As the global pandemic stretches on, many companies are expecting remote work to continue.
At a recent meeting of the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Talent Attraction Council, members shared that less than 25% of their employees have returned to working in person. Of those who are still fully remote, a majority have no set plans or timeline for bringing employees back to the workplace.
A company’s ability to return to the office is primarily driven by workplace capacity and type. One company reported that most of its employees prefer to make remote work permanent, and many anticipate having a hybrid system long term.
The good news is that over the past seven months, companies have come up with creative ways of maintaining productivity and a strong culture, even in virtual settings. With prolonged remote work arrangements, keeping employees engaged and motivated is a greater priority for companies looking to retain and attract workers. Studies show that disengaged employees are three times more likely to leave their organizations within 90 days, and companies with high employee engagement are 21% more profitable.
Below, Dallas Region companies share five key learnings on improving employee engagement:
Listen and Ensure Employees Feel Heard
Surveys and town halls continue to be the most preferred method of gathering feedback and determining new policies that address employee needs.
“We can see that people are struggling and being able to address those [issues] is paramount,” said Chad Sterling, CEO of Altair Global. “What we do after that is get on a town hall meeting, at least once a month, and talk through what we saw, what people are saying, and what people are feeling more than anything else. We try to close the gaps that way, so it has just been a strategy of asking questions, listening, and communicating.”
Internal collaboration systems that have been useful for gathering and sharing information include Microsoft Teams or Slack. Altair also uses Workplace from Facebook for team building activities.
Appreciate and Recognize Employees for Hard Work
Employees who feel their work is valued tend to be more productive and motivated to contribute. From verbal recognition to small gifts, there are many ways to show appreciation.
Anita Paxton, Vice President of Talent Management at Axxess, shared that her company has delivered stack boxes to help employees to get organized at home as well as gift cards to Door Dash.
Support Mental Wellness and Personal Development
Many employees are juggling personal commitments at home with their professional responsibilities, oftentimes working long hours for uninterrupted periods. Not only are employees coping with home and work-related stress, but they are also navigating a period of uncertainty. Managers are now shifting mental wellness initiatives to fit individual needs.
At Axxess, managers and supervisors are prioritizing one-on-one time with direct reports and have had success with activities ranging from virtual happy hours and cooking lessons to walk-and-talk sessions with their team.
“We don’t want it to always just be about work,” said Paxton. “We want to put a personal touch where we get to know them better.”
Hilti North America hired mental health professionals and made mental wellness days available to employees.
“We brought in therapists and psychologists for online Q&A sessions,” said Farren Bennett, Corporate Communications Manager at Hilti North America. “We’ve also expanded our employee assistance plan (EAP) offerings, especially around mental wellness.”
In addition to one-on-one time, BGSF is emphasizing company culture and investing more in the personal development of workers.
“We’ve really doubled down on more of the cultural things,” said Stuart Sides, Senior VP of Strategic Sales at BGSF. “At least once per month, managers spend time one-on-one with people who don’t report to them just to create personal connections… every two weeks, we train everyone on a different technology or a different group.”
USAA is hosting educational events on trending topics from social justice issues to the election. In place of fitness centers available in its offices, USAA is holding virtual physical therapy sessions with healthy points programs to engage employees in wellness activities.
Implement Policies that Encourage Work-Life Balance
Company leadership should consider policies aimed at improving work-life balance. PwC has made this a priority through its “Stop the Grind” campaign.
“Fridays are no video days, so we don’t expect anyone to be on video,” said Lynsey Eppeneder, Partner at PwC. “We’re making sure that people block off their calendar for personal time.”
BGSF has implemented similar policies asking employees to avoid scheduling any meetings or events on Fridays.
USAA revised its flexible paid time off policy to include an additional 30 days of time off that employees may use, whether it’s due to illness or exposure to COVID, or to assist with the back-to-school transition.
Southwest Airlines is modifying its remote work policies to meet varying employee situations, offering flexible work schedules. The company also intends to set guidelines on in-person and virtual meetings, as well as workplace capacity levels and commuter policies.
Provide Resources for Remote Work Success
Companies anticipating long-term remote setups should ensure employees are armed with the resources needed for remote work success. PwC, for example, offered its employees payment for work-from-home supplies, as well as a small allowance for equipment such as computer monitors and desks. Providing hardware, equipment, and tools to enhance the remote work experience was well-received by employees.
The DRC Talent Attraction Council, comprised of human resources, recruiting, and marketing professionals, provides input on the DRC’s Say Yes to Dallas campaign and other talent attraction efforts.
A version of this story first appeared on the Dallas Regional Chamber site. Dallas Innovates is a collaboration of D Magazine Partners and the Dallas Regional Chamber.
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