At a time where staying safe means working from home and being physically apart from co-workers, successfully maintaining employee engagement poses unique challenges for businesses. By and large, companies around the world have overcome the obstacles associated with transitioning employees to remote work arrangements. But as companies increasingly extend their work-from-home policies – with many announcing plans to maintain virtual work through the end of the year or even longer – organizations have been confronted with how to maintain a sense of camaraderie and community among employees working from home. 

Remote work arrangements have long been touted as the future of work by human talent leaders, and the novel coronavirus pandemic has only accelerated this transformation. However, the speed at which organizations have had to adapt to remote work has left companies without ample time to fully shift their employee engagement strategy to align with today’s virtual reality. More than ever, talent are looking to their employers for guidance, and it’s up to talent leaders to keep their employees engaged and motivated when there is so much uncertainty in their personal and professional lives. 

Much of Randstad Sourceright’s global workforce operates remotely, so employee engagement has always been a top priority for us. While this means we may have been more prepared than others to work remotely during the pandemic, it was still crucial that we prioritized keeping our employees connected and engaged. In order to protect business productivity and employee well-being, we have developed initiatives that organizations can integrate into their employee engagement strategy during the pandemic. 

For example, all parents who are working remotely are dealing with the extra stress of having to teach their children at home while remaining productive at work. To give them a bit of a break, Randstad began a virtual story time for the children of employees. My colleagues and I read stories on video chat, allowing their parents to take a work call, finish chores around the house, or just take some time to relax. 

Taking time to focus on mental and physical well-being is crucial for maintaining a positive attitude during quarantine and is something that all organizations should help their workers do. Options include providing learning and professional development webinars or offering company-wide well-being and fitness programs, like virtual yoga and cardio classes. Ultimately, if employees are healthy and fulfilled in their personal lives, they will bring a better version of themselves to their virtual workplace. 

However, even if employees are feeling their best, the pandemic still creates a great deal of insecurity for business leaders and their workforces, which is why transparent communications are so important. 

Holding weekly virtual “all hands” meetings hosted by leadership can provide team members with important business updates and ensure transparency. External guests, like psychologists and health experts, can also be invited to provide advice and coping strategies to help employees navigate the complexities of working during this unprecedented time and goes a long way in helping employees feel informed and valued. Organizations may also consider assembling a coronavirus-related task force to monitor and quickly respond to real-time issues that may arise. 

While many companies may be offering these initiatives, it is important organizations use data to ensure they are positively impacting employees. Conducting employee engagement surveys on a weekly – instead of a monthly or quarterly basis – can help employers monitor workers’ sentiment in regards to internal crisis communications, support from management, tooling and other factors. These surveys also give employees the opportunity to provide comments on what more the company can do to lend support them during these challenging times. 

While the pandemic will certainly change the world of work, organizations must remember that their people are still the most important part of what they do. We at Randstad are working as hard as we can, with the help of governments, associations, employers and trade unions, to find ways that we can begin to transition employees back to their usual situations. In the meantime, it is critical that businesses prioritize keeping employees informed, updated and engaged to ensure they remain positive, included and connected with each other so they are excited to return to work when it is safe to do so.  

Rebecca Henderson is CEO of Randstad Global Businesses