The pandemic’s impact on employee engagement

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on employee engagement, and the recent statistics coming to the forefront stand testimony to the changed scenario loud and clear. For instance, LinkedIn’s 2022 Global Talent Trends report found 63% of job seekers positioning work-life balance as their top priority when choosing a new job. Work-life balance was one of the top factors contributing to people quitting their jobs. A study by Medallia, Inc. found that 50% of workers who resigned didn’t have a new job lined up. Other factors that contributed to the Great Resignation were low pay, feeling disrespected, and a lack of opportunities for advancement, found a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.

Due to COVID-19 that triggered employee resignations, long phases of furlough, WFH (work from home), and hybrid working, relationships and connections between employees, their peers, and their organisations have loosened. This has made it challenging for HR teams to find newer and more effective ways of re-engaging with their workforce. The best employers have responded to the challenge of new engagement and re-engagement by creating a more strategic approach to engagement and moving beyond mere good intentions and principles supporting employee well-being to quantifiable actions.

Knowing how the pandemic has impacted employee engagement could make their jobs a little easier, which is what this post aims to do.

Mentioned below are the top three ways the pandemic has impacted employee engagement and the response of employers.

1.     The Blurred Line between Work and Home

Before COVID-19 stuck, employees considered remote work a noticeable perk offered by a handful of organizations. Over time, they started enjoying its flexibility and convenience more and more, while employers realised its benefits. COVID-19 forced organizations to accept the remote work culture. What started as the work-from-home model slowly gave way to the hybrid model where employees came to the office in person for a day or two every week while working from home for the rest of the week. This blurred the lines between work and home as people tried to push the envelope with longer hours at work and struggled to meet their family responsibilities or find time for relaxation. Additionally, they felt stressed due to work overload.

Employers soon realised that they needed to step in and focus on evolved HR strategies to cope with this “new normal.” As a result, several top employers actively started discouraging the use of emails beyond normal office hours. Additionally, they offered guaranteed time to unplug, take stress-relief breaks, and meet family responsibilities (including taking care of children or elderly parents), apart from providing burnout recovery support.

Today, prioritising the mental well-being of employees has also emerged as a significant trend as employers are realising the symbols of work overload and stress, screen fatigue, and burnout. Many are implementing initiatives like meeting-free afternoons and power hours and offering resilience toolkits and mental health platforms to equip all employees with the essential tools and programs, irrespective of where they stand in their own well-being journey. 

2.     Increased Focus on Employee Well-Being Initiatives

To help their employees become accustomed to the new way of working – either remotely or following the hybrid work model – employers are now increasingly investing in employee health and well-being initiatives. The company policies of many reflect the importance of a holistic approach, where they have started programs to raise awareness on emotional well-being, promote physical activities, and encourage the use of well-being apps to help their employees.

In the post-pandemic era, organisations everywhere should re-examine their well-being policies and how they connect to work-life balance. They need to ensure their employees can disconnect and enjoy time to live their lives to the fullest – both within the boundaries of work and, more importantly, beyond it.  

3.     More Emphasis on Recognising and Hearing the Voice of Employees

The pandemic has brought into focus the value of the voice of employees. Driving changes effectively is no longer a smooth ride with exclusively top-down campaigns. Instead, employees need to be treated as significant stakeholders and consulted more regularly, in addition to getting more opportunities for active participation in matters, especially the ones impacting them directly or indirectly.

Since pandemic-triggered remote-working has given employees more control, trust, and direction over their own work, they now desire the same from their employers and need their voices to be heard by the management.

Wrapping Up

The pandemic has altered relationships, particularly in terms of employees’ attitude around work/life balance and their sense of involvement and belonging. That’s why HR teams need to get their engagement strategies right to ensure they align with business priorities around delivering change and growth and make the employees a significant stakeholder in the process.

Apart from the three ways mentioned above, how else do you think the pandemic has impacted employee engagement?

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