Lead Through Disruption by Motivating and Engaging Employees
Remote working had already begun to become more mainstream in recent years. However, no one could have predicted the impact of the pandemic on the future of remote work.
According to an Enterprise Technology Research (ETR) survey, as reported by the World Economic Forum, information technology decision-makers expect that permanent remote work will double to 34.4 percent of their companies’ workforces in 2021, compared with 16.4 percent before the pandemic. This double-digit increase is largely attributed to productivity gains: 48.6 percent of decision makers reported that productivity has improved since employees began working remotely.
A recent Pew Research survey reports that, whereas 20 percent of employees were working remotely prior to the pandemic, some 71 percent are currently working remotely—and 54 percent hope to continue working remotely at least some of the time after the pandemic ends.
In fact, BCG research found that 67 percent of U.S. employees want some flexibility in where and/or when they work and over 70 percent of managers said they are more open to flexible models for their teams than they were before the pandemic.
Clearly, remote and hybrid work models are here to stay. But the road to remote work hasn’t been easy.
Challenges faced by remote workers
While businesses quickly overcame technical and administrative challenges and many employees enjoyed the initial novelty of working remotely, the sudden transition to working from home is now taking its toll on many employees. Challenges include:
- “Zoom fatigue” – As collaboration platforms were implemented and video or phone calls replaced in-person meetings, employees found themselves working just as effectively and delivering the same level of service as if they were working from the office.
However, these same collaboration tools can exhaust employees. Psychology Today says:
“Video conferences are mentally exhausting. It is unnatural to have someone’s enlarged face extremely close to you with prolonged eye contact. Nonverbal cues are lost, distorted, or delayed. The expectation that we can have normal professional and social interactions this way is unrealistic.”
- Social isolation – While employees have learned how to virtually stay productive and collaborate with their colleagues, spending prolonged periods of time in the same environment during a period of great uncertainty can breed loneliness and isolation. Normally outgoing people suddenly feel like they’re in solitary confinement. Parents now have significant home-schooling responsibilities with few outlets for engaging with others. Those living in northern climates may struggle with winter blues associated with cold and dark winter days.
- Anxiety – Finally, we’ve all been living with an unprecedented amount of uncertainty. Fears about an unknown pandemic, job insecurity, the loss of or inability to see loved ones, supply chain disruptions, shifting responsibilities and schedules, political and social upheaval, and more are creating higher than normal levels of anxiety. We feel unsure, uncertain, and unsafe.
All these issues add undue levels of stress on employees. To combat the negative mental health implications, organizations and business leaders have had to step up and consider the wider aspects of keeping employees engaged, motivated, and positive.
Logicalis: Focused on supporting our employees
Given these extraordinary circumstances, anxious employees are looking to leaders who can help them navigate uncertainty through a commitment to well-being and mental health, constant communication, and preparation for the future.
- Commitment to well-being and mental health – Many business leaders have been charged with creating initiatives to connect with employees, encourage teamwork, and digitally replicate the collaborative culture of the office.
Virtual cocktail hours, bring-your-pets to virtual work, and virtual social activities are just some of the ways we have been engaging with our global colleagues, beyond day-to-day responsibilities, to ensure our teams feel connected and supported.
Logicalis also launched a Global Innovation Challenge to provide employees the opportunity to develop innovative solutions that address societal or environmental issues. This initiative gives them a platform to address issues close to their hearts and be part of something positive, while demonstrating Logicalis’ capabilities as a global managed services provider.
- Consistent and constant communication – Business leaders must be constantly communicating with all employees to keep them motivated and engaged. You cannot communicate enough, especially with so much uncertainty about the future.
At Logicalis, we have been sending regular communications to team leaders and employees around the world to keep them engaged, optimistic, and positive about the future. Over the last year, Logicalis U.S. CEO Jon Groves read bedtime stories to our employees’ children via Webex, while Group Human Resources shared weekly well-being initiatives to its worldwide teams, and our CFO kept everyone aware on Logicalis’ trading performance. These varied communication methods meant our employees were fully informed and motivated, allowing them to continue to provide best-in-class service to our customers.
- Preparation for the future – Moving forward, businesses must remember that despite the circumstances and the pressure on mental health, employees have demonstrated agility and adaptability to help support business continuity. Sharing upcoming plans and strategy, along with what is going well for the organization helps bring employees along the journey and alleviate their concerns.
A commitment to employees is a commitment to success
Due to circumstances beyond their control, employees have helped drive businesses forward through a trying year. Now, more than ever, what leaders say and how they say it will directly correlate to business success now and in the post-pandemic future. Commit to:
- Practice empathetic leadership and take a more humanistic approach.
- Highlight the positives.
- Reassure employees and reiterate your support so that they feel safe through the unpredictability.
The more committed business leaders are to employees, the more committed employees will be in return.
Jon Groves is the CEO of Logicalis U.S.