How Data Can Help You Keep Your Workforce Productive and Engaged While Working From Home During COVID-19

In the wake of the COVID‐19 pandemic and the widespread adoption of remote and hybrid work models, employee engagement has once more become a top priority for HR managers. Business leaders are on the lookout for innovative ways to increase employee engagement (or at least, keep it on par with pre-COVID-19 levels).

An effective way to engender commitment, increase job satisfaction and boost productivity levels is by ensuring that employees know that their work, performance, and efforts make a difference to the organization. Many organizations have adopted one or more of the following methods to keep employees engaged while working from home:

  • creative learning and online counseling sessions
  • social interactions in a virtual office
  • providing online guidance for exercise and meditation
  • webinars dealing with anxiety and stress
  • recognition and acknowledgment session
  • appreciation sessions
  • virtual challenges, competitions, and game sessions
  • online team building and virtual “coffee” hours

These activities can help employees to remain connected with colleagues across the organization, motivated in actualizing organizational goals and objectives, and efficiently conducting their job responsibilities.

But before leveraging any or all of these methods, it’s a good idea to first understand what your employees’ engagement levels are, the unique factors influencing it, and the changes (if any) to be implemented to achieve engagement objectives.

And this is why it’s essential to collate, analyze and extract intelligent insights from the right data. Such insights will enable HR managers and business leaders to determine effective ways to keep the workforce happy, productive, and engaged while working from home.

Factors Influencing Engagement Levels

Employees and organizations are dependent on each other to fulfill their respective goals and objectives. Realizing this, HR leaders that actively support employee engagement will help their organizations ride through the turbulence and upheavals of this period and retain their competitive edge going forward.

Facilitating participation in decision‐making, a transparent and open work environment, equitable pay structure, the flexibility of employees’ hours, communication, recognition, career development prospects, and consistent encouragement are some of the factors that contribute to employee engagement.

With the massive transition to remote working, some of these factors have become more important than others. Measuring the right metrics before, during, and after the shift to remote work can help organizations to better understand how the shift has impacted workforce engagement and productivity levels.

The Lengthening of the Workday

For one, the flexibility of working hours has become a major factor influencing engagement levels. The transition to remote working has caused a lengthening of the workday in most countries. Studies show a sustained 2.5-hour increase in the average workday of employees in the U.K., Austria, Canada, and the U.S.

Lengthening Workdays Contribute to the Always-On Mentality

This lengthening is worrisome due to its impact on work-life balance. Many employees now find themselves struggling to establish a barrier between work and home…they answer emails and work on projects at all hours of the day and the night.

This is resulting in a paradigm shift to an “always-on” mentality where employees feel they’re slacking if they do not put in more work after normal business hours. As a result, some organizations have seen an increase in the number of stress-related absences from work and employee burnout.

Data Can Reveal What’s Really Happening Behind the Scenes

While the lengthening of the workday is pervasive across industries and geographical locations, a critical analysis of the metrics in your organization may reveal a peculiarity.

A recent case study of a multinational technology company discovered that while employees did work across a longer span of the day on average, they took regular breaks in between blocks of working time to engage with their family and attend to personal matters. Such employees maintained a work-life balance by stretching their work across a wider portion of the day, resulting in increased productivity without impacting engagement levels.

As such, HR teams need access to the right data to determine if employees are simply working more flexibly throughout longer portions of the day or if they are heading towards a burnout scenario. This will enable them to take proactive measures to ramp up engagement activities and provide employees with ways to destress and restock their energy levels.

Collaboration Metrics

It’s no longer about personal effort and performance…teams rule the modern work environment. However, collaborating with team members is becoming harder with the near-zero physical connection between employees and teammates. Restoring balance and increasing collaboration requires HR leaders to adopt data-driven management as a valuable tool for dealing with the challenges of the current workforce environment.

Monitoring the Impact of Collaboration Tools

Although studies show a significant increase in communication and collaboration at the beginning of the shift to remote work, things are normalizing as organizations adjust to the disruptions to their physical work environment. As many companies were forced to shift to remote work seemingly overnight at the start of the pandemic, many organizations turned to virtual videoconferencing solutions as a replacement for face-to-face meetings and interactions.

On its face, the availability of virtual collaboration tools seems a perfect replacement for face-to-face interaction. However, it’s important for organizations to monitor the impact of remote work and the tools and technologies used to support it on their workforce. Citigroup, for instance, listened to feedback from its team members and discovered that the abundance of videoconferences was leading to a burnout-like scenario termed “Zoom fatigue.” In response, Citigroup took steps to restore employee satisfaction and work-life balance by introducing Zoom-free Fridays, a new tradition to mark the end of the workweek in lieu of the dress-down Fridays and company happy hours of days gone by.

Analyzing Behavioral Data to Identify Opportunities to Improve Collaboration

The lengthening of the workday and flexible work schedules of employees are serious challenges when creating schedules for meetings and other collaborative setups. Before the pandemic hit, people were more or less fully available from 9 to 5, whereas now, colleagues are online at different times anywhere between 7 AM and 7 PM, or even beyond for teams working across time zones. This change can create challenges for coordinating schedules and deter teams from necessary collaboration, particularly when trying to convene with larger groups.

As such, analyzing behavioral data such as meeting hours, e-mail, IM, and virtual collaboration solutions can help business leaders evaluate the best methods to increase collaboration across work-from-home employees. Tracking the right metrics will also help business leaders to determine the success of the new guidelines and processes they implement for improving collaboration.

The rollout of approved vaccines across the globe is signaling some light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. Whether the workforce returns to the pre-pandemic status quo of office commutes or remote or hybrid working becomes the new normal is yet to be seen.

No matter what happens, measuring the right metrics will help business leaders understand their employees’ unique needs and institute intelligent policies to boost engagement and productivity levels. The right workplace analytics solution can help you support your employees’ physical, emotional, mental, and financial health by measuring the metrics that truly matter.

Last Updated 22 April 2021