In early 2020, much of the United States shifted from working in the office to working remotely from home. What began as a response to a pandemic has since become a new type of normal.
Organizations and their employees have tackled some of the most pressing telecommuting issues, such as technological setups and other logistical hurdles. But leaders face a new potential challenge as employees settle into their at-home work environments: keeping employee engagement up.
Employees who aren’t invested in their jobs cost organizations by dragging down productivity, calling in sick more often or leaving their jobs altogether. Furthermore, complacent employees are tardy more often and bring company profitability down.
It is now even more vital to ensure that employees are engaged, as working from home can make workers feel disconnected from their teams and organizations.
What Is Employee Engagement?
How can leaders tell if employees are poorly or negatively engaged, particularly when they are working remotely? What are some employee engagement best practices leaders can adopt to keep a staff connected with the organization and its goals?
Employees typically start off enthusiastic about their work and the organization they have just joined. However, if they begin to lose sight of the employer’s overall goals and how they contribute to reaching them, they can easily become disengaged. Some common signs of disengagement include missing or showing up late for online meetings, increasingly making mistakes on the job, missing deadlines and participating less in team meetings. Disengaged employees can also impact the team dynamic by spreading negativity to others.
Keeping Remote Employees Engaged
Employees working from home face unique challenges that could prevent them from staying focused and on track. In-home distractions and feelings of social isolation are just two of the barriers an employee might encounter, potentially disrupting their level of engagement.
To help employees acclimate to working remotely, it is important for leaders to be observant, keep lines of communication open and show compassion for their team members. With so much uncertainty and misinformation currently in circulation, leaders should remain supportive, calm and resourceful. Here are some best practices for improving employee engagement.
Schedule Regular Check-Ins
One of the best ways to gauge and increase employee engagement is to have weekly, or even daily, check-in meetings with each of your team members. On occasion, ask them how they are coping with the new working conditions. It is important to listen carefully to their answers, repeat what you heard to ensure you have a clear understanding and follow up with helpful suggestions.
As far as is practical, keep up on-site routines. Hold regular team meetings and encourage employees to maintain regular schedules. However, it is vital to be flexible as employees navigate their at-home situations. Stressors such as health concerns or child care can leave workers seeking some semblance of normalcy. Be understanding as they juggle their families’ needs with their responsibility to be productive on the job.
Put a Performance Plan in Place
Team members who don’t know how their work contributes to the organization’s overarching goals can become disconnected and disengaged. Help each employee understand the big picture and their place in it to help them become (or remain) passionate about the work at hand. Having a clear set of goals helps everyone stay engaged and on track. Furthermore, having development opportunities and upward mobility options in place gives employees something tangible to aspire to.
Be a Role Model
Staying passionate about your own work is one of the best ways to show employees the value of your shared goals. As a leader, you also have to juggle home and work responsibilities, and it is helpful for your team members to see evidence of your commitment to the organization.
Consider the Extroverts
In the past, common guidance said that extroverts may not be suitable candidates for telecommuting because they might miss the camaraderie of working directly with other team members. These days, managers don’t have the luxury of selecting remote workers based on their personality traits, but skilled leaders will find opportunities to facilitate group socialization to keep employees actively connected. One solution is to host virtual happy hours on Friday afternoons. These events provide employees with an opportunity to interact without “talking shop,” which can be especially beneficial for workers who live alone and miss human contact.
Remember the Introverts
For introverts, it is important to strike a balance between group socialization activities and quiet, independent time. Allow these employees the space to work on their own by not filling their schedules with meetings or virtual hangouts, but do continually check in with workers who might be less inclined to reach out. Introverts also have a tendency to get too involved in their work. Encourage them to take regular breaks to take care of themselves and their loved ones.
Develop Leadership Skills to Keep Employees Engaged
Great leaders keep their employees invested in the work they do, thereby increasing overall productivity in their organizations. With courses such as Facilitating Culture and Process Change in Organizations and Conflict and Crisis Resolution in Organizations, Rider University’s online Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership (MAOL) helps students develop the leadership and communication skills to enhance an organization’s operational efficiency and competency.
If you’re ready to further hone your leadership abilities, learn more today about how Rider University can help you achieve your professional goals.