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Tips for engaging with employees

Top tips for engaging your employees during the COVID-19 crisis 

Over the past few weeks businesses across the world have had their crisis management plans tested to extremes, as they react to a situation that most people would not have thought possible just a few months ago.

Employers and employees alike are now beginning to settle into a new kind of normal, with the reality of the Covid-19 situation sinking in and everyone doing their best to get back to ‘business as usual’.

Carrying on as normal

While many businesses are still able to carry on in reasonable normality, albeit working remotely, it’s important for employers to remember the situation is still very new and different for their employees. This isn’t just applicable to the current situation with Covid-19; this is relevant to any business that’s in the midst of a crisis, whether it affects only their business, their industry in general or the whole of the country.

One of the most important things to remember during an incident is to keep team members informed and engaged. This is particularly relevant at the moment, while many people are working remotely. Employees are vital to an organisation; without them you cannot operate, so it’s important to ensure staff morale is high and everyone is working to their full potential.

Keeping your team engaged 

Many people value the team atmosphere and the social aspect of work. This is especially difficult to maintain while staff are working remotely, but not impossible. Here are our top tips and ideas for keeping your team members engaged during lockdown:

  1. Virtual team social and/or quiz: Businesses often organise drinks, quiz nights and other social events for their team, so why not do the same remotely? Most of us hold online business meetings daily via video apps such as Zoom and Teams, and it’s just as easy to use them for a social event. People can log in, bring a drink or snack and enjoy time chatting with colleagues as they would if they were at a social event. Budding quiz masters may also wish to put together a quiz for the occasion, or perhaps adding other games such as charades or two truths and a lie. Either way, the end result will be a more connected workforce.
  2. Online fitness classes: Fitness classes are great for both physical and mental health, especially at a time when gyms are closed and it’s more difficult for people to get out and exercise. Providing online classes to employees will not only help improve people’s physical and mental health, but it can also motivate them for the day ahead and boost morale when it may otherwise be low. Challenges can also be incorporated into the classes to give an element of fun, such as ‘who can do the most sit ups’, or a dance competition.
  3. Mental Health and Wellbeing Blogs: Focusing on employee mental health and wellbeing is particularly important at the moment. People are cut-off from everyday normality, and it can be difficult to make sure everyone is coping with remote working and the new situation. Publishing weekly blogs for staff to read can go a long way to helping. Subjects can include anything from keeping motivated and how to set up your workstation, to getting a good night’s sleep and suggested activities for lockdown.
  4. Involving the kids: Many people will be struggling at the moment, having to deal with adjusting to remote working, having their children at home full-time and coping with home schooling. It can be good to encourage your team members with children to get them involved from time to time, even if it’s something as simple as asking them to draw a picture of what they want to be when they grow up.
  5. Sharing ideas for lockdown: Most people will have a bit more time on their hands at the moment. So why not ask your staff to share with one another any new skills or hobbies they’ve picked up during lockdown. Those who share similar hobbies, e.g. languages or reading, could also be encouraged to catch up regularly. There are two main benefits to this; it’s a great way to encourage your employees to interact with each other on topics that aren’t work related, and it also provides others with ideas to fill their spare time. Both of which will help boost mental health and keep people motivated.
  6. Regular surveys: Some people don’t like to chat about how they’re feeling, or they won’t voluntarily pick up the phone to tell you they’re struggling. Sending your employees a weekly survey could be the answer to this. People often find it easier to open up in this way, so it allows you to identify and act on any problems. Similarly, if you notice certain people aren’t responding to the survey, it gives you the opportunity to check in with them to make sure they’re OK.
  7. Live updates: It can be difficult to keep everyone connected and up to date when we’re all working remotely. Scheduling regular updates from senior leaders can be a great way to overcome this problem. A weekly video call will help reassure staff on current happenings within the organisation, as well as giving them the opportunity to ask any questions they may have.

Some of these ideas involve more time and investment than others. But it’s important to remember that while employee engagement is vital at any time, it is even more important at the moment. By looking after the welfare of our employees and keeping them engaged, organisations can continue to thrive and work towards ensuring they come out of situations like Covid-19 stronger than ever before.

Article originally published in CIPR Influence, 21 April 2020.