Engaging Employees Effectively Through COVID-19

As HR leaders and managers navigate this unprecedented work environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to recognize that many employees are still adapting to working in this new and unfamiliar remote setting. In many cases, workers have had to adjust to these changes overnight and teams and departments have been thrown into chaos. 

Employee engagement is vital to maintaining the strength of the mental and emotional connection workers feel toward their places of work. So how can HR leaders and managers continue to keep their employees and teams engaged in this new normal? There are 5 effective strategies to ensure your employees still feel connected and are ultimately successful:

Communicate, Communicate and Communicate Some More.

It is even more important to keep employees on the same page when they are physically and mentally in different places. At a minimum, communication should address what the future has in store for employees and any possible impact on their jobs. Increase employee check-ins and feedback mechanisms to collect information about how they are feeling and what support they may need to be successful. Consider implementing a remote work experience survey to assess employee perceptions and track them over time. Use this information to see how workers are adjusting, what they still need and where you can create more clarity. Then, ensure you are communicating the steps you are taking based on the feedback. Also, continue to ask for feedback frequently on how well you are communicating and if employees feel like they are in the loop.

Ensure Processes Drive Productivity.

As workers are adjusting to new work environments and tools for the virtual workplace, it’s important to make sure they are well equipped with the fundamentals to work efficiently and productively while remote. Think about your processes and consider employees’ remote work environments and identify any gaps that may exist. Consider that workers will likely be more inundated with emails during this time and enable your team members to focus on prioritizing emails. Try implementing a “necessary emails only” policy that allows team members to only check and respond to email at designated times. Or, encourage other communication such as phone calls or video chats instead. 

Engaging Employees Through a Crisis

Maintain the Water Cooler.

With employees working from home for prolonged periods of time under these circumstances, there can be a greater toll on their mental health. A key contributor to this is the inability to experience their usual office culture and in-person camaraderie. It is important to build a virtual water cooler where employees get a chance to participate in casual conversations and create a lively atmosphere. This virtual community needs to be kept informal and outside of regular, formal team meetings so workers feel comfortable to speak their mind in a safe and profound manner. Carve out some time each week to devote to fun team-building activities, such as group video games or virtual coffee breaks. Try this list of team-building activities for organizations of all sizes to bring your employees together to work as a team and display their unity.

Make Employees Feel Valued.

One of the best ways to keep team members engaged is to appreciate their contributions and wins. Research and common sense both validate that when employees feel valued, they are more engaged. Although you can’t get out of your chair and approach your employees to convey appreciation, there are ways to maintain this effort virtually. Consider using cloud-based employee rewards or recognition systems to track and remind you to recognize your employees instantly and often. Or, try other tools such as an Outlook plugin that can make it easier to keep appreciation top of mind when responding to coworker emails. Try having team members nominate their colleagues for various awards, send a quick ecard, post victories on social walls or other opportunities for peer recognition. Finally, make sure all team members are aware of the tools at their fingertips. 

Be Accountable, but Flexible.

It’s critical for HR leaders and managers to take ownership over the effect you can have on your employees and the level of support you can provide. Hold yourself accountable for maintaining a robust employee engagement program and consider the impact it can have on your organization’s success. At the same time, it is important to be flexible and empathetic as you wrestle with the unknown. Goals and priorities will continue to shift so being flexible with how and when work gets done is key. 


Connection is Critical.

Though it may look different than it did two months ago, continue to find ways to connect with your team, for employees to connect to one another and to connect individual work to the greater organizational mission. Find ways to reinforce your mission and values as often as you can to keep employees engaged. By leading them to a future of high performance and engagement, you’ll go a long way in removing chaos and achieving business success.

To gain powerful insights on each team member to foster understanding and communicate more effectively remotely during this challenging time, try our DISC Team Assessment free for up to 10 team members.