The global shift to remote work following COVID-19 has presented several key challenges for business leaders, many of which stem from communication obstacles and the of disruption of daily social activities. With teams suffering interpersonally right now due to remote work and lack of in-person interaction, leaders now more than ever are tasked with maintaining staff engagement and business unit performance in the post-COVID era.
A recent survey* which consisted predominantly of mid-level managers from mid to large sized companies across Europe, revealed that 60% of respondents find remote work mentally challenging. However, despite popular belief surrounding the impact of remote work on staff engagement, the same survey revealed that 86% of respondents are in fact engaged with their organization, and 42% of these claim to be highly engaged.
Employee engagement refers to the commitment and emotional connection employees have to their organization and work. Employees are engaged when their work and company’s culture align with their motives and values. While 60% of survey respondents found working from home mentally challenging, this did not negatively impact engagement for the overwhelming majority.
According to Hogan, employee engagement is predominantly shaped by leadership effectiveness, with effective leaders defined as those who can successfully lead a high-performing team. The same survey found that over 60% received adequate support from their manager following the shift to remote work, while over 80% claimed that their employer was supportive in their adaptation to remote work. These latest findings indicate that while challenges arose for workers following the shift to remote work, attitudes towards leadership remained stable and positive throughout Europe.
“Employees know that the challenges of remote work are not the result of their employer’s incompetence, but rather the result of a global pandemic” adds Dr. Ryne Sherman, Chief Science Officer at Hogan Assessments. “Employees also know that everyone is going through the same challenges, and as a result, their emotional commitment to their organizations remains as high as, or perhaps even higher, than it was before working from home.”
A matter of personality
Hogan’s leadership value chain states that personality drives leadership, leadership drives employee engagement, and engagement ultimately drives organizational performance.
Personality also influences how managers interact with their employees, and how teams interact with each other, which sets the company culture – another key ingredient for employee engagement.
When asked about productivity while working from home, 44% of survey respondents claim they are more productive and 42% claim they are just as productive compared to working in the office. Furthermore, when asked about the productivity of their team at large, 67% claim they are more productive while working remotely. Digital collaboration and communication is reported as the top challenge with remote work among respondents (38.9%), with productivity accounting for only 3.2%.
High performing remote teams
“Perhaps the biggest challenge to maintaining employee engagement and a high performing remote team is identifying which team members are becoming disengaged. Anyone can appear engaged and motivated during weekly calls, but it is hard to spot who is really struggling with the challenges of remote work. It is important for managers to gain the trust of their employees so that they can have honest conversations about engagement and what can be done to keep them motivated. Decades of research on leadership effectiveness tell us that, to maintain a high performing team in the post-COVID era, managers must be well-adjusted, strong communicators, and deeply compassionate when it comes to supporting vulnerable employees.”
“One advantage of remote work is that there is less room to confuse activity with productivity. Some employees are great at being ‘seen’ in the workplace without accomplishing much, so remote work will require those employees to produce tangible results as their political skill will not be as effective. For all employees, leaders should double down on regular goal setting that involves targets and deadlines, just as they would in face-to-face settings. Employees with discretionary effort who are meeting their objectives will be easy to spot.”