The Impact of COVID-19 on Employee Engagement

As COVID-19 began to surge in the United States earlier this year, we were all faced with strict lockdowns and social distancing guidelines. Many workers lost their jobs, “essential employees” had new standard operating procedures, and many organizations moved their entire workforces to temporary remote work and telecommuting. The main goal of the recent Quantum Workplace benchmark report and analysis, “The Impact of COVID-19 on Employee Engagement,” was to discover just how much these drastic changes had impacted employee engagement. However, the results were very unexpected. Here are some highlights from the report:

  • In 2020, 75% of organization had increases in employee engagement.
  • 78% of employees were highly engaged in early January. There was a small dip in engagement for February before engagement levels spiked to 83% in March.
  • When compared to 2019, there has been an overall 11% increase in engagement for 2020 so far.
  • In April of 2020, the levels of disengagement were 6 times lower compared with 2019. In that same month, results show that high engagement was 6.1% higher in 2020 compared with 2019 levels.

Regardless of how you look at it, employee engagement is higher this year despite everything going on. As stated by Quantum Workplace, these engagement statistics equate to thousands of more respondents who are increasingly saying they are engaged in their jobs, teams, and organization.

What Do these Insights Mean?

As stated by SHRM, the answer to these higher employee engagement levels is not that employees are simply grateful they have a job during this pandemic. There is much more depth to this change that could alter the future of the workplace.

In a recent SHRM article, it is explained that employees have more control over their work-life-balance, leading to an improvement in their mental health. The aspects of remote working that were assumed to be negative, such as dogs barking or children crashing Zoom calls, are actually being celebrated. Employees are spending less time commuting, aren’t being asked to travel, and have more time to cook healthy meals. And most notably, transparency, trust and vulnerability have worked their way into professional values like they never have before.

As we move through the course of the pandemic and begin adjusting to our new normal, it will be important to realize what really motivates and engages employees. Typically, motivation can be categorized by one of the following Intrinsic Motivators:

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose
  • Progress and/or Socialization

While it has been traditionally believed that most of these motivators couldn’t be experienced without in-person interaction and guidance, it is now clear that they are adaptable and can be tapped into in a variety of ways. The key will be discovering just what that will look like for your employees in the future.

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