Employee engagement in the new world of work

Speaking at the HR Tech Fest Connect 2020, Lorna Borenstein, CEO and Founder of Grokker, says employers must rethink how they engage their people.
By: | May 26, 2020

The world of work is never the same again. And the same can be said of employee engagement. With remote working becoming a norm for the workforce around the world, organisations must rethink and change the way they engage their people.

Speaking exclusively at the HR Tech Fest Connect 2020 which took place from May 12-13, Lorna Borenstein, CEO and Founder of Grokker, believes employers must first understand the challenges that employees are facing:

  • They are isolated indoors with a lack of connection to the outside world
  • They are stressed and unable to focus
  • They are worried about their jobs while balancing work life balance
  • They are struggling to maintain a healthy diet and get enough sleep
  • They are fearful for their health and of their friends and families
  • Feelings of burnout less productive disengaged and depressed or paralysed with uncertainty

“Your employees are most likely feeling emotionally and physically disconnected. They are anxious about their finances even if they have a job and there’s a pretty uncertain future,” she said.

“Many are feeling somewhat helpless and not totally comfortable in their own skin. They cannot go to gyms, parks and congregate with their friends. They are struggling with this new reality of life.”

According to Mayo Clinic, employee burnout is defined as “a state of physical and emotional exhaustion which also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”

With many employees having to juggle between work and their personal life at home, there is a higher risk of burnout. And Borenstein warned that employees are facing burnouts that are unlike what they have experienced before.

“Employee burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion which also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity,” she added.

“The burnout that involves a loss of personal identity is really taxing, and employers have to watch out for that level of burnout which is very different from the normal type of stress.”

Emerging workforce expectation

How we lead in times of uncertainty says a lot about the character of organisations. And Borenstein believes the pandemic is compelling employers to care for their employees’ health and wellbeing in a serious and meaningful manner.

“We are now discovering that offering solutions that positively impact employee’s stress, sleep nutrition physical health and sense of connection results in employees feeling more engaged,” she said.

“We’ve been talking over the last several years about the elusive ROI of wellbeing. But now no one is asking for the ROI because it has become a matter of corporate survival to ensure your employees are well physically and emotionally.

“Caring for your teams is an extremely effective strategy to generate employee engagement which is the holy grail that everyone is looking for. It is your responsibility as the heads of HR to hold together the workforce who are faced with the long-lasting impact of the pandemic. Employers need to find a solution to help all their workforces, no matter where they are physically located and where they rank,” she added.

What does engagement look like now

With remote working becoming a norm, employees will be physically apart from each other. Even if they were to be in the office, social distancing measures mean that physical engagement activities will be restricted.

Therefore, Borenstein believes organisations will need to take engagement online with digital tools to help employees communicate and collaborate.

“When employees are physically dispersed and masked, you won’t be able to see their expressions. Employees’ work timings will also be staggered as they have to keep a social distance, so engagement has to go digital,” she explained.

“You have to reach everyone and the only way you can do that is by embracing digital tools. The importance of tools like video conferencing to help communication and collaboration is critical.”

Besides ensuring communication, fostering community and culture among employees remains an integral part of engagement even when they are physically apart.

“Human beings like to gather and interact with their colleagues and community. It is how we are wired. They want camaraderie, connection, and a sense of closeness because we are so much isolated than we were before,” she added.