The global COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered the world in more ways than one. The workplace is one setting that has witnessed unexpected transformation, with many companies forced to make an unexpected shift from working at the office to suddenly working from home. With vaccines now more readily available and restrictions on social distancing starting to be lifted, the conversation is turning to the post-pandemic workplace, with both employers and employees understandably anxious about how best to facilitate the return to work.
In this article, we’ll look at how to gather data to answer some of the biggest questions on our minds, such as: how can we promote positive communication with workers, whether they come back to the office or continue to work from home? And how can we keep employees engaged and satisfied post-COVID?
Employee engagement is one of the top ways to measure workforce health and happiness. Engaged workers are: committed to their jobs and to their employers; emotionally invested in the company and its success; willing to go the extra mile; curious and innovative; and dedicated to helping you reach your goals. In contrast, disengaged workers are likely to do the bare minimum: they might be unwilling to help others, are more likely to have intentions to quit in the next 12 months, and may be generally demotivated. Worse, there is a third category of workers: the actively disengaged. These employees are not just lacking in focus and motivation—they may actively take steps to undermine their coworkers' efforts, and thus your ability to achieve your objectives.
Clearly, one of the keys to business success is ensuring that your employees are fully engaged. Although there’s no evidence to suggest that workers are being actively disengaged as a result of the pandemic, some employees have voiced concerns and anxieties about post-COVID working practices, such as whether or not they will be required to return to the office or continue to work remotely, and how to work effectively in dispersed teams. Others may have altered views about aspects such as their work-life balance and workplace wellbeing after over a year of working from home.
As we’ve already noted above, employee engagement is a core business metric that you should be tracking regularly. In a post-COVID world, this is especially important, though, because you’ll be able to determine whether and how policies and practices you’ve implemented are impacting your workers. For example, let’s say as a result of your new experience with managing a remote workforce, you implement a post-COVID policy that allows everyone to work from home on Fridays. By gathering employee engagement data before and after the change, you’ll be able to determine whether the new policy is motivating your workers or not.
For these reasons, it's important to measure the engagement of your workforce, both in preparation for designing the post-pandemic workplace, and at regular intervals (such as annually or every six months) to track any changes, allowing you to take swift, corrective action.
So, how should you measure employee engagement? You have a range of different options available to you:
When employees are satisfied, they believe that their needs, wishes, and expectations from their work and from their employer are being met. Decades of research has established that job satisfaction is a key driver of a host of positive employee and organizational outcomes, including high levels of employee commitment and engagement, low levels of turnover, high productivity, and high performance. It makes sense, then, to try to cultivate high levels of satisfaction in your workers through your policies, practices, and procedures.
There is a good chance that if your workers are engaged, they’re also satisfied. However, although employee engagement and employee satisfaction often go hand in hand, that’s not always the case. That’s because satisfaction is usually understood as a multidimensional construct, comprised of different elements related to the job. It is possible, for instance, for an individual to be satisfied with certain aspects of their job (e.g. their level of responsibility) but to express a low level of satisfaction with other aspects (such as their pay). Of course, in the post-COVID workplace, many aspects of employment may change, such as your paid time off policy or your expectations around remote working. It's crucial to understand your workers’ responses to these changes, and whether or not those changes are contributing to overall employee wellbeing. That’s why we recommend measuring employee satisfaction in addition to measuring employee engagement.
Like employee engagement, employee satisfaction can be measured through a number of different approaches.
For more information about how to measure employee satisfaction, and the kinds of questions you might want to ask on your survey, click here.
You should pay careful attention to the feedback provided by all three categories of employees (not just the detractors!) to learn more about the source of employee satisfaction and dissatisfaction. You should also calculate an overall eNPS score by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. Overall eNPS scores can range from -100 (all employees are detractors) to +100 (all employees are promoters). By administering the eNPS survey on a regular basis, you can track trends in satisfaction over time.
Another aspect of employee wellbeing is employee experience. Employee engagement and satisfaction both measure psychological or emotional states, while employee experience measures what your workers observe and encounter during their employment. This can encompass a wide range of experiences, beginning from the very first day that your employees walk through the door.
In addition, both formal and informal experiences can be evaluated and measured. For example, employee experience can be used to capture assessments of the onboarding process, opportunities for training and development, and policies regarding time off. It can also be used to evaluate employee perceptions of the organizational culture, support from their supervisors and team mates, and their sense of belonging at the company—all aspects which may have changed as a consequence of new ways of working under the pandemic.
It is especially important to measure employee experience because research shows that there is a strong link between employee experience and employee turnover. Put simply, if your workers have a poor experience at work, they’re more likely to quit.
To measure employee experience, we recommend focusing on the following elements:
It's vital that employees are recognized for their efforts. Employees that feel recognized perceive that they matter to the company, and that they make a valuable contribution to the pursuit of its goals. Recognition can take the form of a mere pat on the back, or may be formalized through the benefits and rewards system. However, new forms of working, and especially remote working, may make employees feel a greater sense of disconnect from the company, and recognition may be more difficult to practice. Asking employees directly in your survey about the degree to which they feel recognized will be crucial to ensuring an engaged, committed workforce in the post-pandemic workplace.
Onboarding of new members of staff may also look very different in a post-pandemic world. The key function of the onboarding process is to socialize new employees to their new working environment and their new roles. It is at this stage that you will demonstrate to new hires what is expected of them in terms of productivity and engagement with their team members. However, in hybrid and remote workplaces, it might be more challenging to acclimate new hires to their roles, and to help them feel welcomed and supported. Surveying employees on your onboarding practices will help you identify where there are areas that are not working as effectively as they could.
Finally, after a year’s absence from the office, there may be new training needs which you have overlooked. For instance, some workers may need training on how to communicate and work effectively in dispersed teams, or on how to use digital body language in video meetings. You won’t know exactly what your workers need unless you ask them. Insight into training needs and other crucial factors can be gleaned through return to work assessment surveys. For more on SurveyMonkey’s return to work surveys, see our dedicated solutions.
Whether they’re working remotely or returning to the office, establishing and maintaining good communication with employees is vital to keeping them engaged, motivated and committed. The true intent of messages can be lost in impersonal communications (like on Slack), and many workers will find it difficult to readjust to the new normal. To ensure that communication doesn’t suffer in the post-pandemic workplace, follow these tips:
There can be no doubt that the pandemic is changing the way that offices are designed. In direct response to the health issues raised by the pandemic, as well as experiences working from home, there is greater demand than ever before for office spaces that are well ventilated, allow natural light, and enable workers to enjoy private space, while also building team connections and focusing on wellness and comfort. You may wish to think about investing in green spaces or privacy booths in response to these changing needs. However, before you invest in redesign to help employees feel safe in the post-COVID office, make sure you capture their feedback first.
However you redesign your working space, remember that the trend of employees working remotely is unlikely to disappear in the post-COVID world. According to some recent research with Microsoft, around 71% of employees want the flexibility of working from home to continue post-pandemic. If you want to keep employees engaged, it will be important to capture their feelings on this issue and respond appropriately. If feasible for your business, this might involve allowing remote workers to stay home indefinitely, or creating new hybrid work environments.
On the other hand, if you do think it's important for employees to return to offices and in-person work environments, there are steps that companies should take to ensure their employees feel comfortable, safe, and engaged at their place of work. If there are still concerns about the coronavirus, you might want to consider changing the physical location of workstations to allow employees to keep a safe distance from one another. Other strategies include regular access to testing and signposting services for psychological wellness and physical health.
As you can see, the post-COVID workplace is likely to be very different from the old normal. Measuring employee engagement is a great way to ensure that your workers are not affected negatively. Start by using SurveyMonkey’s return to work solutions to ensure that your employee engagement strategy is ready for a post-COVID work environment.