In the last decade or so, there has been an exponential rise in the number of people educating themselves about workplace boundaries and the rights of the worker. Further exacerbated by the Trump presidency and the COVID-19 pandemic, people began to seriously wonder how much value they were actually getting out of their nine-to-fives. They were beginning to question the value of the dollar they were making, whether the hours they were putting into their career were worth what they were losing at home, and whether or not their conditions were reflective of the value they produced for their employers.
Now we are seeing increasing numbers of the working class stand up for their worth. From quiet quitting to the anti-work movement, droves of people are expressing their utter dissatisfaction with their work environment and established dynamics. The time has never been so ripe for employers and company heads to really examine themselves and wonder if they’re doing enough. It doesn’t take a Master of Human Resource Management to know that people work better if they feel valued at their job, not to mention that appropriate measures taken by an employer can relieve stress and anxiety in employees, leading to even greater yields.
So with work-life balance becoming increasingly important, a new humanist perspective on the work environment that is quickly gaining traction, and mutualistic benefits for both employees and employers, the question is how can companies modernise and increase employee engagement?
What is Employee Engagement?
This term is simple enough to understand, but the implications that its existence can have for your workplace are incalculable. When employees are “engaged” it means that they’re satisfied with their work. They feel that they are being well compensated, the office dynamics are healthy and fruitful, the work is satisfying, and the benefits are relevant and helpful.
It is proven through multiple studies that employee engagement directly results in significantly better work outputs. Moreover, they found that employee engagement is not usually reliant on the employee’s attitudes, feelings, etc. In other words, if employees aren’t engaged it’s the fault of the employer, not the employee.
Engaged employees face less emotional strain in their day-to-day lives, and being fulfilled by your work is a huge incentive to do it. Good workplace connections make the office a good place to be, and work-from-home or hybrid business models afford employees the autonomy to get their work done in a way that is significantly more relaxed and easier for them.
So what can be done to ensure employee engagement?
The Monetary Concern
As the cost of living continues to soar, many people are feeling the financial strain. There is significant stress on people nowadays to keep their heads above water. Let’s be clear, very few people actually want to work. Work is effort, that effort could be going towards a loving family, an interesting hobby, a cool TV show, or a movie. We work because we have to. Because we need money to fund our lives, and while we may enjoy what we do for a living, the actual benefits of working are more monetary than anything else.
Therefore if you want your employees to be engaged you have to start at the beginning. Making sure that your salary range for any given position is competitive is hugely important. The security of a reliable paycheck isn’t worth anything if that paycheck doesn’t cover the costs of life. After all, the reason we’re working is because life comes with a price tag. If our job doesn’t cover that cost, and represents the value of the work we do, employees aren’t likely to stay on long. Not only that but the etiquette around talking about how much money you make is changing. Expect that some employees may be open with their salary, and make sure that that discussion isn’t one you’re on the wrong side of.
Work From Home or Hybrid Work Models
A lot of the strain of going to work isn’t actually the work, it’s the going. Best case scenario, you are close enough to your office to drive your car and listen to music, but that involves getting up early, getting dressed, food, maybe filling up fuel on the way to work, dealing with traffic, and finally finding a car park that isn’t going to make you move to a new location every hour. Worst case, you get public transport, in which case you aren’t guaranteed any comfort, have to deal with the drudgery of a commute, are pressed in with a cadre of strangers, and deal with the idiosyncrasies of people you don’t know. Even if you do get a seat, you’re packed like sardines in a crushed tin box.
Remote or hybrid workplaces are massively incentivizing, especially since COVID-19 proved that on-site work is not only unnecessary, it’s obsolete. Remote and hybrid models mean that employees can be more comfortable, get more rest, and have easier access to food, facilities, a lessened transport and fuel budget, they can make time for medical appointments, and have more ability to tend to their daily needs as well.
Positive Company Culture
Toxic workplaces are breeding grounds for employee disengagement and with good reason! No one wants to work with a bully. No one wants to work where their ideas aren’t heard or their work valued. No one wants to be subjected to harassment and micromanagement. Toxic work environments make work an actively negative place to be and can seriously damage the mental health of employees.
If you want to foster a positive work environment, you first have to give your employees autonomy. You gave them their tasks because they’re qualified and assured you they were capable. Let their work speak for itself. For new employees, check in with them after a couple of weeks to see how they’re doing, but make the meeting about what their experience of the company has been and if you can do anything further to support them.
Encourage communication and assure staff that you are there for them to express concerns and ideas. Part of employee engagement is feeling valued, and if their boss isn't valuing them, who will?
Work is rarely easy, but it can be alright, even enjoyable, should the criteria be met to engage employees. This is an extremely small article about all the ways there are to improve employee engagement, but there are literally thousands of articles out there on what you can do to make sure your staff feel valuable and enjoy their work. The benefits of engagement to an employee are enormous, and employers stand to get the absolute best standards out of their workforce if employees are engaged. Not to mention, drastically reduced turnover rates.
The evidence is clear and consistent. When employees are engaged their work is better and their tenure is more likely to be longer. With rapidly changing social attitudes towards work and fair treatment, the onus is on employers to look at themselves and wonder what kind of boss they want to be. Smart and supportive, or regressive and superfluous? The choice is yours.