Let’s face it, working from home had largely been viewed as a work benefit up until the COVID19 outbreak forced us all to reframe. Right now, home-working isn’t much of an option to many people. In fact, in many sectors, it has turned into a requirement.

Virtual working takes a lot of the commuting-related stress away from people, especially when most of their daily work can be done from the convenience of their homes. It allows a degree of flexibility and, at first glance, seems to promote a better work-life balance.

However, people are feeling isolated, anxious, and may lose their motivation as they can’t physically socialise with their colleagues that often sets the pace at work. What used to be seen as a benefit that promoted well-being and happiness has, for some, turned into a sticking point as people no longer feel engaged.

And, when they don’t feel engaged, some will lose sight of the value they bring to the organisation. This will affect the productivity of your organisation and the quality of service you provide will be at risk.

So, let’s take a look at five ways you can keep your people engaged during this time:

1. Acknowledge Their Value

Long-term home working can be stressful for people. Some may have small children running around demanding their attention. Some may home-schooling, be living with parents or shoe-horning into the corner of the kitchen - none of which are ideal conditions!

The juggle between work and personal responsibilities may wear people down. Therefore, it’s important that you try to put yourself in their shoes and empathise with what goes on in their lives.

Let them know that they are a valued part of the team and you’ll be understanding towards any shortcomings they have. Take the opportunity to praise your people when it’s due.

When you’re writing your thank you note, mention how they have specifically contributed. This can really raise their spirits and improve their self-esteem. However, don’t overdo it as praising too frequently may appear insincere.

2. Encourage Health and Wellness

Your people’s health is really important. If they aren’t well physically, mentally, and emotionally, their work performance will take a dip, for sure.

Take the opportunity to encourage healthy habits. There are many ways to do this, for example, by hosting a virtual exercise class once a month or invite an instructor to lead your people in a yoga class.

Check out what their food preferences are and find the budget to provide a healthy snack box subscription. When people eat healthy food, their productivity and mood improve, thus boosting engagement.

3. Provide for Water Cooler Talk

This may not be music to your ears, but water cooler talk is a helpful way of making sure people stay engaged.

Talking about non-work related stuff allows people to let off some steam and often leads to spontaneous sharing and learning that feeds back into the work they’re engaged with.

Unfortunately, that has been taken away. However, your team might benefit from a platform that enables team communication, such as Slack. With Slack, you can create a channel dedicated for random, water-cooler talk.

This helps to avoid work channels being spammed with unrelated topics as well as providing an outlet for them to joke around and talk about the weather. Pet pictures are a great topic starter as well!

4. Encourage Knowledge Sharing

Just because we’re confined to our homes doesn’t mean we can’t share the things we learn with our colleagues.

Encourage people to help each other by giving tips to overcome problems, even when no one is asking. This could be as simple as an Excel hack to finding the right words to convert a sales lead.

People want to feel like they’re a part of a team. This gives them purpose and boosts engagement. Therefore, you should also encourage peer-to-peer feedback, just like you would in a face-to-face meeting.

5. Invest in Frequent Learning

Not feeling the rush of commuting to work, smashing away the keyboard in the office and hearing the buzz around the departments can make life feel quite stagnant.

People may feel like their careers have slowed down a little and could use a little motivation. That’s why you should ramp up your learning sessions.

Hold learning webinars. You can invite renowned leaders in your industry to speak ‘in front’ of your team. The benefit of webinars is that people can view the recording when they want.

Another way to encourage learning is to organise mentoring programs. Match people with a mentor that can share their experiences and skill. This doesn’t have to be confined to a senior/junior mentoring relationship. Explore what can be done with reverse mentoring or peer to peer mentoring, too.

That’s it for this time.

We’d love to learn from your experiences. What else have you been doing to keep people engaged during the past seven months?