Calls for permanent flexibility are coming in loud and clear. Meanwhile, remote work isn't without it's fair share of shortcomings. Symptoms of work-related depression and anxiety have multiplied during the pandemic. There has been a troubling rise in employee burnout rates. And to top it all off, people are quitting in record numbers.
Given the current state of things, employee engagement strategies are in need of a total makeover.
So, what should you do about it?
During the pandemic, work started to feel a lot like the movie Groundhog Day, in which the protagonist finds himself stuck living the same day over and over again. After rolling out of bed, today's commute consisted of the same 10 steps to your desk that yesterday's did. Many of us have been stuck in an endless loop of WFH, shuffling through the same routine day after day.
We wrap up one monotonous workday — just to take it all from the top in the morning.
It is difficult to ascertain the role telecommuting has had on the decline in employee well-being. Here's what we do know: With the physical infrastructure of the office out of reach, employees' mental health has suffered. One survey from McKinsey found that 1 in 3 workers believed that returning to the office was having a negative impact on their mental health.
Yet today's employees seem to have lost a certain fondness for the office. They realized that the old way of thinking about work wasn't working. Although people have dealt with social isolation, blurry boundaries, and intense burnout by working remotely for so long, there's still a high demand for hybrid work arrangements."We're going through the biggest transformation in the history of the workplace," VergeSense co-founder and CEO Dan Ryan explained in a recent episode of Workplace Innovator.
"We're going through the biggest transformation in the history of the workplace."
- Dan Ryan, VergeSense
But it was the prolonged disruption to their routines that caused so many people to realize that conventional ways of thinking about work weren't working — and the justifications used to keep them in place didn't make much sense, either.
So, what should leaders do to combat these challenges — and who is responsible for the success of the company's employee motivation and engagement strategies?
Keeping employees engaged and motivated in today's workplace — which, for better or worse, operates much differently than the pre-pandemic office — will require careful planning. This won't be a simple or easy undertaking because these challenges remind us that creating a culture of belonging and adjusting to fundamental changes in our everyday lives isn't a simple matter.
The things to keep in mind: Experts predict the office will become a hub for collaboration. Surveys show that people do miss seeing colleagues in person. Research confirms that face-to-face interaction matters — and that online substitutes are decent substitutes but not a perfect replication.
Here are three employee engagement strategies for revitalizing the employee experience and boosting productivity at work:
We'll talk about each of these strategies more in depth below.
The office has a new purpose these days.
Here is the key takeaway: Collaboration is the primary purpose of coming into the office, but according to Deloitte's findings only 14% of C-Suite executives report being satisfied with their company's ability to communicate and collaborate. As they navigate their return to the office, that will continue to be a priority. And 41% of respondents said that they're prioritizing making current processes more efficient and allocating more employee time and resources to innovation.
Collaboration. Interaction. Whether it's the hum or the buzz, there's something special about the novelty of being in the office where you never know who you'll run into or what you might talk about or overhear. In order to trade the convenience and autonomy that they have when working from the comfort of their own home, the price has to be worth the cost.
So, what does your office experience have to offer that people can't get from home?
Let's say your company has decided to reopen the office and set a minimum number of in-office workdays for all of your employees. That way, your employees will have some of the flexibility they have gotten used to while still asking everyone to spend part of the workweek physically present in the office.
Before you can make any of that happen, you'll have to do the legwork ahead of your office's reopening date. Which, in this example, might mean investing in desk booking software so you can support an unassigned seating arrangement and keep an organized schedule of who is coming into the office and where they'll be sitting.
In other words, be prepared with the proper resources and tools it takes to bring your employee engagement strategy to life. The investment you make in your employee engagement strategies is one that you cannot afford to ignore, avoid, or put off.
Are your spaces serving employees' needs?
There were already shortcomings when it came to understanding how a company's workspaces were actually being used. In fact, there's ample evidence to suggest underutilization plagued offices back before the pandemic hit.
That said, employee behaviors and usage patterns are very different today. Now, there's an even bigger breakdown between what traditional office space has to offer and what employees hope to gain from going into the workplace. According to Dan Ryan, every pattern and assumption is changing. But the shift to hybrid work models has made it even more critical to figure out as office utilization begins to increase back up towards pre-pandemic levels.
Employee engagement is something that companies, whether or not they had it, have always valued. They understand its power — not only in terms of improving individual performances, but also the value of having a workforce that makes more meaningful contributions to the success of their teams and the organization as a whole.
What changes should you advocate to improve your employee engagement strategies?
If you want to reap the rewards of a highly engaged workforce, you'll have to get creative with your employee engagement strategies this year.
Does your strategy adequately reflect the importance of employee experience to your organization? Make sure to consider the goals you set to create an equitable workplace environment. The same goes for all of the workplace software and applications your organization chooses to implement.
If you look to at the numbers alone, you can assume that investments were reduced thereby slowing business growth. But according to the Monthly Labor Review — a publication from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — this decline in capital wasn't quite that cut and dry. That's because after the pandemic hit, companies had to rework their budgets to allocate funds so their workers could operate remotely.
Strategies for increasing employee engagement are both an art and a science. But they are only valuable insofar as they are effective. As with most initiatives, companies will have to put their money where their mouth is if they want to see real and measurable results. Put simply, you will need to invest in the resources and technologies necessary to execute those strategies for increasing employee engagement.
Another important thing to keep in mind: Integrations. Make sure you opt for solutions that connect with the other systems and apps your employees use for work.
To be effective, make sure you're considering all of the current factors that will contribute to your employees' engagement at work.
The point here is that you need to make sure you're able to intelligently plan out your employee engagement strategies. Don't make assumptions when you can make intelligent decisions.
Given the cross-functional nature of these decisions, strategies for increasing employee engagement require a multi-disciplinary approach. Your efforts to get support and assistance from decision-makers and stakeholders will be much more likely to pay off if you understand what people want and why. For your part, accept responsibility for the role you and your team play in facilitating employee engagement.
Another important part of an effective employee engagement strategy is that employees, themselves, are given a reasonable opportunity to choose the schedule and conditions they think is best for their own workday. Be reasonable, fair, and considerate toward every individual employee involved and help enable them to do their jobs effectively.
We know the job is not done and the pandemic is ongoing. Still, there are many reasons to remain optimistic about the future of the workplace.
Why not reinvigorate your employee experience in preparation of your return to the office? Afterall, your technology will have a direct impact on how employees engage when you reopen your office doors. Download our latest e-book for tips for supporting your hybrid workforce.