Fatigue is setting in
July 1, 2020.
That was the date I said we'd be through the pandemic. I remember saying this in late March and having people laugh at me. No way could it ever last that long.
We're closing out the month of July, and cases (and deaths) continue to go up in the United States. Schools are saying they'll be virtual - again - for this semester. I'm realizing that this is going to be a long journey.
And employees are feeling this too. While employee engagement went up earlier this year as the pandemic hit, it has recently taken a dip down again. And can you blame them?
Uncertainty with the pandemic and social unrest following the killing of George Floyd are definitely to blame. Given all this, companies haven't been able to maintain the same levels of communication and prioritization as they were when the pandemic first started.
Organizations came out of the gate during the pandemic in a sprint. Holding Zoom meetings. Connecting with employees on a higher level. Now, we are tired. Fatigued. We want to move on.
But we can't.
This isn't a sprint. This is a marathon. And while I've given up my fortune telling days, I do know that focusing on the basic fundamentals of engagement is the best people strategy for you and your team, including:
Consistently communicate. When the pandemic started, companies were forced to communicate more. And the result - from an employee engagement perspective - was outstanding. But your daily 7:30am team-stand-up meetings aren't needed now. In fact, managers and employees say they're burnt out from staring at a white light on their computer screen all day. Rather, focus your efforts on consistency. And the idea that less (meetings) is more (meaningful).
Maintain a sense of connection. No, you won't be able to hold your annual picnic this year. If you can't get your team together in large groups, use online tools in ways that connect with your team. I hear organizations who hold talent shows, water cooler Zoom meetings, and podcast clubs more than ever.
Remember to recognize. With or without a family at home, remote working is a lonely job. Recognition can be a way to make sure that you're thinking of your employee. Receiving a thank you card in the mail goes a long way. While utilizing online tools to publicize peer recognition keeps the idea of gratitude front and center for all employees.
Allow employees to build their routine. The best performers are able to be the best not always through grit and determination but by building a system of habits and behaviors to get them through tough situations. Companies are seeing this benefit through improved productivity. Allow employees to continue this momentum by giving freedom to work on their own schedule and manage their own time.
Cut down on distractions. Rather than forcing the constraints of a typical 9 to 5 work day, managers were focused on keeping people safe as the pandemic started. Managers, CEOs, and HR knew how everyone on the team was doing - and what they did and didn't need to get the job done. By ensuring people are working on the right priorities and objectives, you're better equipped to ensure they have what they need to be successful.
Redefine culture fit. Diversity and inclusion has the opportunity to be more of a business strategy - than an HR strategy - given the events of the last four months. Organizations are now redefining how they recruit, promote, pay, encourage behavior in different ways that support and enhance their culture.
I don't have a crystal ball to tell you when this will end. But we all know this isn't about the destination - this is about the journey. By following these themes in your organization, you and your employees will be more likely to feel engaged, appreciated, and productive along the way.