Creating engagement among a newly remote workforce

By Melissa Voigt, vice president of sales at StayWell

As COVID-19 continues to spread, most companies that are able have moved employees into remote working environments. One study found that from March 12 to March 16, nearly 70% of employers were taking steps to allow employees who don't normally work from home to do so. The trend represents a drastic increase from 2019, when 27% of employees worked remotely.

The new changes mean employees are not only adjusting to working at home, but also having children home from school, spouses working under the same roof, and finding new ways to connect with coworkers. This also presents greater challengers for employers in preserving company culture and remaining committed to core values amid a disparate workforce.

While ensuring the health and safety of employees is paramount during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are also some ways to keep employee engagement and company culture alive during this difficult time.

Communicate regularly

Employees working remotely can feel more isolated and disconnected from what’s happening within a company. When all employees are working remotely, that feeling grows exponentially.

It’s important for company and team leaders to communicate frequently. Regular interactions help employees feel connected to the company and each other. Consider sharing updates on how the company is responding to COVID-19, holding informal huddles to connect and share experiences, and recognizing employee anniversaries, birthdays, or accomplishments through different communications channels.

Encourage an open dialogue

During weekly team or individual meetings, leaders should encourage employees to share thoughts and how they’re feeling during this uncertain time. This allows employees to vent frustrations, feel valued, and connect on a personal level to others that share similar sentiments. For leaders, it can help uncover insights into areas that may need attention and improvement.

Emphasize non-work culture components

If there are certain elements of your organization that define the culture, it’s important to keep those going—even if it happens in a virtual format. Invite employees to share their “shelter-at-home” photos or stories. Find ways for them to give back or donate to their local communities. Host online well-being webinars to help them stay healthy. These non-work elements help support an engaged culture while also recognizing the new ways we’ve all been working and living.

Giving employees a mental break from work can also be beneficial. For example, at StayWell, we have a daily 30-minute break where employees can unplug and focus on their own well-being. The break gives employees enough time to do things like exercise, clean, read a book, or check in on the kids.

Utilize well-being programs to stay active

People are finding creative ways to stay active and healthy given gyms and many parks are closed. One easy way to maintain employee connections is to use well-being platforms. Employees can track exercise activity, challenge each other and create team competitions, and access essential health information. Keeping all employees healthy has never been more important.

Maintain face-to-face connections

When employees go remote, active engagement with others can be difficult to maintain. Office conversations, hallway chats, and water cooler banter go away. Use virtual meetings and video conferences to help fill this void each week. This can help with morale and allows employees from across the company to support each other.

Companies have a unique opportunity to demonstrate the strength of culture as they adjust to the new normal of remote work. Staying focused on creating opportunities for connections and providing timely updates with help keep everyone in the loop and engaged during times of uncertainty.

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