It has been more than a year since many employees around the country started working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic and employee engagement remains an issue, especially during virtual meetings.
“With the switch to remote work, video calls have replaced traditional in-person meetings for many professionals, leading to new types of burnout altogether a la Zoom fatigue,” wrote R. Dallon Adams for TechRepublic.
Virtual meetings, touted as a panacea by many during the earlier days of the pandemic, are now part of the “new normal” for many companies, even for employees returning to the office as businesses incorporate social distancing at work in the face of Delta variant surge.
“In the last year, we’ve witnessed a major shift in the workplace, and at the forefront of that has been the substantial impact of being physically separated from our colleagues,” says Samir Diwan, CEO and co-founder of Polly., an engagement app that works with Slack, Teams and Zoom.
Employees Crave More Social Connection and Engagement
Polly partnered with software companies, including WorkPatterns, Colibri, Fellow, Pledge, Prezi, Rev, and Warmly, for their national study released Aug. 18, 2021, which found that:
- Respondents reported spending 5x more time in meetings now (over a quarter of a standard workweek) versus before the pandemic.
- 22 percent spend half or more of a standard workweek in virtual meetings.
- Almost 25 percent of respondents cite personal connection as their greatest challenge in virtual meetings overall, with over 50 percent feeling this way about 1-on-1 meetings, specifically.
- 37 percent report “meeting fatigue” as their top challenge, pointing to a possible disconnect among teams and an opportunity to introduce new tools and processes in virtual meetings to re-engage workers.
- 85 percent of respondents say they multitask during virtual meetings, with 44 percent reporting that they very frequently or always multitask during virtual meetings.
- Of those who multitask during virtual meetings, 74 percent do other work tasks and 77 percent check email.
The Polly report said that with the country facing what many are calling the “Great Resignation,” this is a critical time for employers to reevaluate how they are meeting employees’ needs across the board to hold onto their top talent, including virtual meetings, which are now a staple of the corporate environment.
“Virtual meetings aren’t going anywhere, and making them more efficient starts with asking some hard questions: If most of my employees aren’t fully engaged during virtual meetings, what’s the real impact on productivity? And more importantly, how do we address it?” Diwan said.
Employees Suffer Burnout When Disconnected from Work
David Rice, writing for the HR Exchange Network, argues that even employees who love their work can suffer burnout when they become disconnected from their company and organizational support.
Factors cited in employee burnout, according to Rice, include:
- Not enough time to get everything done
- Lack of support from the organization
- Growth stagnation
- A disconnect between company and personal values
The HR Exchange Network “State of HR 2020” found that 16 percent of those polled said that the biggest consequence of the pandemic was burnout.
The survey also found that the two biggest challenges to employee engagement were:
- 30 percent said work-life balance
- 26 percent said burnout
10 Creative Ways to Boost Employee Engagement
The Forbes Communication Council says businesses across all industries have been struggling to keep employees engaged.
“If you are a manager or business owner, showing your employees that you care about them on a personal level is key to fruitful engagement,” said the Council.
Here are 10 of the ways to creatively keep your employees engaged:
- Let All Employees Contribute to Social Media: Marketing and communication teams usually tightly control social media channels, but other internal teams can have valuable input and opening it up to them can boost engagement.
- Hold Informal “Coffee Chats” Every Week: Consider replacing more formal monthly meetings with informal weekly meetings where employees can stay connected with each other and the company.
- Train and Upskill Employees to Expand Their Roles: Offering new skill training to employees can allow them to tackle new roles in your company and increase their engagement.
- Ask Employees How to Make the World a Better Place: A feels-good initiative can be to have your employees choose charities for your company to work with.
- Engage on a Personal Level: Open an avenue, such as a dedicated Slack channel, to celebrate personal things for employees such as weddings, births, engagements, new homes, etc.
- Listen to Employees First: Listen to employees and ask them what they want and need. This is almost always the best way forward to increasing employee engagement.
- Celebrate Small Victories: Motivate and boost engagement by celebrating small victories with your employees, not just major milestones.
- Open Multiple Outlets for Communication: There are many ways to drive employee engagement so do not limit your engagement efforts to one method only.
- Incentivize Participation in Team Activities: Everyone loves the chance to win a prize or award so encourage participation in organizational activities with incentives.
- Allow Employees to Give Each Other Small Rewards: Allow employees to reward each other with items such as gift cards in recognition of a job well done or workplace accomplishments.
“It’s important for leaders to find ways of ensuring high performance and productivity while simultaneously helping team members maintain their energy, drive and mental and physical health,” said the Council.
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