Employee Engagement in the Remote Work Era

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought enormous disruptions to the workforce. Many employees continue working from home, where they’ve been forced to adapt to new workflows and daily routines. On top of that, bad news about the pandemic, the economy, and the state of our politics has made it increasingly difficult to focus on everyday work matters.

The upshot of all of this is that far too many employees say they are either somewhat or completely disengaged from their work. (A Gallup poll, taken over the summer, puts the number at around 68 percent.) This is unwelcome news for many reasons, but foremost among them is this: It suggests that most employees are doing something less than their best work.

Employee Engagement: A Review

Before we go much further, it may be worth a brief review of what employee engagement is, and why it matters.

When we talk about whether or not employees are engaged, we’re not necessarily talking about whether they’re satisfied, or whether they’re happy. Those are very different metrics, and may be worth measuring. But when it comes to employee engagement, we’re referring to the employee’s level of commitment to the company and to the work they’ve been tasked with completing. A fully engaged employee works not just to get their paycheck, but to help the company flourish and the team achieve its goals.

Engaged employees put forth more effort and make more significant contributions in each aspect of their work; thus, companies with higher levels of engagement tend to deliver higher-quality products and services; they tend to be more efficient, and; they tend to be more profitable.

The Makings of Employee Engagement

As we think about the state of employee engagement in 2020, it’s important to consider each of the elements involved.

The most significant element is belonging. The most engaged employees usually feel as though they are an important part of the team, and that their individual role contributes something to the big picture.

Some additional aspects of employee engagement include:

  • Open lines of communication and transparency from leadership
  • Regular opportunities to give and receive feedback
  • Autonomy (e.g., no micromanaging)
  • Clearly-defined goals
  • Opportunities to learn, grow, and advance

Any endeavor to increase employee engagement needs to carefully weigh each of these factors.

Engaging Remote Employees

Given the importance of employee engagement, and remote work as the “new normal,” it’s crucial for all leaders to rethink their employee engagement strategy. A few general tips and considerations:

  1. Schedule regular meetings. If team members don’t have regular opportunities to meet and to connect with one another, preferably in a group setting, they’re more likely to lose that sense of belonging. Make sure you’re either holding small team meetings or company-wide meetings via Zoom, Google Hangouts, or some similar platform.
  2. Encourage collaboration. Employees who are more reserved or introverted may be less likely to participate in big, boisterous meetings. Make sure you also develop smaller teams or partnerships, tasking each with working together on a project or a brainstorming session.
  3. Provide office hours. Leaders need to be accessible to their employees. Let team members know a chunk of each day (maybe an hour or two) when you are available to chat with them via phone, Skype, or Zoom, as needed. Just make sure you’re providing everyone an opportunity to ask questions or voice concerns.
  4. Recognize success. Be private in your criticisms, but public in your praise. When employees go above and beyond, or complete a significant project, make sure you recognize them before the group. This could be as simple as sending out a company-wide email.
  5. Check in. Finally, make sure you’re making the effort to reach out and check in with employees one-on-one. Showing that you care about them and their success within the company can go a long way toward fostering greater engagement.

As you consider your options for building an engaged team in the remote work era, these tips should be helpful. If you would like additional information on ways to assess and enhance employee engagement or if you have any additional questions, feel free to reach out to WhiteWater Consulting directly. We look forward to hearing from you!

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