Whether you love it or you’re ready to leave it, WFH is the new normal for many organizations. Business Insider (October 1, 2020) claims that more than half of all Americans want to continue to work from home and two-thirds of companies plan to embrace their current WFH policies permanently.
Staying Engaged While WFH
Given this enormous shift in workplace protocol, it seems obvious that attention should be directed toward increasing employees’ engagement while WFH. Being engaged while working benefits both the employer and the employee. The employer-related benefits of increased employee engagement seem obvious: greater productivity, greater profitability, higher employee retention, increased employee loyalty, and less absenteeism. The less-intuitive (but just as important) benefits for employees who are engaged include better employee health, better home life, and better life satisfaction.
While some organizations have responded to the challenges of tracking engagement during COVID-19 – addressing the emerging obstacles of staying engaged while working from home – these approaches remain the exceptions and not the norm.
What Can Your Organization Do?
- The long answer is this: Continue (or BEGIN) to measure employee engagement. Yes! Full steam ahead!! Measuring engagement is CRITICAL at this time. Have you stopped measuring profits or any other key business metrics because of the pandemic? Of course not. Employee engagement information gained at this time can help you better gauge your organization’s WFH effectiveness. Do your employees have the right tools, feel managerial support, feel a sense of belonging, and have the opportunity to grow while WFH? Gallup’s Q12 assessment (and the extensive research to back it up) indicate that these are the four basic needs connected to engagement. Of course, there will be nay-sayers who might argue, “Things are so different right now, why bother?” or “Our results will certainly be low, who wants to muddy the waters?” These objections are at best short-sighted and at worst flat out wrong. It’s important to remember that this is the new NORMAL and you must begin thinking and acting as if it’s here to stay. Bottom line: measurement of engagement during times of change is a business imperative, and this is a textbook example of great change.
- The hack answer is this: Focus on the purpose of your organization. Jim Harter, a chief scientist at Gallup Research, is quoted in a Harvard Business Review article (Employee Engagement Does More than Boost Productivity) as explaining why this hack works so well. Harter states that when employees “clearly know their role, have what they need to fulfill their role, and can see the connection between their role and the overall organizational purpose” greater levels of engagement are inevitable.
What Can Managers Do?
- The long answer is this: Assess the contributions and the needs of your employees. The daily routines as well as the vibe of work have shifted. Has your manager asked you what you like best and least about WHF? Are you able to contribute the same end results post-COVID as pre-COVID? Are your needs (or things that energize you about work) being met? When you have a great day, what makes it great and why? Employees are most likely to be engaged and happy at work when their strengths are being flexed.
The following personal example may shed some light on how this works. Since March 2020, my business (coaching of individuals and teams) shifted from 100% in-person to 100% video-conferencing platforms. The first two weeks of opting into this new method of WFH were exhausting for me. I thought I would NEVER adjust. Of course, I did and now prefer this new normal. I feel dramatically more productive because I have zero travel time and considerably less prep time to look “presentation ready.” My strength of “Achiever” is more easily flexed while WFH. My energizers – being busy and having new goals – quickly slipped into place when clients recognized how well my COVID-friendly coaching options fit their needs.
- The hack answer is this: Focus on what gratifies each person most about work. If you are a manager or supervisor, ask your direct reports to answer this question: “When you have a GREAT day WFH, did you:
- get a large amount of work accomplished;
- get a chance to speak up and take charge;
- connect personally with people; or
- think, plan or learn about the next steps for the organization.
Their answers will allow you to manage each individual’s work flow more effectively and help them get more “work highs” instead of “work lows.”
Don’t let your team drift into disengagement. Need some help getting started? That’s why I’m here. Whether you’re interested in measuring engagement, supporting your team members and giving them more “work highs,” or hoping to build greater workplace camaraderie in a virtual setting, I have some fresh ideas to help.