Employee engagement is essential to all organizations. It has become an imperative in the remote, work from home arrangements necessitated by the pandemic. We provide some tips to increase employee engagement under the circumstances:
Mankind’s path to immunity against the COVID-19 pandemic is still fraught with more questions than answers. Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker estimates a period of 7.4 years to pass before everyone becomes immune to the virus. This could happen either through herd immunity or with vaccinations, but we are still not sure if the vaccines are effective against the mutant versions of the virus. This means that employees cannot afford to return to work just yet. They may have comorbidities which make them susceptible to a fatal attack from the virus or have family members who do so. In either case, many companies want to continue remote, work from home arrangements for now. Work from home will continue to be the best available option for some time to come. Probably, until everyone gets vaccinated or an effective treatment regime against the virus is found. A survey of 800 global organizations by Gartner found that 88% of them encouraged or required their employees to work from home, irrespective of their health status.
Against this scenario, the importance of employee engagement has increased manifold for employers. Many of them are seeking for ways to prioritize it and put the necessary processes in place. Not all employees are thrilled with the work from home arrangement, as some of them find that work takes over all their time while some others feel deprived of social interaction. Employee engagement is definitely a huge necessity under the circumstances. Which is why, we have compiled some tips for increasing employee engagement here:
Create a sense of belonging: This is a prerequisite for employee engagement and essential at all times, and even more so in the current circumstances. E.g.:While there are many ways to achieve this, top options would be to inspire the team, create memorable experiences for them, provide them with immediate feedback on their work, offer them timely and relevant information and personalize your interactions with them.
Define goals and targets: Set targets to be reached and see how work form home actually gets people delivering faster than they ever did at the workplace itself. In any case, people succeed better when they are provided clear and measurable goals and targets to achieve. The same goes for responsibilities and accountability. E.g.: These could be performance targets, developmental needs or personality attributes which need to be worked on. Some examples would be: Mentor so-and-so to perform better, get trained on a specific skill, complete a course and get certified, manage work/time/anger better, think creatively, be more self-aware, be more empathetic, objective, or even learn to communicate better.
Communicate better It will not be possible to engage your work from home employees without regular, consistent, effective communication. It is also essential to maintain employee relations. Apart from work-related communication, try and establish processes to convey core company values to your employees through regular communication to keep them engaged. E.g.:Examples would primarily be setting up weekly/monthly meetings, encourage better communication by assuming nothing, listen better, provide tools and bandwidth needed for better communication, train whoever needs help with using them, and keep lines of communication open.
Be available: Check in with your employees frequently and see if they are facing any problems. Make sure that they have a clear idea of what is expected of them. Help them know exactly how they can contribute to the success of the organization. E.g.:Schedule regular 1:1s, share agendas for the meeting ahead of time, keep workflows, compliments as well as criticism and feedback transparent and socially appropriate to the conversation.
Enable teamwork: Work from home makes no real difference to an individual contributor. But team players are bound to face issues if they are unable to collaborate with their colleagues. Employers need to put the necessary communication and collaboration tools and processes in place to ensure there’s no hitch and sharing of documents, ideas and communication happen as and when needed. E.g.: As people work together, but remotely on the same task, they need collaboration tools which keep lines of communication open and changes to be synced, so that there’s no duplication of work or lost changes leading to miscommunication and crossed wires.
Provide skills and knowledge: People who have the potential to be productive may sometimes need some support to get them going. Try not to leave them floundering and looking for the skills or information they need to be adept at their tasks, some of which have been digitally transformed in a hurry. E.g.: This has never been easier as acquiring new skills has gone digital, with many eLearning portals competing with each other to impart new skills to people.
Empower the employee: A sure-fire way to employee engagement is to allow the employees, remote or otherwise, is to make them stakeholders. Invite them to suggest or implement new ideas and involve in important decisions being made in the organization. Help them to improve their focus and discipline and guide them on avoiding distractions and digressions which make work from home very hard for many employees. E.g.: Among the ways to achieve this, we can list providing mentorship, offering varied and challenging projects, seeking their opinions and inputs and giving them a voice at the top of the pile.
Encourage bonhomie: Create opportunities for bonding virtually and foster an atmosphere of fun and happiness. Ask employees to share their knowledge with the others in the team, virtually. Reap the benefits in the form of development and organizational growth. E.g.: Examples would be to create opportunities for fun activities which are not about work at all, encouraging bonding through team building activities and manadatory collaboration on projects.
Prep the Leadership: When global outsourcing became the norm and managers had to lead teams with unpronounceable names located in different time zones, sight unseen, they needed to orient themselves to the art of managing such teams. Work from home is in no way different and needs the managers to be trained on how to orient themselves to its quirks and fancies and get re-skilled. E.g.: Just as legacy computer systems fail to keep up with emerging technological developments, some managers who till now related performance to hours spent at the office will need re-orientation and mentoring to change their ways and accept other advanced tools to evaluate performance.
Offer work-life Balance: Many remote workers get caught up in work and lose focus on activities normal to life. This would affect their work-life balance and create a disengagement in their minds towards their work. In the long run, they could dissociate and lose interest in their work. Managers need to be aware of such a possibility and ensure that they encourage their teams to maintain work-life balance. E.g.: Offer flexible work hours and schedules and create a family-friendly work atmosphere. Allow employees to take time off to feed their creative sensibilities by offering paid time off, if necessary.
In conclusion, we see that many organizations are seriously considering a switch to work from home on a part or full-time basis, even should the threat from the pandemic end. There are undeniable benefits in adopting remote, work from home arrangements like lower infrastructure costs, less commuting time, less absenteeism and flexible recruitment options. There are serious risks too. Organizations must make employee engagement a priority if they are to ensure success with work from home.
You can also read our blog posts on how to sustain employee engagement and manage and measure productivity of a remote work force