Submitted by thomas_admin on Thu, 11/05/2020 - 11:31

Since the start of 2020, we have been living through one of the most testing times in recent history; nobody expected that we would find ourselves contending with a pandemic and all of the consequences that it brings with it.

We have adjusted to working remotely and from our homes but there is always more that can be done when it comes to employee engagement.

We’re going to take a look at how to improve employee engagement in these uncertain times and understand why it is important.

As defined by Gallup in 2017, employee engagement is when an employee is “highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace.” The same research group discovered that low engagement was a global issue for businesses of all sizes measuring that only 15% of employees were engaged with the business.

It’s common that uncertainty and the Covid-19 crisis can breed low employee engagement. Think about it - all of sudden projects may have been dropped and replaced with tasks that are different to your workforce’s skillset or it could be that work has dropped off altogether, causing more stress and concerns to your employees who are having to navigate the new normal like everyone else.

It is important at this juncture that key stakeholders assess what can and can’t be done by their employees and make the best decisions to help support employee mental health and wellbeing at this time.

How to maintain employee engagement and productivity during COVID-19

Covid-19 has created many different business challenges, from the leap into digitisation for traditional markets to shifting entire workforces into remote locations. Coupled with a global health crisis which has made us all look to how we live our lives, how we detach from constant information, how we can engage in social relations, all of this can cause stress and uncertainty as well as make us step back from engaging in our personal and professional lives.

Remote working has become truly remote. For young professionals who may be living alone, this can mean that days or weeks can go by without social interaction - especially when coffee bars won’t allow you to sit in. For older professionals, maintaining a healthy balance of family and work time is being tested when everyone’s space is being used at the same time.

We are all having to deal with this new normal in different ways and Covid-19 has created a workforce that is finding many different challenges - from social to technological - on a day-to-day basis.

Consider workplace wellbeing for remote workers

One of the best ways to improve employee engagement is to genuinely consider workplace wellbeing for remote workers. When working remotely, this is further highlighted because of a wide range of issues such as, less face-to-face communication, less checking in with staff, more time spent at the monitor rather than physical interactions and so on.

There are of course some initiatives that can be taken up to help with worker wellbeing, and that can be carried out digitally which include;

Online yoga or fitness classes

Businesses such as NextJump have been engaging in online fitness classes over the Covid-19 pandemic, giving workers at least 30 minutes a day of time at the start or end to do some form of exercise.

Healthy food care packs

Tesla has engaged a nutritionist in their services for many years but now, with more engineers working from home, healthy food packs have been sent out to help with keeping workers nutritionally well.

Providing therapy sessions

Global electronic platform, Buffer has an open approach to mental health where everything is shared allowing team members to discuss openly any mental health challenges they are facing. This has carried on in lockdown where digital sessions were provided for team members who were facing more recent testing times.

Mindfulness practices

As with the therapy sessions, BUPA has engaged the use of an in-house app to help their workers record everything from nutrition to how they are feeling. One of the techniques used is mindfulness to help with anxiety or stress. Accounts such as Calm or Headspace could be purchased for workers to use at their discretion.

Communicate deliberately and regularly

Fostering clearer communication is a fundamental part of any business but when businesses grow or have to move to more remote work - as we have seen with the COVID-19 pandemic - it becomes critical for many different functions of a business, especially in helping to drive employee engagement.

It is therefore important for managers to reach out to their teams and individuals at regular intervals. You don’t want to overwhelm your employees or end up micro-managing them either. The last thing you should do is want to stay connected for the whole day - this is a terrible practice.

But regular communication and checking in is a must. Schedule times in the day to have a group call or teleconference, make sure that you also have an agenda of items you want to get through and get feedback from the whole team. Ensure that the systems that you are using such as Slack Microsoft Teams, or Workplace by Facebook amongst others are the chosen method to communicate daily.

Finally, you should schedule in one-to-one calls with team members. This should be done to ensure that they have everything that they need to complete tasks but also to check in to see how they are doing. Non verbal communication is key here, be sure to check on their mental health and how you as a manager could help support them if they are struggling.

Remember though, that written communication can be a minefield. Especially in apps where dozens of messages are passed regularly, the last thing you want to do is get employees getting mixed messages or interpreting the tone of a message. It is always better to follow up important emails or memos with calls and scheduled video conferencing.

More ways to drive employee engagement in a challenging period

There are other ways to help drive employee engagement in a challenging period. The key to it all is as highlighted, communication. Making employees feel valued and appreciated is going to go a long way to ensure that engagement remains high and that employees feel the benefits of this outside of their usual working environment.

Some of the tactics that can be used include:

Sharing company and team goals

Make sure everyone is onboard with the challenges that are being faced and how the business will overcome them and move forwards.

Provide regular updates

Think about one-to-ones on an individual’s performance and how the business can help them grow.

Recognise results and efforts

Be sure to make your employee aware of the results that they are achieving and the efforts they are making. Send team or wider emails to thank them for their hard work.

Provide additional training

This could be for specific areas that they want to move into or if you have noticed some skills which can be further developed. It all works to help them achieve more and feel extra valued.

Improving employee engagement is always going to be an important task for any business. Striking a balance between high engagement and good results is the outcome all businesses should search for.

The key is wellbeing and communication. Managers should search to rectify any issues as quickly as possible for remote workers whilst also supporting their team on their mental & physical wellbeing as well as practicing better communication techniques for all parties involved.

Whilst we await to end the year as soon as possible, 2021 will be even more important to establish best practices for employee engagement whilst we all face new challenges in the workplace.

Establish employee engagement levels and identify wellbeing strategies with Thomas

With Thomas Engage you can establish levels of engagement within your organisation and identify strategies and initiatives to enhance employee wellbeing, motivation and productivity.

To find out more about how our solutions can help you to improve employee engagement in these uncertain times, please speak to one of our team.