How to keep employees engaged when stressed and working from home

Last updated: 05-25-2020

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How to keep employees engaged when stressed and working from home

As employees around the world embrace “the World’s Largest Work-From-Home Experiment,” they’re also experiencing the new levels of stress that come with working remotely under uncertain circumstances.

Unfortunately, employees under stress are more likely to retreat than reach out — which means even the most engaged and productive teams might be struggling to feel connected and do their best work.

There are a lot of ways managers and leaders can lead through this stressful time, including providing as much transparent communication as possible and being compassionate about what employees are experiencing. But in addition to building trust and compassion, it’s more important than ever to invest in employee engagement.

Can you build engagement on a remote team? Absolutely – dozens of world class companies have been doing it for years. So if you want to support your team and promote engagement, here are five ways you can get started:

Your company’s culture-building rituals for welcoming new hires to the office were one of the first things to go when COVID-19 sent your team home to work indefinitely. But you don’t have to let remote work stop you from setting the right tone with new employees – you just need to get a little creative. Companies like Clari, Employment Hero, and Stone are thoughtfully welcoming new employees to the team with care packages delivered to their home offices.

Many teams are attempting to replace in-person socialization with digital socialization, skyrocketing Zoom’s active monthly users to 200 million in the month of March alone. But while Zoom and products alike can handle an unlimited number of people in a video conference call, those large groups can often feel informal and random to employees who attend. Go a little deeper by using “Breakout Rooms,” or assigning groups of 3 to 4 people to different video conference calls for 10 to 15 minutes at a time so employees can catch up in a more intimate group.

The regular, informal check-ins your team is used to receiving throughout the workday can sometimes fall second to other priorities. To make sure you’re regularly connecting with your team members – even when you don’t have time – schedule personalized weekly emails to let your team members know you’re thinking of them and are there for them if they have any questions or comments.

Employees new to working remotely quickly realize it can be hard to stop working at a particular time of day. This leads to a sense of being “on” 24-7, and not taking the necessary breaks to unplug and relax, leading to a sense of overwhelm – or even work from home guilt. Before burnout spreads among your employees, consider collaborating on your team’s definition of “work from home hygiene,” that outlines how long you work each day and how you communicate schedule expectations with each other.

Having meaningful work to do plays an important role in employee engagement and productivity. But during times of uncertainty, it’s easy for individuals to start to feel disconnected from their original work purpose, or – due to changes in the industry or the company – find themselves doing different kinds of work. It’s worth taking a minute each week or month to make new meaningful connections between your employees and the work they’re doing, pointing out who they’re serving and how they’re contributing.

The global pandemic we’re all experiencing is pervasive, but it is also temporary. How you invest in your team today is important because it will have a positive ripple effect on employee engagement long after we're back to “business as usual.” 


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