Before 2020, in-person connections were the cornerstone of employee engagement. But as weeks of work-from-home stretched to months and years, employers and employees discovered that a lot of the work that used to take place in the office could be done remotely.
As companies develop the hybrid solutions that work best for them today, communicators who are responsible for employee engagement need to find new, innovative ways to help everyone feel enthusiastic, valued and dedicated to their jobs, teams, and companies. The following strategies can help.
Recognize that everyone’s experience with remote work is different
An experienced vice president might have quickly transitioned from a private office to a home office. An entry-level employee may be sharing an apartment with three friends who are all trying to figure out their new jobs remotely. A mid-level manager might balance kitchen-table Zoom meetings while overseeing children’s activities.
Personalities matter, too. The creatives who thrive on impromptu brainstorming sessions might struggle to connect virtually, while the workers who couldn’t tolerate interruptions to their workflow might welcome remote work.
Communicators need to factor in these different experiences and personalities when they develop their employee engagement programs.
Find the best balance of remote and in-office work
People want to feel heard, included, and understood. But they don’t want to feel like they are wasting time on virtual meetings or commuting to in-office meetings that don’t feel necessary or valuable in a half-empty office.
The balance of remote and in-office work for each company and team will be different — and likely will shift. For some businesses, a set time for everyone to be in the office may work best. Others may need team members in the office only when current or potential clients are visiting.
One-on-one conversations can help communicators understand what employees need and evaluate what solutions can work best for teams and businesses. Employees who can work remotely or in-office on the schedule that works best for them are most likely to feel valued by and engaged with the company.
Look past the traditional 9-to-5 workday
Employees may be more engaged when employers recognize their need for flexibility in the workday. Many parents, for example, have discovered that working until the school day ends, spending time with their children in the afternoons and evenings, then working for a few more hours after their children go to bed gives them the work-life balance they need.
Employers can support employees by finding times for meetings that work best for everyone.
Make sure all employees can access the tools and resources they need
From casual chats with colleagues around the coffee machine to easy access to IT support, in-office environments are designed to give employees what they need. Remote and hybrid workers need the same support — after all, they can’t be productive if they spend hours troubleshooting their printer or scanner.
Communicators can help by checking in with remote workers to find out what activities are draining their productivity so they can look for solutions. In addition, they can ask hybrid workers what tools and resources they have in the office that they would like to have available at home.
Invest in meaningful solutions
When communicators plan work or social activities for employees, they should think about making them inclusive. Sometimes, solutions are simple: For example, for a lunch meeting that provides sandwiches for in-office workers, give remote workers a gift card for a local restaurant or delivery service.
Other times, communicators will need to find solutions that meet the needs of a range of people. Perhaps pre-pandemic, many employees looked forward to a quarterly after-hours social event where they could relax and socialize. These days, opportunities to connect virtually or in smaller groups might be welcome. Communicators may want to:
- Set up recurring virtual meetings where people say hi, turn their microphones off, and get to work since some people work better when they feel as though others are nearby and may feel a sense of connection with their team
- Arrange for virtual book clubs, music appreciation discussions, or cooking classes so employees can connect with people who share their interests
- Design employee resource group activities with remote workers in mind
- Facilitate in-person walking groups or walking meetings so employees can get away from their desks
- Provide ongoing training, so employees know the company is invested in their success
- Write communications pieces from the perspective of employees who work at headquarters, as well as those at satellite offices and those who work from home, to help all employees feel included
Connect with specialists who can help
Thoughtful employee engagement can drive a business forward. For a strategic employee engagement plan that includes unique engagement initiatives based on research-driven employee motivators, contact Imaginari today.