During a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic we’re experiencing right now, it can be challenging to ensure that your employees remain engaged throughout a time of great uncertainty: particularly when they are working from home, feeling isolated and disconnected from their usual team environment.
Good business outcomes rely on employees having the ability to trust in their company’s leadership:
to feel as though the company’s values align with their own,
to feel as though they understand and are included in the company achieving its goals,
and to feel a sense of hope, stability and purpose at work.
These are important attributes all the time, and are particularly relevant now during the pandemic.
Having a strong company culture and good communication practices are essential as ways to improve employee engagement at work during the challenging times ahead.
1. Have strong communication practices in place
Communication is important to ensure a cohesive and engaged workplace at the best of times. During the pandemic crisis it is even more important than ever. It’s essential that you communicate regularly with your employees to keep them informed and to ensure they know what they need to do in order to work effectively and productively.
Establish good communication routines to improve employee engagement. For example regular team meetings, regularly scheduled catch-ups between managers and their team members, use platforms for collaboration and sharing and so on. This will help to motivate your employees and let them focus at work.
2. Make sure you have the right tools to communicate
When considering how to increase employee engagement in the workplace, it’s important you have the right communications infrastructure in place to ensure you can keep your employees connected and so that management can quickly and easily reach out to them when they need to share important information.
Provide your employees with a range of options for communication such as instant messaging, collaboration and project management platforms, video conferencing and other systems so they can communicate within their team and with other teams easily.
For communication from management to employees, look at systems beyond email and intranet to ensure you can reach your people at work no matter where they are working. Systems like DeskAlerts, for example, which feature pop-up alerts, corporate screensavers, desktop tickers, mobile alerts and are guaranteed to be seen by 100% of employees.
Your overall infrastructure should be sound… for example it is often easier for employees to access apps and software hosted on the Cloud rather than compete with every employee in your company to access your servers remotely.
3. Ensure you are transparent with employees
In these uncertain times, your employees will be feeling a host of complex emotions. Not only will they be fearful for their health and for the health of their family members, they’ll also be concerned about their job security and their livelihood.
It’s important that you are honest and transparent in all your communications with employees to improve employee engagement. Tell them what the situation is with the company and what measures are being taken to ensure ongoing viability. Tell them what their work arrangements will be for the time being and how often these will be reviewed. This isn’t a time to sugar-coat your messaging or oversell or overpromise what can be delivered.
Update your employees often – when employees don’t know what’s going on, rumor, speculation, misinformation and fear can fill the void and cause them to become disengaged. Frequent communication can help to increase employee engagement and motivation.
4. Establish informal networks
When employees work in a regular office environment they form friendships and positive working relationships with their co-workers as they naturally get to know one another. Now that everyone is working from home, some of those interactions are missing from day-to-day life.
Encourage your employees to maintain social bonds with one another. This could be activities such as having virtual coffees and chats with their colleagues throughout the week, having group chats via messaging apps or even maintaining other social functions from a distance such as lunchtime yoga or book clubs or after work trivia and quiz functions.
5. Recognize good work and show appreciation
Another thing when considering how to increase employee engagement in the workplace is rewards and recognition. Employees like to have their good work acknowledged and appreciated and this is a driver of positive employee engagement. When someone does a good job, make sure you thank them – and thank them publicly. You can also establish reward and recognition programs virtually and encourage other employees to nominate their peers for awards.
6. Conduct pulse surveys to find out how your employees are feeling
Listening to employees’ views and acting on the feedback is a cornerstone of good employee engagement practices and this can be done easily via pulse surveys. A pulse survey is a small survey you can send to gain information and feedback very quickly, gaining results in real time if you use a digital tool such as the surveys module of DeskAlerts.
Throughout the pandemic, as the situation changes, the best way to gauge how your employees as a group are feeling about it is to ask them. You can’t increase employee engagement and motivation if you don’t know what issues may be preventing it.
You can ask for information on how working from home arrangements are going, if they have the right equipment and tools for success, how they are feeling (nervous, scared, lonely, bored, isolated, stressed etc), how they feel their performance is going, how they feel the company has responded to the crisis and so on.
When the time comes to transition back to normal work arrangements your survey answers can also help to guide that journey.
Download Free Employee COVID-19 Survey Templates
7. Deliver ongoing training and coaching opportunities
Many employees value learning and training opportunities and developing their skills. When these opportunities are provided by their employer, they can feel as though the company is investing in them and in their future.
Face-to-face training might be difficult at this time, but there are many learning and development modules and workshops that can be carried out online. Just because your employees aren’t in the office doesn’t mean you should overlook this aspect of their professional development.
Another answer to the question of how to increase employee engagement in the workplace is to deliver coaching and mentoring opportunities with senior team members which are also highly valued and can still be coordinated remotely.
8. Offer flexibility and work/life balance
Flexible working conditions and the ability to balance home and work life are highly valued by employees. Notwithstanding that remote work for many employees is helping to improve work/life balance, for others it may have the other effect: they may be working longer hours because they are no longer commuting. It’s important to encourage them to work sensible hours and to take regular breaks.
Understand that your employees are working in an unprecedented situation and some are juggling family responsibilities while trying to carry out their work, with interruptions they don’t face in the workplace. If you trust they will get their work done, they often will… it just might be outside the usual spread of work hours.
You may also find that when the world returns to “normal” some of your employees are reluctant to return to regular office life – they may have gained many hours back in their day to spend with their families, or to exercise or undertake hobbies and will not want to give that up again easily. If your employees are happy and more productive working from home and it isn’t essential for them to attend the office all the time, it might be timely to reexamine your policies and plan for different work practices in the future.
9. Ensure your employees have support
Physical and mental health and wellbeing are essential if you want your employees to be productive and happy. Having a supportive work culture is appreciated by employees even when things are going well. With stress and uncertainty during the pandemic, your employees may feel themselves more anxious and stressed than usual – either about work, or life in general – which can cause them to disengage.
If you already provide resources to employees to assist with these things, you may need to bolster them. If you don’t already provide these, you may need to consider investing in some. This can include health benefits, counseling services, access to health and wellbeing information and support from managers or a peer network.
It might seem like it’s difficult to engage employees in the current environment, but it doesn’t have to be. You can build on and tailor proven strategies as ways to improve employee engagement with some effort to ensure your employees have high levels of morale and your company is productive and profitable.