In a matter of weeks, the state of the U.S. workforce has radically changed. No industry, organization, team, or individual is immune to the new challenges that the Covid-19 outbreak has brought.

In-person meetings are out of the question for the foreseeable future. Many organizations have hastily transitioned to fully remote workforces. Conferences are canceled, stores and restaurants closed.

The emotional state of the workplace

Emplify, an employee-engagement measurement software firm, recently surveyed 1,000 U.S. employees and found that more than half (57.7 percent) report their emotional state as fearful, anxious, and/or stressed.

Many leaders are facing new difficulties as they adapt. Emplify's survey found that "keeping employees motivated" and "maintaining employee morale" are among managers' top challenges in light of Covid-19.

Emplify CEO Santiago Jaramillo has a different take. "The way leaders act right now will either erode their team's trust to record lows or build it to new highs," said Jaramillo. "How we lead today is how we will be remembered years from now."

While the challenges facing managers are very real, this season of uncertainty also presents leaders with an opportunity to strengthen their teams.

What can managers do to motivate employees and maintain morale in this time of anxiety and uncertainty? Here are three steps that can help.

1. Be as communicative as possible.

Now is not the time to pretend things are "business as usual." In times of uncertainty, employees need to know you have their backs and are in tune with the realities everyone is facing. Along with weekly team meetings and one-on-ones, managers should consider implementing a daily cadence of communication to keep a pulse on how people are faring. Prioritizing positive feedback and being intentional about celebrating team "wins" -- big or small -- can have an outsize impact on morale. 

​2. Encourage employees to establish a routine that works for them.

Emplify's survey found that "disruption to my routine" is the second-most-challenging issue employees are facing today, right behind "financial uncertainty." Be flexible as employees work around new distractions and schedule changes. Avoid canceling or rescheduling calls to maintain stability. Encourage employees to stick to working within work hours to avoid burnout, if they can. Be communicative about taking breaks and time to rest and recharge. Consider asking employees to take 30-60 minutes to do something they love every day (cooking, a favorite type of exercise, playing with pets, going for a walk outside), and then have everyone share with the group.

3. Create a (virtual) safe space for two-way feedback.

More than 60 percent of managers are only "slightly" or "moderately" confident in their understanding of how employees are handling the coronavirus outbreak. While anxieties are running high, the well-being of your employees should take precedence over deadlines and results. Jaramillo says Emplify's managers use a color system -- green to red -- to gauge how their direct reports are doing professionally and personally. However, some employees may not feel comfortable going into detail about their emotional state. Along with regular check-ins, consider surveying your employees so they can respond to sensitive questions anonymously. Additionally, let employees know that you welcome feedback on how you can improve as well. 

Your employees are your organization's greatest competitive advantage, now more than ever. By being communicative and flexible and inviting feedback, you can lead your team through this time of uncertainty with clarity and confidence.