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During times of change and uncertainty it is human nature to be thrown out of habits and previously set schedules and to become disengaged in what is going on around them. The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States has forced havoc on employers and employees of all kinds. Employees that were able to move their operations remotely were forced to, and those that were not able to were laid off, placed in furlough, or given reduced hour schedules to accommodate for the lose of revenue and demand for their products and services.

As a manager or human resources employee, it is our commitment to ensure that quality work is performed by all employees and to create a conducive environment for employees to continue to thrive – even during the midst of changes. Keeping employees engaged in their work and in the company will allow for productivity to continue and for the culture of the company to remain strong. There are several things that can be done to keep employees engaged and excited to work, even it if is not in the setting they prefer or are used to. No matter what you do to help engagement, keep the encouragement and praise of your employees high and act on feedback that they provide!

1. Communication 

We are all people, regardless of our title or job responsibilities. As people, we desire to be cared about and each of us have our own separate needs and ways that we receive and show care. To keep employees engaged you need to properly communicate with them, and not just by a text message or email. Call them. Ask how they are doing specifically, ask what you can do for them. Ask how you can be there for them during this transition period and during these changes. Ask them what they need from you as a leader, a manager, or a colleague. Keep everyone in the loop with what is going on, ask for feedback, involve them in the process. Have conversations with others that are not related to just work, keep the camaraderie strong.

2. Continuing Education

Now is the time to do it. Give your employees the opportunity to achieve extra education, complete e-learnings, attend web conferences to further their knowledge, or to even complete compliance related trainings early for the year. This allows employees a break from their day to day duties and allows the brain to absorb new information. When employees resume to their previous working arrangements, there will be more things to do than there was before to catch up. Now is the time to learn!

3. Online Games

An IT client of ours recently created an online computer game for which their employees were allowed to compete against each other for mere bragging rights. The results….pure addiction. It is mostly what their company has been talking about for weeks. Excitement, fun competition, and some good ol fashion comedy related to the results has been great for keeping morale high and motivation to complete tasks early for the chance to beat their co-workers.

Other examples are online Word with Friends, Scrabble, Jackbox Games, and even Mario Kart. Most online games are even available for free play. Or, if you are creative like our client, challenge your team to create their own online or system based game with the resources they have.

4. Watch Parties

While we are unable to have in person social events currently, you can still end the work day a little early and encourage suggestions for a movie for a company wide watch party! Enjoy the comments on the side panel that both Netflix and Zoom allow. Venmo or reimburse your staff for $5 each to provide them with their snack of choice. Sit back, enjoy a great movie and a drink and snack of your choice with your coworkers.

5. Competitions/ Challenges

There is nothing quite like great office competition. During this pandemic, gyms and wellness locations are closed. Creating a fitness challenge to encourage your staff to be creative in ways to be healthy is a great idea to keep the endorphins high and keep them engaged. Start a Diet-Bet, share healthy recipes, add each other on Myfitnesspal, or even start a running club and track steps and miles. Winner will of course have bragging rights, and feel free to throw in some prizes or company swag for the winners if able.

How about a competition that encourages volunteering during a time when our country needs it most? Encourage a healthy competition that praises employees for making a difference in their communities around them through donations, food drives, workplace volunteering, etc. Providing company swag, capturing photos, and praising employees for their efforts is a great way to keep morale and engagement high.

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