The only guarantee to come out of 2020 is that everything will be different. 

COVID-19 has upended nearly every industry throughout the business world, consuming our financial sectors, changing the way we deliver healthcare, and virtually eliminating physical retail. These outcomes are unprecedented and leave many other trades and occupations wondering whether they will still be around at the end of the year. As the stock market continues to fluctuate in price, barreling through the first bear market since the financial collapse of 2008, these dire economic times have forced at least 192 companies to file for bankruptcy. 

While many companies are left wondering what their future looks like, very few are in the appropriate mindset to consider long-term plans to weather the storm, leaving them myopic in their outlook and potential opportunities for creating a new type of business modeling. 

The problem with this is the fact that people (not machines, technology, or AI computing) will always be the most beneficial asset a company can utilize to solve their future problems. Waiting around for software or computerized algorithms to project future trends in business is a waste of time because computers can’t process information as efficiently as the human brain can. The brain’s storage capacity is estimated to be around one petabyte, which is comparable to one thousand 1TB storage solid-state drives of memory found in today’s standard computers.

In the Post-COVID workplace, optimizing human habits, characteristics, and neural processing will be crucial in allowing businesses to pivot and adapt to the new status quo of doing work. And the one thing they all share in common will be the people who help design, create, and implement these new tactics for survival. 

From a manager’s perspective, this carries a significant opportunity to change the way we operate in a business setting, facilitating greater productivity, employee engagement, and eliminating wasted time throughout the workday. The question we must ask is: How is this done?

Here are the three ultimate ways managers can maximize employee engagement in the post-COVID workplace. 

1.) Give Honest and Timely Feedback. 

Communication is an essential process for success because it’s needed to complete the loop of learning. Since brains are far more efficient at performing parallel processing and sorting information than computers, we must consider how impactful feedback can be in the formulation of new tactics and strategies to move a company forward. 

In many corporate settings, this needed communication is often delayed or neglected because most managers and employees dread having these types of conversations. Gallup has revealed some intriguing findings suggesting that, on average, employees find spending time with their boss two to four times as unpleasant as spending time with friends and family. Is this because they fear having harsh feedback? Or maybe they’ve been burned in the past by a bad manager? We don’t always know. 

But what we do know is that the corporate feedback loop needs to change and improve, because the more comfortable we all are with getting timely and direct feedback, the better we will be able to do our jobs and eliminate trends of poor performance. 

This concept is a two-way street, as feedback from a direct report can be just as useful as the feedback from leadership, but it all starts with leadership being open to feedback and actively asking for it. 

2.) Give Them Space to Work Uninterrupted. 

We need to let people work, uninterrupted, to accomplish their daily goals. 

Gloria Mark, Ph.D., is an associate professor at the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at UC Irvine. In an interview with Gallup, she discussed how impactful interruptions can be, stating that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to resume a task following an interruption! 

American businesses hold up to 11 million meetings a day, with the latest estimates suggesting up to a third of them being completely unnecessary and a waste of time. These excessive meetings chew up nearly $37 billion a year in lost productivity. 

If we keep interrupting our employees, they won’t get work done, which will equate to longer hours worked, higher overhead, and greater employee burnout. 

If we utilize the Pareto Principle, 80% of the real result will come from 20% of the demands on your time. Use this to your advantage, and watch your employee’s productivity skyrocket. 

3.) Take Care of Your Physical, Mental, and Emotional Health.

There appears to be a direct correlation between the well being of a manager and their direct reports, with Gallup finding the direct reports of managers with a high perception of well-being are 15% more likely to report a high overall well-being six-months later. 

This is important because employees with a strong overall sense of well being are 2x more likely to adapt to change, 81% less likely to look for a new job, and are 6x more likely to engage in their job. 

Some would say that it takes great managers to engage employees to do their best at work. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, especially when considering that managers are there to provide support for their people, regardless of what that support may look like. If you aren’t prioritizing your health and wellness, it will negatively affect your employee’s health and wellness. 

This concept carries over into multiple domains, which is best described in an article published in the American Psychological Association that concluded 75% of employees state that their bosses are the most stressful part about their jobs. 

If you aren’t prioritizing your sense of well being, it will negatively affect your employee’s sense of well being, which can have a domino effect throughout the company. Skimping on simple things such as working out, eating healthy, and taking time to get quality sleep can have a compound effect on your quality of life. Even something as simple as sleep deprivation can significantly alter your ability to cognitively process information, doubling the odds of making place keeping errors, and tripling the number of lapses in attention. 

With the average American worker spending around 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime, we need to understand the implications and outcomes of our actions. This time at work equates to nearly one-third of the average human life. What we do with the other two-thirds of our life will have a direct impact on the one-third spent in the office, which is why finding that ideal “work-life integration” is so vital for success in our personal and professional lives. 

Be the leader you were destined to be.