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Due to the ongoing lockdown, resulting in shifting most of our teams to remote work, many organizations have been struggling with this new form of normalcy. Some people might feel that working from home can negatively impact company culture and employee engagement. It very well might if the organization doesn’t make an effort to engage with employees; however, in many cases, this work arrangement is an opportunity.

Here are three practical tips to consider that will help your business stay engaged with your staff during this time of COVID-19 with employees working from home and sheltering in place.

1) Help Employees Take Pride in Meaningful Work

The COVID-19 era has led many businesses into times of uncertainty. Organizations have been forced to cut down their business operations, reduce employee wages, and prepare for times with no cash flow. As much as organizations continue to fight this battle in uncharted territory, their soldiers (employees) are also struggling during these unprecedented times of uncertainty. Many of them living in fear of losing their job, source of income, or career opportunities. During this time of crisis, it is crucial to help employees feel valued. When you do this, you will find that people will start to share their insights and ideas and become loyal to your company rather than to their paychecks. How do you instill a sense of pride in your employees? Lay out your company goals and communicate honestly with employees about the challenges your business may be facing.

When you let employees know that the company needs them during these unprecedented times for essential tasks that only they can perform successfully, they will surprisingly rise to the occasion. Often, what the management team feels will motivate and inspire their employees is very different than what employees feel will be motivating to them. Instead of assuming you know what employees care about, engage with them, ask about them curiously, and instill pride in them.

2) Engage through Shared Ownership

One common barrier to this is leaders who feel they need to have all the answers, or they will appear unsteady. Leaders need to shift their perspective on ownership of engagement so that it becomes a natural and positive discussion among their teams. A strong leader knows that the best answers often come from their teams.
What’s more, the key to engagement is through shared ownership of it with their people. When leaders use shared responsibility correctly, it can become the best way to build strong and sustainable employee engagement.

When people are part of the solution and know they are a valuable part of the work and decisions being made, that is to say, when they have a sense of ownership, they are much closer to being engaged.

They share the responsibility for how to reach desired outcomes successfully; this shared responsibility results in people knowing that they matter to the success of the firm and the work being done.

3) Engage with Employees Regularly and Support their Well-Being

The final tip has to do with emotional support. Speaking from personal experience, when you work from home, you’re disconnected. Some of your employees are going to love that. Others, not so much. Team leaders need to set up a time to chat with remote employees – about work projects, of course, but also just a “how are you doing?” and “what can I do to support you?” In many office environments, this happens in small 5-minute chats throughout the day. Now, it’s going to have to be a little more intentional.

Encourage employees during this time to take care of themselves. Let employees know that you understand the challenges they’re facing. Families are spending all day together. Let that sink in for a moment. Employees are working and home-schooling their children in many cases. They can’t see parents, grandparents, or closest friends. No birthday parties, anniversaries or traditional holiday celebrations and this can be extremely hard for them.

Maybe now is the time to create some (virtual) employee groups and social activities. Organize a virtual Happy Hour, set up regular office stretches/meditations, or office lunches for those who feel like taking a break from their families. Of course, make everything optional, so it doesn’t feel like you are forcing these activities upon employees. The possibilities are endless for what you can be doing together as a business, helping each other as colleagues and friends during these unprecedented times.

I honestly don’t have all of the answers here. But you know who might? Your employees! Consider asking employees how organizations can best support them during this time. There are many employee engagement platforms out there that you can use to gather data and ideas. Don’t know where to start? Speak to a member of the CML HR team and we can help you figure out the best course of action for your team, for free.

The ultimate goal (and the challenge) is to be there enough that employees know you’re supporting them, but not so much that all of the activities get in the way of the work. It’s a delicate balance. Asking employees what they need – and they might not know right away – will help start the conversation, and it will engage the workforce by bringing them into your strategic planning. Read more about how our team here at CML did just that with what we’re coining the “Coronavirus Scorecard”.


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