Fostering workplace engagement  – during the coronavirus outbreak and beyond

If your employees are stressed, struggling with their mental health, feeling neglected, out of the loop, or just plain bored, then this will have a negative effect on your business. Research has found that during the current coronavirus crisis, work commitment, motivation and job satisfaction have declined to levels below the 2008 financial crisis.

Whilst employers cannot make everything better, those that engage with members of their workforce and treat them with understanding and respect are more likely to maintain their loyalty, commitment and productivity, both now and in the future.

Here are some tips on how to keep your staff engaged:

Think about the different needs of your workforce

When deciding on how to engage with your workforce during the pandemic, think about the different categories of workers that you have, how they may be being affected by the current situation and what support they are likely to need.

Keyworkers, required to come into the office, whilst others stay home, may be feeling the burden of responsibility for keeping things going. So they may need to be reassured, more than normal, that they’re doing a great job and that what they’re doing is appreciated.

Those who are furloughed may be feeling disconnected or simply forgotten, so it may help to introduce communication mechanisms that will enable them to be kept in the loop, if they want to be. You could invite them to opt into regular company news updates, for example.

Homeworkers may be struggling with using new remote technology, so be sure they have all the equipment and technical support they need. They too may be feeling a little disconnected, so make sure that the remote technologies you have in place give them good levels of contact with managers and other team members.

Re-integrate returning staff

When things, hopefully, start to move back to some level of normality, with more staff returning to the workplace, a ‘re-boarding’ process may be appropriate, especially where employees have been out of the workplace for a long time.

It’s important to recognise that individuals will have reacted in varying ways to the crisis depending on their personal circumstances and experiences. For example, keyworkers may be feeling resentful towards furloughed staff who were able to stay at home, while they shouldered the burden of keeping things going. Those who had been furloughed may be feeling unwanted and disconnected and those who had been working from home may have actually enjoyed the experience and be reluctant to come back into the office. In addition, staff members may have experienced bereavements, or suffered mental health difficulties during their time away.

Line Managers should hold one to one meetings with their staff before they return to work, with a focus on their health and wellbeing. The discussion should be used to explore whether any adjustments or support are needed to enable the employee to carry out their role. If your employees have access to an Employee Assistance Programme, it may be helpful to remind them that they have the opportunity to speak to a trained counsellor about any concerns they have.

Keep track of engagement levels

It’s important to keep track of how your staff are feeling over this period. So, give them a way to express this by using an engagement survey, which you can repeat at regular intervals, to see how things are going. Within the survey you can include questions such as:

  • Do you feel valued?
  • What are you enjoying?
  • What are you not enjoying?
  • How could things be improved?

This could reveal that staff want more transparency, or more regular catchups, for instance, and means that you can then make the right adjustments to keep your staff motivated and engaged. It will also show staff you’re listening to what they are saying and being responsive to their needs.