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Natalie Vincent
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The last year and a half proved challenging yet insightful when it comes to working from home. While we all faced one large obstacle, each person had a unique experience dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. As the world embraces the lessons learned and returns to more of the way things were pre-pandemic, it is critical to understand the impacts COVID may have had on employee engagement. The employee experience with working from home may change the way workers approach, and ultimately perceive, their work now.  

Employee engagement is defined as the intensity of the employee relationship with an employer, marked by three elements:

  1. Committed effort to achieve goals ('engaged')
  2. In an environment that enables work ('enabled'), and
  3. Energizes performance ('energized').

Employees who feel they engaged with their work feel they are valued and recognized by their supervisors, the organization they work for has effective change management and clear directions, have growth and development opportunities, and feel their well-being is prioritized.  

The biennial UK@Work employee engagement survey will roll out this fall. The unprecedented times not captured by the 2019 survey have certainly had impacts on how UK employees view their work and the university itself. The survey this year will provide insight on possible changes in the quality of supervision, perceptions of the culture at UK, stress/work-life balance, trust in leadership, communication and the effectiveness at which UK operates.  

As we come out of the pandemic, employees now approach their work with a greater emphasis on their well-being and job satisfaction. Nationwide, there is a growing trend of workers demanding to retain their newly acquired work-life balance with remote or hybrid work. While the practice of remote and hybrid work is nothing new, the pandemic made it more mainstream. With the pandemic slowing down, the number of permanently remote or hybrid workers has increased tremendously.  

For any organization, the route to a fast recovery and restabilization is a happy employee base. Engaged workers will put their organization on the fast track to becoming as strong as it was pre-COVID, if not stronger. Successful organizations will continue to innovate and attempt to reshape the structure of work. They will apply lessons from what wasn't working before the pandemic, and what may have worked better during the pandemic that may be continued and strengthened. And they realize the importance of employee engagement.  

Organizations that will recover and restabilize faster will utilize these strategies: 

  • View employees as humans, not parts to a machine 
    • Supervisors will give frequent feedback and set “micro goals” with employees to maintain engagement and motivation 
    • A culture that possesses a concern for the well-being of workers will be key for engagement and retention. 
  • Strive to be agile and flexible 
    • The organization recognizes that plans are contingent, and it is necessary to adjust along the way. 
  • View remote work as a strategy 
    • Innovation will be critical to stay competitive in our rapidly changing world, and frankly, the job market. Remote work used to enhance employee productivity and job satisfaction and not used as a perk or benefit will be gaining more out of its employees.  

There is no doubt that the world is experiencing a “new normal.” As we see the insight from our own employees fall, there is hope that our new normal continue to be oriented with worker well-being.