Workforce engagement is extremely important. Engaged employees are more productive and less likely to leave a company. And they have higher job satisfaction, making them more likely to do better work.1
More than two years since the pandemic first struck and employees around the world went home to work, for some companies, remote and hybrid work models are here to stay. According to research by Owl Labs, 81% of people who worked from home during the pandemic want to continue in a hybrid or remote capacity.
This new dynamic has raised questions for employers about employee engagement. If you can’t see your employees, how can you tell that they’re being productive and engaged? How can you tell if they’re still invested in your company and the work they do? How can you tell if they’re happy?
If you’re asking those questions, you’re already off to a good start. Fortunately, a lot of research has been done to help guide employee engagement in your company.
The current state of employee engagement
Studies by Owl Labs and Ergotron validated proponents of work from home when they found that hybrid workers were, on average, happier, healthier and more productive than employees who were in-person full time. The Ergotron study specifically cited higher job satisfaction in employees with flexible work schedules, as well as improved work-life balance.
Remote or hybrid work does not tend to cause poor productivity. As Forbes notes, people who are good workers in the office tend to be good workers at home. If an employee exhibited poor working habits before they were remote, those often carry over to a hybrid situation as well. In 2021, Owl Labs reported that remote workers were as productive, or more, compared to when they were in the office.
Despite all that, Gallup found a dip in overall employee engagement across all types of workforces in 2022 for the first time since the pandemic began. Remote or hybrid workers still displayed higher levels of engagement overall than those in-office; however, engagement among fully remote employees took a harder hit than other groups.
But why is this dip occurring?
Elements that affect employee engagement
While the resulting output may vary across different types of companies and workforces, Gallup cites a few key elements that affect employee engagement:
- Organizational culture and mission
- Employee well-being
Gallup attributes the employee engagement slump to an increasing lack of clarity about expectations; equipment that inhibits productivity; disconnection between employees and company values; and employee recognition. Fortunately, many of these elements are things that employers can control and improve upon.
How to improve employee engagement for remote workers
With some easy upgrades — and slightly trickier cultural changes — you can improve remote and hybrid employee engagement for better results and happier employees.
Productivity relies on having the right tools and materials to get the job done. Remote work is no different. Make the investment in the right hardware and software now to ensure your employees’ long-term success at home.1 Video conferencing abilities, remote server connections and project management software are all crucial to a good work-from-home environment. And there’s nothing worse than wrestling a temperamental computer, so be sure your employees’ laptops, tablets and monitors are getting the job done.
Expectation of flexibility and autonomy
Your employees are individuals with different work styles, different times they’re productive and sometimes even different time zones. Embrace flexibility by letting employees choose when and where works best for them. And while micromanaging will make your employees feel smothered and distrusted, setting clear expectations and guidelines for them to autonomously work within will provide the support and clarity they need to succeed.1 Flexibility is especially important for younger employees. According to Nationwide’s 2022 Agency Forward survey, “62% of Gen Z employees and 51% of Millennial employees would consider leaving based solely on their employer’s plans.”6
Empathy and appreciation
Now more than ever, employees want to feel valued and seen by their employers. Be mindful that you can’t always stop by someone’s desk to offer a high-five. Instead, be sure to send messages or schedule short meetings to celebrate a job well done.
To take it a step further, engage in empathy. The lines between work and life have become more blurred, and you may find yourself learning more about your employees’ personal lives than before. Capitalize upon that by creating opportunities for social interaction and team building activities that will increase your employees’ sense of value and belonging.4
You may also find that your employees seek a deeper connection with your company than before. Gallup found that companies with the most engaged workforces were living their stated mission and vision every day.5 It reinforces the culture you want to grow, but also reminds employees of why the work they do matters.
Engaging employees for increased success
Having engaged employees is good for your business and good for the people who make it run. When in doubt, listening to your employees is the best way you can inform decisions about the workplace. Your business’s success relies on the talent you’re able to recruit and retain, and no matter the work schedule you determine, keeping engagement top of mind is key. Nationwide Business Solutions Center is here with additional resources to help you manage employees, including ideas on how to show employee appreciation and how to conduct digital trainings in a remote world.