Perhaps one of the tougher challenges companies have faced during  stay-at-home orders is the reduction or complete non-existence of company culture.

Maintaining a strong company culture with engaged employees is crucial to organizations, as studies prove a more active workforce results in a more productive company. When office doors were shut, interactions with co-workers were limited to email, phone calls or video conferences.

That’s obviously not an ideal situation — and companies were forced to get creative.

Remember, Employees are Humans

Apex Executive Advisor Scott Long recently chatted with Jeff Ostermann, Chief People Officer at Sweetwater, for an episode of The Point Podcast focused on maintaining relationships with employees while being physically separated. Ostermann said his main priority with employees working at home is to keep the human connection.

“The way we approach our culture, we’ve always believed the human connections are the ones that matter the most,” Ostermann said. “We have gone to pretty extensive efforts to make sure our managers and leaders are well informed. In many cases, we really ask the managers to be the deliverers of information because we believe that helps facilitate a better connection between the employee and their direct manager.”

Ostermann said Sweetwater has sent out all-company emails in the past, but found having the manager-employee dialogue was a more productive method to send out company information.

Ostermann also emphasized delivery when trying to engage employees. He suggested focusing on a more personal communication to employees that can help them feel a part of the company while physically distanced.

Keep Ideas Fresh

Keeping employees engaged about their company doesn’t always have to be on a serious tone, either. Some companies, such as Apex, created virtual lunch and learns or hangouts that helped boost the overall morale of employees. Those virtual “meetings” can help build camaraderie with employees once they return to the workplace.

Utilizing an internal intranet or a weekly newsletter for company news and light-hearted news about employees is also an effective way to keep engagement high.

Be Willing to Engage

While employers can come up with several ways to bolster engagement, the employee must also be willing to interact. Understandably, that can be difficult as using technology rather than actual human interactions can be off-putting for some employees.

“The responsibility of full engagement does not fall solely on employees,” according to a SHRM article.

Essentially, how engaged an employee is may be determined by how engaged the manager is with employees. SHRM offers tips on how managers can be more engaged and less transactional:

  • Why, not how. Transactional managers tell employees what to do and how to do it. Engaged managers focus on why and trust employees with what needs to be done and how to do it.
  • Open information flow. Transactional managers usually don’t seek information from employees, either. In both directions, information flows in a trickle.
  • Direct recognition. Engaged managers have wisely learned that giving direct recognition of a behavior worth repeating tends to increase the likelihood of such behavior.

Now more than ever, it’s important to maintain employee engagement even as employers begin to reopen their doors. If your company has accomplished this effectively, productivity should only increase when employees return and operations resume similar to pre- pandemic levels. In some instances, your company may be gradually reopening, and it will still be vital to keep those continuing to work at home engaged.

For more ideas on how you can engage your remote employees, check out this Apex blog.

For information about reopening your workplace, visit Apex’s Return to the Workplace Resource Page.