Employee retention is an issue that many companies need to consider as they develop their company’s new normal. Employee alienation and burnout are two factors they need to consider as they decide whether to continue working virtually, return to the office or design a hybrid environment.
One big problem with virtual work is the lack of camaraderie. What is the virtual equivalent of a breakroom or lunch with a friend? The lack of the social aspects of office life can cause feelings of isolation, which can lead to alienation and burnout. Keeping employees engaged and feeling productive is the key to preventing these negative feelings and causing them to seek new employment.
Virtual work has many pros and cons, but there is no real equivalency to being at the office. Company leaders need to recognize this by focusing on three key aspects:
1. Honesty and transparency. Most businesses are struggling in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Employees recognize this fact whether or not company leaders admit it. Although it might be painful to do so, company leaders should be forthright about how they are dealing with fallout from the crisis. This includes keeping employees informed about the following:
- the company’s short-term and long-term goals and detailing what that means to them
- the efforts the company is making to retain customers and attract new ones
- whether furloughs or layoffs are possible
- whether and how their pay will be affected
Not being honest causes employees to fear the worst and feel vulnerable, which inevitably leads to lower engagement and loyalty.
2. Involvement and recognition. New ideas can come from anywhere in the company. Company leaders see the big picture, but the people actually doing each stage of the work can see small changes that may improve workflow. Managers get an overview of the work they manage and can contribute at that level.
Encouraging everyone to understand their role, give feedback and share their ideas gives them a feeling of ownership in the outcome. Rewarding employees for good ideas inspires engagement and decreases alienation and burnout. There is another benefit as well: involving employees at this level provides an opportunity for the leadership team to identify and nurture future leaders. Allowing employees to know they have a future and can grow in their careers is key to retaining the talent the business needs. No business wants to have to replace a key staff member, especially during these disruptive times.
3. Fairness. Company culture plays a role in ensuring employees feel they are being treated fairly. Leaders and managers need to credit the right people for their contributions. They cannot play favorites or take credit they have not earned.
As companies struggle to create a new normal — which is nothing like pre-pandemic normal — and balance their HR needs, they need to consider how their employees are reacting to current situations. Feelings of alienation and burnout can have a detrimental effect if they are not dealt with effectively.