Actively fostering a sense of engagement and inclusion at work is vital at the best of times – and even more so now during the COVID-19 pandemic, when people are working around unfamiliar routines and added levels of stress.
As employees at healthcare facilities continue to cope with the effects of the pandemic, an opportunity exists for leaders to demonstrate support for their teams by incorporating best practices in employee engagement.
We have outlined a few examples of how to support employees through a crisis here:
In a recent study, Harvard Business Review examined how individuals are reacting to the unanticipated disruption of a global crisis. 44% of participants cited a desire for recognition, praise and appreciation in the workplace as a means to feeling validated during times of uncertainty and stress.
Some participants also called out the need for small acts of affirmation from their employers, in the form of emails or phone calls thanking them for work well done.
Others suggested more visible acts of affirmation, such as call outs about good performance during team meetings, or opportunities to work more closely with senior leadership.
When employers show an understanding of employee needs, preferences and circumstances around work and home arrangements, employees are more likely to feel they have the support they need to accomplish their work goals. In the same study, 21% of participants suggested that receiving understanding from their employer around personal family situations, living arrangements, socioeconomic circumstances and degree of familiarity with remote-work technology and best practices gave them the reassurance they needed to accomplish their work. Some participants also stated feeling less stress and experiencing more positive feelings and trust at work when their leaders made a point of regularly checking in on how they and their families were doing throughout the pandemic.
Effective and successful well-being programs can help improve an organization’s culture and change employees’ lives. In general, organizations with well-being programs also benefit from lower turnover rates, fewer absences, and increases in productivity. Furthermore, managers and leaders who ensure that employee well-being is part of their organization’s key objectives are more likely to see positive outcomes with employees.
During times of stress, employees appreciate leaders who seek out, and act upon, employee input. Study participants who called out the need to be part of the decision-making process in the workplace said that their workplace experience improved when leaders encouraged them to raise issues or included them in discussions and open forums.
This level of interaction helped them feel trusted, needed and treated as insiders within the organization. Allowing employees to have more say in organizational matters empowers them, which in turn leads to more devoted, faithful and reliable staff.
Despite the fact that mental bandwidth may be constrained in times of crisis and disruption, tasking employees with new responsibilities gives them a feeling of confidence and empowerment, thereby making employees feel more important to the organization overall. 13% of the study participants stated that they feel empowered when tasked with new responsibilities, even amidst the challenges presented by the pandemic. New responsibilities cited included taking on managerial duties and mentorships.
In assigning additional responsibilities to employees, it is helpful when leaders take the necessary steps to ensure an inclusive environment. Leaders should be sure to ask themselves tough questions: Do I tend to be more inclusive of some people than others? Are there people I am inadvertently leaving out?
Employees are more likely to enjoy their work and collaborate with colleagues when they have bonded. When leaders create specific, informal opportunities for employees to connect and bond with their coworkers, stress is relieved and people are motivated to perform well in their jobs. Examples of informal bonding opportunities include virtual coffee breaks, happy hours or lunches over Zoom, and online trivia games.
Though the pandemic continues to present healthcare leaders with unforeseen challenges, it is also offering them an opportunity to actively demonstrate inclusive and supportive behaviour for their teams. In order to keep staff happy and engaged, healthcare leaders must find ways to better support their staff now and in the future.
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