Businesses and their employees have had to rapidly adjust to the shutdowns and disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and their ability to adapt and pivot will continue to be critical as organizations start to recover from the impacts of the crisis.
To further compound these circumstances, the ability to maintain engaged, empowered, and satisfied team members has proven challenging for many. While some organizations have thrived under their modified operating conditions, others have struggled to respond to change and keep team members engaged and productive. While rates of vaccinations are bringing some hope about the pandemic’s eventual end, the tidal wave of change we have experienced is unlikely to ebb any time soon.
When creating your COVID-19 recovery plans, the value of engaged and satisfied team members in this fast-moving environment must not be understated. Engaged employees will support your organization to achieve its mission, execute its strategy and generate results, particularly as times remain uncertain.
As leaders, we must ask: how can we leverage the rapid change we have experienced over the past year, continue to drive growth and sustain employee satisfaction and engagement? Here’s how:
1. Accept remote or hybrid work environments as the “new normal”
The days of office cubicles and open floor plans for all employees are gone. We now operate in a world where some of our team members will continue to work where it is the safest, most suitable, and most empowering for them.
Many organizations across industries have already embraced the fact that working remotely, in some form or fashion, is here to stay. This shift has had many benefits—such as being able to recruit talent outside of your typical geographic area and eliminating lengthy commutes from home to office. However, the shift has not been without challenges and very real risks.
As we move into a recovery phase, leaders must remain alert to the challenges brought by an environment with minimal face-to-face interaction, the potential for feelings of social isolation, the need for different ways to access information or support, and the natural distractions of being at home.
For leaders, scheduling regular check-ins and establishing rules of engagement has not changed, regardless of whether you work in an office or at home. However, with a majority of our workforce currently at home, we need to get creative in the way we support and engage our teams.
2. Manage the new risks
This shift from in-office environments to hybrid or remote work environments has brought to light many physical, psychological and technological risks. Leaders must build out their risk management framework to incorporate a broader lens. It is now paramount to ensure team members have access to resources to work from home safely and comfortably, with the right technology support and a focus on open lines of communication.
The pandemic has also brought on feelings of isolation and fear for many. If you have yet to adjust your workplace mental and physical support offerings, do not neglect these critical needs any longer. Ensure such offerings are also set up for those workers continuing in a hybrid or fully remote setting.
3. Prioritize communication
How we communicate and engage with our teams is as important as ever. Whether it’s Zoom, Slack, Webex, Microsoft Teams or any of the other platforms we have increasingly relied on over the past year, we need to provide opportunities for both formal and informal communication to flow. Through informal social connections, leaders can demonstrate emotional support and consideration for their team, which ultimately leads to higher engagement.
When leaders are engaged, supportive, and available to their employees, it helps reduce feelings of isolation and reinforces your strong company culture. At the end of the day, when team members feel they work for an organization that supports their ambitions and wellbeing, it increases productivity, retention, and cost savings. This translates to bottom-line success.