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The Two-Sided Pandemic Effect

 

Any crisis accelerates the changes that had already been brewing in society. The pandemic has become the brutal force that has changed our working lives forever.

As with any dramatic change, the effect is two-sided. On the one hand, both employees and employers got freedom of choice they didn’t know was possible: mothers of young children can now work from home guilt-free and thus take roles that were not accessible to them before; digital nomads can experiment with living in different countries whilst staying attached to their job; those loving their job but hating the commute can now go to the office once a week or not at all.

Employers can now hire without geographical boundaries – their access to the talent pool expanded manifold. And with employees not expecting full-time office presence, some of the costs are down too.

So far, so good. But there is, as always, a downside. Distributed teams require a much more fine-tuned approach to people management: How to make sure the team members who have never met each other feel like a team? How to achieve a shared mission and values? And, most importantly, how to make certain that the voice of each employee is heard and valued so that they’re motivated to stick with the company long-term? Because another downside of the post-pandemic working environment is the ease of job hopping: a new job these days is just a Slack or Teams login with new details. According to this study by Personio, 38% of the workforce in the UK are looking to leave their jobs.

The ability to cherish and encourage ongoing employee engagement seems to be particularly crucial for maintaining efficient distributed teams and employees’ morale. The reports about falling engagement at work are not rare these days. The Personio study suggests that 28% of employees experience low levels of motivation and morale, 22% burnout, and 19% Zoom fatigue. An HBR study too finds that meaningful work has even stronger value after the lockdown exhaustion: “When employees become more focused on existential concerns, they may prioritize purpose over money. Managers should thus look beyond salary and other material benefits and think about what is going to help workers meet their need for meaning in life.”

What Makes the Job Meaningful?

This research finds that people are more likely to have high job satisfaction, engagement with work and commitment if their job feels meaningful. So there’s a direct link between being engaged at work and being happy with one’s life in general. Needless to say, high job satisfaction will foster employees' loyalty.

There’re many ways to maintain and boost engagement in distributed teams. Some companies have been experimenting with online social hours accompanied by home-delivered pizza and beer, others made sure they allocate resources to help employees with their mental health difficulties, and others introduced even more flexibility to help employees cope with work-life balance challenges. All of these are wonderful ways to help employees feel valued and treated as a person, not as a function.

What we’ve found at edison365 is that few things bring more satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment than a tangible contribution to a real challenge. Involving each of your employees in solving a business challenge, contributing to a social cause, or having a say when it comes to discussing the company’s present and future creates a strong bond that fosters loyalty. Employees who have shared their ideas, which then become business cases and later – real-life projects, consider their job meaningful and impactful.

Talent has always been central to a business’s success, but the pandemic has made focus on personnel retention paramount. Meaningful engagement at work, alongside work flexibility and personalisation, have become key to employee retention. Know your employees as people, truly involve them in everyday decision-making no matter how big or small, listen to what each of them has to say – and you’ll have loyalty that will last longer than any crisis.

 

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