Digitisation & Employee Wellness and Engagement

COVID-19 brought about many challenges that no one was prepared for. It affected economies, industries, livelihoods, and businesses alike. The most challenged being businesses as both the economy and livelihoods depend on them to some extent. But if you think about it, it was not necessarily the business itself that was challenged, but rather, the business mind.

Business and industries had to answer the age old ‘to sink or to swim’ question, where deciding to swim meant navigating new, uncharted waters. Businesses had to ensure that their reputable customer satisfaction stays intact, they had to break even when economies were falling apart and still retain jobs.

It seemed that the only way for businesses to stay afloat was to pivot and finally do what has been preached since the advent of the fourth industrial revolution – that is to digitise.

But what is digitisation? Is it a stable enough internet connection that enables remote work, or programs that do away with human interaction and manual tasks? Digitisation is adopting technologies and online processes that streamline and manage the day to day running of a business.

Because of digitisation, employees can now pick how and when to function. With all the data and information being converted and made available on digital platforms, employees can easily access and change it from any place.

Innovative advancements and digitisation have made it conceivable for us to modify our work timetable to our needs and way of life – striking the seemingly illusive work-life balance.

So, what does this mean for HR or how does HR now need to function as we adopt this new way of working? Here’s seven ways to ensure employee wellness and engagement for remote employees.

1. The People aspect

It is widely known that COVID-19 has come with many adjustments, with managers closing down their offices and subjecting their employees to “Work from Home”. While managers re-look at ways of doing things, it is important to always remember the people aspect of it and the measures they need to take as a business to ensure that employees remain present, well, and not forgotten as they are out of sight. Now more than ever, a strong presence demonstrating care in employee wellness is ever so important. Accompanying this, is also managing boundaries. It’s easy for employees and managers to fall into the trap of working 12 hours a day, as they are home and has no switch off time. Because they are home, doesn’t mean they are ready to receive calls and mails from 6am, and or well after 7pm.

2. Schedule daily catch-ups

Create a sense of normalcy by always scheduling catch-up meetings to check on your employees and their struggles with the tasks ahead of them. Whether it’s through video call, a direct phone call or even WhatsApp chat box, scheduling these check-ups is an important way of setting priorities and fostering connections. Prioritising employees will need to be clear and informing of what is next.

3. Provide your employees with resources

Often pressure comes with lack of resources. Resources such as stationery, laptops and relocatable office furniture to enable workers to have a dedicated working space are essential. This will encourage remote employees to set-up an office like in their communal spaces. This will also lessen the stress and increase productivity and engagement.  As part of the incentive, provide a wellness channel for employees to help them deal with work pressure and stress better. This can be in a form of a subsidised wellness programmes to encourage employees to get involved in their own personal wellbeing.

4. Pay attention to struggling parents

It may seem minor and it may be easy to say that each employee is responsible to manage his or her time, and family commitments whilst working from home. The disruption in the school schedules has inconvenienced many parents, and particularly those who may have children with special needs or demanding personalities. With the uncertainty of job security, many domestic workers have also lost their jobs and as such, the responsibility falls fully on the parent(s). This can place serious coping hardships on such employees and, organisations should make sure they have support groups in place to support affected employees. This does not imply any kind of special treatment, but acknowledge their circumstances and put measures in place that would create an environment in which they feel supported. Failure to recognise this fact, may start to affect performance, morale, which will eventually be the manager’s problem to deal with.

5. Acknowledge employees performance and efforts

Employees put much effort in making sure the company reach its desired goal, they can go as much as putting in extra hours of work. Employee recognition is the acknowledgment of an employee’s efforts, hard work and behaviour at the workplace that have contributed to the organization’s success and objectives in some way. It is very important for employers to acknowledge and appreciate the efforts being put in the company by recognising and rewarding employees. The adoption of the reward strategy to show gratitude to employees will eliminate the idle mentality of those who doesn’t do work. The inability to recognise effort and expect employees to still put twice the effort and avail themselves in the same way will have your employees feeling disengaged, unappreciated and spending much of their time surfing the internet for jobs with your work tools.

6. Be transparent

Confronting frustrations that come with work pressure can help ease work conflicts and increase productivity. Much has been said about how transparency in the workplace can create a collaborative culture with motivated employees. Transparency is the magic ingredient that breaks down information silos, improves team communication, and keeps work visible even when employees are out of site. The communication channels needs to remain open, business updates must be shared regularly and leadership visibility through engagement sessions.  That piece of communication is going to be key in order to eliminate any misconceptions about what this pandemic meant for you as a business and what is next. Do not leave staff uncertain enough to mislead themselves. Open and transparent communication on the next steps and direction are very important.

7. Inspire Creativity

Though working from home may be all well and good for some employees, and has saved them a lot of traffic woes and saving on transport money, this could also easily be interpreted as a chance to ‘holiday’ at home. It also quickly creates room for latency and doing the absolute bare minimum to maximize on leisure time. The removal of travel to work, could easily have given employees back about 3 hours in their day, and removed travel fatigue, which would mean some now have more energy to push themselves even harder and think creatively about their work. It is therefore important to make sure you keep employees motivated and inspired through meaningful work and projects. Use some of the engagement time with them to make an assessment of how you can introduce stretch opportunities and what they think can comprise of such. This will keep them involved and ‘busy’ enough, not to waste the free time they have but to enhance their work and enrich themselves with new knowledge and personal growth.

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