How can leadership reverse the employee engagement slump?

From compassionate leadership to strategic responses to the pandemic, our latest WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing looks at new research to address employee engagement

Gallup reported the biggest plunge in employee engagement this summer since it began tracking the metric in 2000. Now, additional research from Ohio State University has highlighted that this dip in engagement – often relating to poor mental health of employees – can be offset by effective management.

The Ohio State study indicates that good leadership can reduce stress levels among employees and improve engagement via an assortment of pro-social behaviours towards them. The pandemic has already prompted a shift towards a more compassionate leadership style whereby management has taken a more vested interest in the health and wellbeing of their workers. This research reinforces that ‘business leaders who are attentive to employees’ emotional needs and unite them behind a common purpose make a positive difference and help workers stay engaged at work’.

‘Business leaders who are attentive to employees’ emotional needs help workers stay engaged…’

The research consisted of three experiments, the first of which required employees at a Chinese IT company to complete a survey twice a day over a few weeks during the Covid-19 peak in China. Unsurprisingly, the data showed that over time employees’ thoughts turned more towards the pandemic and their anxiety levels rose. This resulted in them becoming less engaged in their work.

This stress was alleviated and engagement increased when managers exhibited servant leadership methods which aims to prioritise the needs of employees and empower them to get the best performance from them.

As anxiety levels about Covid-19 continue to increase amid a second spike, emotionally intelligent leadership could be the answer to reducing anxiety levels and increasing engagement at work.

No walk in the park

Various studies and surveys have looked into the impact of working from home on employee productivity, engagement and wellbeing. While some studies champion working from home as the holy grail to reclaiming autonomy over our working day, others have found that the isolating impact of working away from colleagues detrimentally affects our psyche and work performance.

The Martec Group surveyed more than 1,200 individuals across various industries, demographics and seniority levels to identify how working from home during the pandemic was affecting employees. For the most part the survey found that there was a significant decline in mental health, job satisfaction, job motivation and company satisfaction.

‘Working from home may not be the ideal working environment for all employees …’

The results identified four distinct groups of employees based on how the pandemic affected their behaviour and attitude to work. The smallest was the ‘Thriving Employees’ group who represented only 16 per cent of employees working from home and are the only group who reported to enjoy it. One-quarter of the employees surveyed were identified as ‘Hopeful Employees’ who claimed that working from home was not for them but they have complete faith in their company’s management.

A further 27 per cent were identified as ‘Discouraged Employees’ who do not like working from home but think their organisation is doing the best they can in the current situation. The remaining 32 per cent of employees claim to now dislike working from home and also do not think their company is handling the pandemic situation well.

While working from home undoubtedly offers benefits and convenience which could not be achieved before the pandemic, the research indicates that working from home is not be the ideal working environment for all employees. What was a novel and positive concept months ago has become a challenge to overcome for much of the workforce today. The evidence from both sides suggests that organisations need to rethink the options and choice they offer to employees regarding where and how they want to work.

Future of workplace health

Health and safety of employees is a key organisational priority at the moment. Join Unwork CEO and futurologist Philip Ross in the latest WORKTECH webinar as he explores Covid-19 responses from major companies in the US and Europe. Ross is joined by thought leaders Adrienne Rowe of Merck, Peter Baumann of SAP and Luke Rondel of Saltmine. The webinar on Thursday 12 November will examine the latest strategies and recommendations to safety resume normal business operations. The panel of experts will share the experiences from their own organisations in the US, Europe and other locations worldwide. More details here

WORKTECH Global Edition 2020

The WORKTECH virtual event series is introducing a special WORKTECH20 Global Conference. The event welcomes the extensive global WORKTECH network to participate in a live engagement for UK, North America and Europe and on-demand content broadcasting for the Asia-Pacific audience. This event, held 2-3 December 2020, has a truly global reach across the WORKTECH community.

Key themes will focus on smart building technologies and strategic interventions for returning to the office. Global organisations from Lego and Scotiabank will share insights into how large corporates are responding to the pandemic and how they are using digital tools to enable change management in their workplaces. Find out more here

In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional conference series continues through our virtual platform. This edition is posted 11 November 2020.
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