Job Satisfaction In The Remote Workplace: How To Ensure Happy Employees During (And Beyond) Covid-19

Long before Covid-19 was on the radar, human resource departments and employers alike puzzled over job satisfaction factors. With workforces already growing incredibly diverse (both in demographics and geographics), pinning down universal constants was an essentially impossible task. Now, scattered to the digital winds working from home vs. office, it’s – strangely enough – actually proving easier to hunt down those elusive answers from employees.

 

Employee Performance: Productivity Metrics Tell The Tale

The great boogeyman of remote work for many technophobic legacy companies came with a side-eye at productivity. In short, they worried that employees wouldn’t focus as well on their work if they were comfortable at home, safely away from the prying eyes of managers strolling by. With cloud-based business services, communication methods, and databases taking the place of physical desks, C-suites are now finding the opposite may be true when managing remote workers

These programs, in addition to connecting employees and allowing online work, also allow a scrutiny that once only came attached to morale-wrecking micromanagement from their immediate supervisor. Able to quietly and passively observe the results behind a screen, employees showed that the comforts of home were actually motivating for their productivity, while improving their overall job satisfaction. In fact, a 2020 remote work survey from HR firm Mercer actually found that 90% of businesses surveyed reported that productivity working from home remained the same or better since shifting to a remote workforce. 

 

Employee Motivation & Retention: How To Realistically Increase Remote Job Satisfaction

 

It’s worth noting, however, that businesses should take care not to couch decisions made out of necessity as ones made to reward employees – everyone’s watching the same news programs, after all. Employees know that most office-based businesses, especially those in major cities with stringent lockdowns, can’t go “back to normal” right now, even if they wanted to. This has led many companies to even consider a permanent work from home policy. Framing remote work as a special treat when it’s a widely-known legal requirement is likely to diminish job satisfaction, not bolster it.

 

Instead, consider remote work with the same amount of focus you might when providing a physical desk for an employee, or a computer to work from. Ensuring they are able to work is simply a function of business, particularly when shutdowns and lockdowns are still in effect. It is up to a business to provide the necessary work from home technology. Don’t neglect the benefits and perks that employees consistently rank among their top five, according to staffing firm Robert Half, as of December 2020: health insurance, paid time off, dental insurance, retirement savings accounts, and life insurance.  

If it fits within your corporate culture and budget parameters, consider ideas such as implementing a “socially distant brunch” or similar perk, and sending digital food delivery gift cards to each employee. While these perks should be treated as incidental and not be used to replace real benefits, they can help spread cheer at a time when world weariness might be fighting it out with work motivation.

 

Organizational Behavior & Culture: Setting The Stage For Future Talent

Making smart operational flow choices and treading carefully with the post-coronavirus narrative on remote work can be extremely beneficial in attracting talent. Some edgier job seeker advice-giving blogs are already recommending candidates to ask for information about the company’s remote-work-during-Covid policies in an interview, even well after the virus is no longer a threat. The theory is that a company that was happy to throw its employees in harm’s way rather than attempt a different workflow isn’t likely to be responsive to employee needs post-pandemic. 

To put it another way, if a business proactively controls the narrative by supporting a fully-remote option (or requirement) while Covid-19 is active – and keeps it on as a viable option after – they’re already on solid footing with many candidates. Additionally, keeping that option open after it’s no longer strictly necessary can significantly widen the pool of potential candidates from different locations, particularly if remote interviews are normalized.

 

Staying In Line Online: Monitoring Job Situations & Workforce Interactions Remotely

Job satisfaction has a great deal to do with work itself, but a significant part of it is also interaction with other employees and supervisors. When those connections are not supportive, inclusive, or – in the worst case scenarios – harassing, employees still need to feel that they have an immediate path to remedy that discomfort. Instituting mandatory presentations on proper online conduct as well as clearly-stated escalation plans for offenders will help your most vulnerable employees feel protected. 

Whether your HR rep prefers a softphone, email, or messenger program for contact, ensure that their information is readily available to each and every employee. If you don’t already have document/message preservation protocols in place for these messages, make sure you do going forward: this step will protect everyone involved and help narrow down dates in the event of harassment, sexism, racism, or another intrapersonal issue. 

 

Employee Recognition & Engagement: Digitizing The Corporate Ladder

While the pandemic essentially placed the world on “pause,” make sure that remote work doesn’t have the same effect on your employees’ careers. With an uncertain future for physical offices, it’s crucial to keep an eye out for areas in which employees excel and highlight their achievements. Without the subtle praise of peers in a group setting, remote work can feel isolating in terms of morale, and without acknowledgement from immediate supervisors and above, a determined work ethic can quickly turn bitter or resentful. Making sure that the organizational culture focuses on employee job satisfaction and employee happiness will lead to a workforce with greater employee retention.

Periodic “huddles” or meetings on platforms such as Teams or RingCentral can help reintegrate team spirit and provide a valuable space to call out top performers in front of their peers. If you’d normally offer promotions, raises, or title upgrades periodically if the office was still open, make sure you continue to do so. In addition to maintaining a feeling of normalcy, it will also help the reintegration feel less jarring in 2021 or beyond, when some or all of the team makes its way back to the office.