Written by Massiel Batista
Picture it … the year is 2020. You have a team that is currently working from home, and you are trying to keep them engaged and motivated through the limitations of a virtual workspace.
Gone are the days where we spent more of our time at work than we did at home. Not because we’ve evened out the scale (though that’d be nice) but because most of us are working from our kitchen table. Improving and maintaining employee engagement is something we constantly strive for, but it is especially important now as more people are working remotely, and the lines between the work and home space continue to blur.
So, how DO we sustain employee engagement and keep employees connected to the company’s vision and to each other? I’m glad you asked!
Allow them to bring their whole self to work.
We all want to be accepted and not have to hide parts of who we are, and when employees code switch and conceal parts of themselves at work, it requires energy and brain space that they could be investing in your company.
When employees feel seen and heard, they are happier and more productive. Admit it, we would all like to be able to gush about things we care about. As more people are working from home and are more isolated, being able to share parts of themselves with other people will help them feel less alone, it’ll allow for more opportunities to build comradery, and to experience the company culture even away from the office.
I know what you’re thinking, that sounds like diversity and inclusion, which is such a big and daunting undertaking and should totally be handled by HR, right?
Not quite. As leaders, it is part of our responsibility to make sure our team is happy and in a productive and inclusive work environment. While companywide initiatives are a great and effective way to get everyone informed of bigger changes (like new diversity training, gender-neutral bathrooms, or additional observed holidays that represent your company at large), we don’t have to wait for major initiatives to start positively changing our employees’ work experience. We, as leaders, must lead the way and create space for it. Small changes like celebrating your employees’ birthdays if they celebrate it and making sure to respect their wishes if they don’t, or scheduling company events at different times of the day to ensure it’s not the same group of people that gets excluded each time (zoom happy hour anyone?), can start making a difference right away.
Are these things you already have in place? Great! Other changes that could be quickly implemented, whether your team is working remotely or at the office, are normalizing disclosing pronouns at the beginning of meetings, adding pronouns to email signatures, and using inclusive language in your day to day conversations and company communications.
If you aren’t sure what kinds of things apply to your team, one on ones are a great tool for talking to your employees individually and figuring out how you can support them. They may not advocate for themselves if they don’t think their company has an inclusive culture, so having regular, consistent one on ones with them and building that relationship is a great way to gauge the specific needs of your workforce. Whether it’s an invitation to block time in their calendars to do their prayers or coming up with tactics to help some of your quieter employees participate in meetings, having frequent check-ins will go a long way.
Remember being inclusive encompasses all aspects of your employees’ lives, so whether it’s allowing space for them to embrace their heritage or to share their yearly cat conventions, acknowledging and celebrating your employees’ differences and treating everyone fairly and kindly will help your team feel included, supported, and ready to work.