The coronavirus pandemic has scattered employees all over the city, country, and in some cases, the world. Remote work has become a norm and employee engagement at this time has become even harder. Yet it is essential for the growth of the company now more than ever and certainly is possible with appropriate work from home solutions. Since we still are unsure about how long this situation will go on for, you will need to develop strategies for more permanent settlements, preparing for the worst. So here in this article, we have discussed ideas that will help you effectively engage your employees.
What is employee engagement
Before we get into the definition of employee engagement, we need to break one myth. Employee engagement is not the same as employee satisfaction or employee happiness. A satisfied and happy employee is not necessarily engaged or even productive. Employee engagement is about improving performance, and in turn, the company revenue.
An engaged employee does not work just for a paycheck or a promotion, but they actually care about the company’s success and is committed to achieving it. They will come up with new ideas and put them through their work, they will keep the office clean, they will work overtime without being asked – in order to help the company reach its revenue goals.
Why is employee engagement critical for a company’s success
Employees are the key contributors to business – you cannot have a company without people working for it. When you effectively engage your employees, they demonstrate enhanced service, quality, and productivity; which leads to higher customer satisfaction. This increases sales, meaning more profit, which leads to higher market value. In fact, research shows companies with more engaged workers to have 6% higher net profit margins and 5 times higher shareholder returns over five years.
How to keep employees engaged in a work from home setting
In an office setting, employee engagement activities are easy to conduct. While most of those can be ineffective for a remote employee, the ideas and focus areas behind them stay the same. All you need is to understand what the right work from home solutions for these would be, and employee engagement is absolutely achievable.
Invest in work from home infrastructure
Just like you, the employer, have to prepare for remote work as the possible “new normal” for the coming future, so do your employees. It is difficult for the employees used to the 9-5 habit suddenly switch to working from home and be disciplined in their tasks. Home comes with a lot of distraction which isn’t there in the office. They even can feel detached from other humans, demotivated, and lost. Be considerate of the psyche of your employees, and create a virtual work environment which can boost productivity.
- Equipment: Invest in the best work from home equipment for your employees. Provide every employee with their own computer and any other state-of-the-art tool that you use in your office for high-end tasks such as Adobe Photoshop or MATLAB. If they had to arrange for them themselves, at least reimburse them for it, as these can be extremely costly.
- Communication platforms: Invest in face-to-face video conferencing apps like Zoom or Google Meet and hold regular meetings so everyone feels connected. Also, use a forum like Slack for employees to share personal as well as professional updates.
- Respecting personal space: One of the biggest issues employees face in a remote work setting is that there is no fixed work time, which makes them lose out on their personal time. Either has a particular work timeline or provide targets and let your employees complete them on their own convenience. However, it is important that you set a particular timeframe for work conversations, which means no work meetings (over the phone or any digital platforms) beyond that timeline.
Build a communication string
Much like in the office, communication is the key to employee engagement, now of all times; and in that communication, transparency is the key.
- Transparency about company goals: It is critical now that your employees understand how their roles fit into the larger goals of the company. Have everyone on the same page by informing about the annual and quarterly goals of your company.
- Brief and relevant meetings: Have weekly adjustment meetings with a structured agenda that actually solve business problems rather than have a bunch of lectures.
- Trainings: Be very transparent about the process of a project’s success before any work begins and provide training to your employees to develop an action plan to finish them on time while being within budget.
- COVID policies: Make sure you communicate regularly about COVID-19 updates, and your organisation’s response, advice, policies, and protocols for your employees to handle it. Let your employees know you care about them.
- Virtual break time: Non-work related communication among employees like the “water cooler talks” which help in preventing potential burnout and isolation of your employees. You can make a separate group on Slack for the same where your employees can share updates, sites, news and fun, non-work related things. Some organizations, like Gitlab, have adopted the concept of a “virtual coffee break” where employees connect over video calls to take breaks, socialize, have their water cooler conversations; which is also a great idea if it’s possible in your organisation.
Encourage learning and growing
The path towards growth is consistently learning and developing new skills. Working from home might be challenging in a lot of ways, but it does save time. These extra hours can be used towards keeping the mind active and excited which comes with learning something new. Organisations that encourage learning new skills are more respected by their employees which motivates them to apply those skills to improve your company’s ROI. You can invest in an e-learning platform where all your workers can learn professional as well as non-professional skills. You can even hold seminars where they share their new skills in the form of a lecture, presentation, or performance.
Encourage a healthy lifestyle
A healthy mind resides inside a healthy body. Social isolation and working from home can have extremely negative effects on your employee’s mental health. A simple solution like a healthy diet and regular exercise can do wonders on it. As an employer, you can hold share information on a healthy lifestyle or hold online exercise sessions for your employees which will also help in team building.
Engage with fun
As mentioned earlier, it is important that you have a check on your employees periodically not only to show that you care but also to measure which methods of employee engagement are working well and which are not. You can conduct team-building exercises like Hackathon, online poker, chess, or board games, video games marathons, karaoke or movie nights with your employees for fun weekend activities.
You can also conduct surveys to learn what your employees are thinking, doing, and feeling; what motivates them, what is fun for them, and what kind of changes that they would like to have in their lives. You can use this data to add elements of fun into the work itself. This is a concept called “gamification” where you incorporate exciting challenges and tasks for your employees to reduce stress and make work more enjoyable.
Reward your employees
Finally, the best way to encourage and motivate your employees is recognition of good work and rewards. Now, you cannot hold R&R ceremonies in a lockdown, but you surely can switch to the work from the home version of them – the cloud platforms. You can use an interactive digital R&R platform to show appreciation towards your employees on-the-go irrespective of any physical or geographical barriers. You can also use a cloud-based employee benefits platform to give out corporate deals from various brands, cashback, subsidized insurance plans, gift cards, subscription plans, and more.
When employees know that they are cared for and nurtured in their workplace, they tend to value the company and stay with it for a long period of time no matter how many high-end skills they develop. Keeping highly skilled employees in the organisation is ultimately profitable for the business itself, and at the root of all of this is employee engagement. If you pursue adequate work from home solutions for the same, the strong support of your employees will assist your business to not only survive but to thrive through the crisis.