We are 5 plus months into this pandemic and I’m hearing from more and more managers and leaders that the employee engagement/recognition activities originally designed to help keep individuals engaged at the beginning of this pandemic because of working from home are not working anymore. This even applies to those employees that are going into the office. They have to social distance, wear a mask most of the time, and schedule their bathroom visits. It can be overwhelming during the best of times. These employees are exhausted, stressed, and finding it harder and harder to stay engaged. I know I struggle with the “Groundhog Day” movie syndrome that every day is a repeat of yesterday.
Here are two studies that give us insight as to why those employee engagement activities aren’t working. Burnout. What are the causes of burnout? Lack of control, unclear expectations, lack of work-life balance, and uncertainty about the future. The National Bureau of Economic Research surveyed 3.1 million people working at 21,000 companies in North America, Europe, and the Middle East to compare two eight-week periods of employee behavior—one before Covid-19 lockdowns, and one after. According to the study, the workday has increased by 48 minutes, meetings are up by 13%, and on average 1.4 more emails per day are sent. No wonder more people are experiencing burnout. In a recent survey by Monster.com, it showed an alarming 69% of the respondents working from home due to COVID-19 reported experiencing burnout. Up 35% since May 2020. That is a huge number of people.
Zoom happy hours, zoom lunches, gift cards, quirky photo contests of WFH (work from home) layouts, social media recognition, all are seemingly not as fun anymore. The reality of no end in sight for this pandemic, the isolation, lack of social interactions, are weighing on your employees and yourself. Those with kids are having an even harder time with juggling work and home/school/ life. Schools will open with either blended or all remote again this fall. Many parents still don’t know yet what their school is going to be doing.
What to do? Keeping your employees engaged is even more critical than ever before. This is where stepping up as a leader becomes more like a counselor than a manager. What do I mean by that? It is critical to give your employees the space to vent. Make sure they know you are hearing them. You do not have to come up with a solution, just listening goes a long way in helping them decompress and refocus on the now, not the future.
Work to help them create boundaries between work and home life. With the loss of commute times, when you would have a chance to get organized and ready for your day or just veg out, people are going between rooms to start their workday. Build-in time to make the transition from home to work and just as important, work to home. Make sure you do the same for yourself. Leaders are not immune to burn-out any more than their employees.
Those are a couple of ways you can help employees ease their burnout to allow them to be more engaged with their work and colleagues. I am asking for your help in coming up with other ideas on how to re-engage employees during this on-going pandemic. What would work with your employees? Please put your ideas in the comments section below so we can come up with employee recognition 2.0 for this pandemic. Thank you for taking the time to help the collective.
If you would like help getting your employees re-engaged, please reach out!