How to Keep Employees Engaged in a COVID Environment

With the onset of a global pandemic in 2020, many companies are approaching a full year of alternative work arrangements for their employees, which has created a disrupted communication and work cycle. To keep a company culture thriving and employees engaged, the benefits that come from a great company culture is more important.

As a management team, going back to basics and following some simple principles will help foster a productive work environment.

Review and Follow Your Mission, Vision, and Values

Now more than ever, review and guard the pieces of your company’s culture that are important and make your company a great place to work. Stay focused on your company’s mission, vision, and values and find ways to keep them in front of the employees whether they are working from home, working in customers’ homes, or commuting to the office. As you have meetings, virtually or in person, try the following:

  • Identify and discuss the strengths within your team, department, and company in relation to the company’s values.
  • Reinforce the strengths that are being used daily and within the project scopes of your department’s objectives.

Call out ways your team performs and reinforces culture, such as holding “All Hands-on Deck for a Project” and all work together through a meeting as if you were in the same room, using video conferencing.

Have Open, Honest, and Intentional Communication

During confusing and unsure times, it’s important to have frequent internal communication with employees. Schedule communication with the team to occur on a regular basis. Not any different than before, there may have been times when as a manager that you don’t have all the answers for your employees, but it’s okay to say, “We don’t know; however, we will find out.” When employees may be out in the field or front facing with customers, make sure you are reinforcing your concern for employees’ welfare through communications, and share the steps you are taking to keep them safe within the environment.

To expand internal communications conduct, hold company-wide meetings or townhalls to share the priorities and goals of your team, department, or company.

Set Clear Expectations for Performance in the New Environment

Many companies pivoted their workplaces, allowing individuals to work from home. The greatest challenge of this new arrangement is making sure performance expectations are understood and met. Set up a schedule of regular meetings to keep the team organized and on track. Keep the team and individuals accountable for timelines and performance.

Create a flexible atmosphere and work times for employees who are working from home and juggling responsibilities of other family members in the home. Many remote workers may be parents who are trying to navigate children’s remote school schedules during the day. Watch for and address where productivity is not being met, and observe and address those instances where individuals on the team are not meeting expectations or others are carrying a heavier load. Reinforce that work expectations and productivity have to be met and others should never be dumping responsibilities on those without the same home responsibilities. Engage the team in addressing the need for variable work hours.

Throughout these times, always be sure to watch the actions that are being taken and how individuals are responding.

Do Not Let Distance Delay or Create Bureaucracy

Not being together in the office can impact how our teams work together. The brainstorming and decision making that happens in an in-person group meeting is hard to replicate over video call, and the new ideas that may come up when just chatting over coffee or passing in a hallway are decreased. Be sure you’re not letting the inability to have these informal forms of communications delay your work.

It’s important to be agile in this ever-changing climate to make sure your team is working as well. Enable more freedom and confidence for individuals and team members to make decisions on projects big and small.

It’s also important to make the changes and decisions that need to be made now. Don’t keep a list of, “After the pandemic, we’ll do these things.” What is stopping you from making these decisions or taking these actions now? Don’t delay progress and decisions unless you absolutely have to.

MOST Importantly: CELEBRATE!

The last year has been filled with many challenges and uncertainty. It’s more important than ever to celebrate the wins in your company and on your team. Hold team meetings for celebration or spend the last few minutes in your regular meetings highlighting them. This can include celebrating:

  • Completion of projects
  • Progress towards team goals
  • Team and individual accomplishments
  • The start of new projects
  • New hires joining the team

Additionally, consider scheduling some informal team meetings for employees to have time to chat together outside of team and project meeting times. This can include ad hoc lunch or coffee over video calls.

The pandemic has changed the way so many of us do things, and if you still haven’t pinned down how best to keep employees engaged during these times, it’s not too late to start putting some of the above thoughts into action.