled this blog post from ELGL member ideas and submissions in the ELGL Facebook group.
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, not all local government organizations embraced (or even allowed) public employees working remotely. It became rapidly apparent that to continue the provision of essential local government services, many staff would need to shift to remote work in as many functions as possible to maintain strict social distancing practices, among other reasons.
How can local governments maintain morale and keep up engagement when in-person contact isn’t possible?
Beyond the concerns of suddenly managing remote direct reports, how can local governments keep employees connected, celebrate the out-of-the-box thinking that many have had to do in an effort to continue public services, and recognize the efforts of those workers who are still doing their regular work, such as 9-1-1 dispatchers, corrections officers and law enforcement, public health, sanitation and recycling workers, and more?
Tips & Suggestions
ELGL members shared the following creative ways to maintain engagement and morale:
We had a March Madness style meme tournament...I provided a photo each morning, and the staff went head to head with caption submissions. We had a bracket that got updated every evening. Even once someone got bounced, they stayed tuned to vote on captions and see who won that day…lots of fun!
Example…first round winner…
We created a virtual watercooler channel on Teams for people
I asked everyone to send me 2 truths and a lie. I’m going to make them into a Google Form survey where people guess and then send out the results. Zoom happy hour on Friday to follow up with all of the inevitable questions that will arise
We did virtual happy hours and have asked employees to share work from home favs that we are sharing on our social media channels.
Our morale committee had everyone send in pics of them wearing their City pride tshirts and implemented “Dress Down Wednesdays” for the next 4 weeks if you participate in the “spirit day” attire! (Note, this is geared more to the employees who are still reporting to work in the regular office/shop)
We’ve established standing “breakrooms” on Zoom from 8:30-9 and 2:30-3 every Monday/Wednesday/Friday. People can pop in and out during that time. We’ve had probably 50 or so staff participate so far in groups of 8-12 or so, and conversations range from snowstorms we remember to what programs are doing to how kids are coping – whatever comes up. (Note, the virtual breakroom discussions are lightly moderated to keep conversation flowing.)
Lots of staff are wearing multiple hats – have members take pictures of them in a variety of hats – including silly ones.
I started a channel on Microsoft teams for those of us working remotely and we share pictures of what we see when we go on walks.
Do a “throw back thursday” photo where employees share cute/funny pictures of themselves as kids. good for a laugh and people usually share something from a happy childhood memory.
We’ve asked everyone to send selfies wearing their favorite cloth mask (the Mayor just announced a new order yesterday, requiring them for everyone). We’re putting the selfies in a collage to send out to our entire staff and also to share on social media.
I produced a monthly employee newsletter, and made this month’s extra uplifting, and included some staff work-at-home stories and pics — and we are snail-mailing it to every employee.
We’ve also been asking for pics of people doing their work, which we’ve shared on our city social platforms.
We have daily 15 min stretch breaks led by our amazing wellness team. Over 100 participants today! One of our teams is doing a weekly coffee chat, with a rotating leader who provides silly/icebreaker questions (what’s the weirdest thing within reach? What’s the funniest video conference moment so far?)