What HR Professionals Need to Know about Employee Engagement in 2021

Connecting in a disconnected world

Ever since the start of the pandemic, most businesses around the world have resorted to working remotely. As we’ve seen in some statistics published during the course of the COVID-19 outbreak, remote work comes with a long set of challenges.

Businesses are facing new challenges they haven’t faced before—loneliness, at-home distractions, and failing to create a proper work environment. However, remote work has benefited some aspects of business more than others. One of the more mind-boggling phenomenon that’s occurred during 2020 was the statistics regarding employee engagement.

Employee engagement rates faced a series of record-breaking fluctuations, according to Gallup. Employee engagement actually dropped significantly mid-June to July of last year, but then sprung back up towards the end of the year. Statistics on employee engagement surprisingly show that it has increased in January 2021 by a few percentage points compared to January of 2020. You would think that remote work would actually cause a decrease in employee engagement, given the fact that problems like burnout have become so prevalent that past year.


So what gives?

Those working at Gallup have concluded that the reason why employee engagement had sprung so quickly is because HR and management at some major businesses have managed to reshape the workforce to accommodate the challenges that come with working from home.

What is this “secret door” to employee engagement that these businesses have managed to unlock during such a difficult time?


Ways you can boost employee engagement through remote work

Give them recognition

Did you know that recognition significantly impacts employee engagement and job satisfaction? In fact, companies who provide employee incentives and acknowledge employees’ handwork experience a 14 percent increase in not just employee engagement, but also productivity and job performance.

We think of recognition as a promotion or raise, but some research point to the fact that recognition can come in non-monetary ways. It’s making your team feel valued members of the workforce, giving them room to grow both personally and professionally, and lastly, showing them that the work they do has a real impact on the organization.


Foster an emotional connection online

Building an emotional connection with your team isn’t exactly what it sounds like. It’s not about being emotional or interacting emotionally, but it’s more about striking up genuine, clear conversations online.

Lack of communication between teams and their higher-ups had been a problem even before the pandemic, but the viral outbreak had made clear communication an almost impossible task now that everything had moved online. Being thoughtful in the way you communicate with each other, establishing clear expectations, and speaking directly and truthfully online will finally help break the hierarchical business structure that might be present at your company, and it might even help your teams conquer the loneliness resulting from social isolation.

Make them feel included and part of the company. Let them in on discussions and engage in more of those especially now that creating fruitful discussion in-person is almost impossible.


Prioritize work-life balance

Burnout became the subject of many discussions amongst business professionals since the start of the pandemic, but unlike employee engagement, it’s on a continuing rise.

Burnout is a result of not finding the right balance between self-care and work, and as their team leader, you should be advocating and encouraging your workers to prioritize their emotional and mental health. You won’t be able to deliver the quality of service and products that you hope for if your team is exhausted both physically and mentally—an engaged worker is at risk of not performing their job right if their wellbeing is low.

HR managers: encourage team leaders offer a listening and supportive ear to their teams whenever they can. According to this study by HBR, more than 40 percent of the people participating in the study wanted their managers to bring up the subject of mental health. Simply checking in on your employees with a mere, “Are you doing okay?” and providing them with resources they can turn to can be enough to show them that you care and respect them.


HR needs to start rethinking the old ways of employee engagement

Employee engagement is slowly rising and recovering from last year’s blow. However, what differentiates companies with higher employee engagement from those with lower employee engagement, is that they’re willing to change, transform, and reshape their traditional approach to motivating and engaging employees with their work.

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