Hybrid work is here to stay.According to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, employees want control of when, where, and how they work and they expect businesses to provide them with work options.⁴ The rise of employee empowerment has led to projected increases in hybrid work for the foreseeable future.While hybrid work has opened up job opportunities for some and offered more family time to others, it has also presented an increased risk of isolation among employees.⁴ Read on to learn how to improve employee engagement, maintain strong relationships, and foster a sense of community in a hybrid office.
What is employee engagement?
Employee engagement refers to an employee’s sense of loyalty, commitment, and emotional connection to a company and its goals.¹ Engaged employees care about their jobs and work on behalf of organizations’ goals, not just for the next paycheck or promotion.U.S. employee engagement saw its first annual decline in a decade as it dropped from 36% engaged employees in 2020 to 34% in 2021. In the early months of 2022, 32% of full-time and part-time employees are actively engaged.³Experts measure employee engagement through questionnaires that gauge employees’ levels of agreement about clarity of expectations, opportunities for development, and the weight of their opinions at work. Actively engaged employees are involved and enthusiastic about work, while actively disengaged employees are often unsatisfied and disloyal.
How to increase employee engagement remotely
While there is no one way to implement a hybrid office, hybrid work involves assigning employees to at-home or in-office work positions. Companies may designate which days employees work in the office or give workers the flexibility to choose their schedule.When employees work remotely, the distance from the office limits their networks within the company. Remote employees have few connections outside their direct team, and current trends show that close relationships within teams are diminishing over time.⁴Managers and team leaders must develop new ways to keep employees involved and connected. Here are four ways to keep employees engaged in a hybrid office while working remotely:
1. Encourage authentic interactions
Genuine interactions with co-workers can help foster a workplace where people feel more comfortable and have stronger relationships with team members. These interactions are harder to come by in a hybrid office, where employees work remotely at least part-time.⁴Leaders should meet individually with team members and encourage genuine conversations during team meetings to foster a community of belonging. Allow hybrid meeting participants to talk about their personal lives, but be careful not to ask offensive questions or push employees to share personal information.When leaders encourage authenticity through personal interactions, they can help drive inclusion, productivity, and innovation in the hybrid office.⁴
2. Focus on rewards and recognition
As companies focus on implementing hybrid work, accomplishment recognition decreases. However, your employees’ need for recognition and reward has not.¹Many virtual recognition programs are ineffective because they don’t follow a proper plan or implementation strategy. As a result, employees are unsure when recognition will come or what behaviors will draw praise.¹Virtual recognition should occur where everyone can see it, including in-office employees. Recognize top performers in team group chats or hybrid meetings where all employees can participate.You should also recognize employees promptly. When recognition comes weeks or months after a job, it may lose some of its special meaning.¹Setting standards for hybrid team recognition and rewards is a meaningful and effective way to keep employees engaged and motivated.¹
3. Prioritize mental health
According to Gallup, mental health and employee engagement go hand in hand. Positive well-being boosts employee engagement, which lifts employee performance to new heights that are inaccessible through engagement alone.⁵Since 2020, companies have started paying more attention to employee burnout and well-being. They know that when left unaddressed, mental health difficulties often lead to decreases in performance and productivity and increases in disengagement.¹Help your employees stay engaged by stressing the importance of taking breaks and disconnecting from work. Offer break times throughout the day, and set limits on your employees’ availability. Encourage them to not respond to business emails on weekends or after work hours so they can fully disconnect and recharge.¹
4. Offer employees some flexibility
Since the pandemic, employees have learned that they can be productive while working from home. Now, 87% of employees who worked remotely during the pandemic would prefer to continue doing so moving forward.²Companies are acknowledging a widespread desire for flexibility and offering new options to keep employees satisfied. Businesses can implement hybrid offices in many different ways, including giving employees the autonomy to choose where they sit in the office and when they come into the office. Engagement comes when employees are satisfied with their work and feel like valued members of a team.²
Benefits of employee engagement
How do teams benefit from a greater focus on employee engagement?When employees lack an emotional commitment to their company, their organization can lose billions of dollars each year with a lack of worker productivity, increased turnover, and necessary damage control. Disengaged employees make mistakes at a 60% higher rate than actively engaged employees.²Works Cited
- Forbes. “How To Engage Remote Employees In 5 Simple Steps.” Forbes, 27 December 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/allbusiness/2021/12/27/how-to-engage-remote-employees-in-5-simple-steps/?sh=44753b5f6af6. Accessed 23 June 2022.
- Forbes. “The New Future Of Work Requires Greater Focus On Employee Engagement.” Forbes, 21 June 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/danielnewman/2021/06/21/the-new-future-of-work-requires-greater-focus-on-employee-engagement/?sh=766d24294e65. Accessed 24 June 2022.
- Harter, Jim. “US Employee Engagement Slump Continues.” Gallup, 25 April 2022, https://www.gallup.com/workplace/391922/employee-engagement-slump-continues.aspx. Accessed 24 June 2022.
- Microsoft. “2021 Microsoft WTI Report.” The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work – Are We Ready?, 22 March 2021, https://ms-worklab.azureedge.net/files/reports/hybridWork/pdf/2021_Microsoft_WTI_Report_March.pdf. Accessed 23 June 2022.
- Witters, Dan. “10 Ways Leaders Can Improve Engagement and Wellbeing.” Gallup, 6 October 2020, https://www.gallup.com/workplace/320108/ways-leaders-improve-engagement-wellbeing.aspx. Accessed 24 June 2022.