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Ann Arbor Spark

May 13, 2021

How and Why to Keep Remote Employees Engaged

Contributed by Margaret Wyzlic, Oxford Companies
Margaret has led Oxford Companies’ marketing team since mid-2020. With an extensive background in hospitality and tourism, she brings a passion for economic development and community building to her role at Ann Arbor’s largest commercial real estate organization. Read more from Oxford

Employee culture and engagement have long been a focus of many organizations because investing in this area pays off. Lower turnover, higher productivity, and a better bottom line are all related to company culture — and many leaders see additional intangible benefits to a fun, collaborative, and positive work environment.

At Oxford Companies, we’ve always tried to be the type of organization that invests in a strong culture that prioritizes employee engagement. This philosophy has never been more important since early 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began, and many people began working remotely which impacted employee engagement. Here are some of the things we’ve learned and can recommend for organizations to consider, especially if they decide to adopt a permanent hybrid workplace model. The past year can help inform why and how to spend time and money on an employee engagement strategy.

First of all, contemplate the following implications of engagement (or lack thereof). These statistics were reported by Forbes in 2019. The numbers speak for themselves!

Highly engaged teams show 21 percent greater profitability

The report cited in the Forbes article also identifies links between engagement and absenteeism. Makes sense! Staff that shows up to work contribute to productivity. And if they’re engaged, they’re also showing up with enthusiasm and loyalty to the organizations.

Employees who feel their voice is heard are almost five-times as likely to do their best

Engagement is a two-way street. Providing frequent opportunities for teams to share their thoughts and perspectives are significantly more motivated to work hard and bring their best ideas to work. A report from Salesforce also found that this is part of a larger conversation about inclusion as well – highlighting the importance of providing equitable opportunities for employees of all backgrounds to thrive. When that happens, companies see the difference in performance.

Disengaged employees cost companies as much as $550B each year

Turnover is expensive, and so is lost productivity. Prioritizing employee engagement isn’t just something that makes your staff feel warm and fuzzy (although that’s great as well), it’s also highly effective at optimizing your bottom line.

As the novelty of working from home wore off in mid-2020, we found by surveying that our Oxford CREW was feeling more disconnected from each other and from the organization than ever before. So, we took action to turn this trend around. What can an organization do to maintain engagement as remote work becomes more common? Here are a few ideas your organization can add to its toolkit.

Make it part of someone’s job

If employee engagement isn’t in someone’s job description, be sure that a few folks within the organization take this on as a responsibility and have accountability for moving it forward. If you go this route, be sure to choose a diverse group of committee members with varying types of jobs across the organization. The differences in perspectives will make your committee stronger and more effective!

Call on your leaders

Sometimes hearing from the folks in charge can make a huge difference in the attitudes and enthusiasm of a team. Oxford Companies’ CEO, Jeff Hauptman called every single employee in our 100+ person organization last year to ask how they’re doing and how leadership could best support them through the unique challenges of living and working during a pandemic. We heard over and over from various staff members that it meant a great deal to them to know that their well-being is valued, and leadership is keeping them at top of mind.

Have an open-door policy

Engaged employees use their voices. Encourage your teams to share perspectives on ways employees — remote and onsite — can work more effectively as an organization. Provide a path for this to be done anonymously and as leaders, sincerely consider all submitted feedback and questions. From direct supervisors to CEOs, organizations that facilitate and promote an open-door policy demonstrate to employees that the organization values meaningful dialog and transparency.

Keep it steady

All kinds of stressors have appeared since March 2020, and it’s helpful to remember that most employees’ lives have been turned upside down in many ways since then. Some folks are hovering in that ‘survival mode’ place where they’re just getting through the days in order to keep their families going and maintain their lives. Simply continuing to show up, be transparent, be communicative, and demonstrate stability will make a huge difference – so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a lot of interest in Zoom happy hours or virtual craft nights with your staff. Just being a presence of security and steady connectivity goes a long way.

Company Culture Vital for Business

In conclusion – we know that employee engagement is important, and it’s more vital than ever to consider company culture as a key priority for businesses. At Oxford, our team is continuing to drive employee engagement metrics, and attract and retain dedicated staff. The tactics above have helped us move the needle, and we wholeheartedly encourage our friends in the business community to join us in these efforts.

Oxford Companies is an entrepreneurial-minded team of property managers, real estate brokers, construction experts and architects, asset managers, and support staff. We strongly value our CREW and in turn, they take great care of our tenants, customers, and stakeholders. If your organization is looking for office space or needs expert property management services, we’d be honored to help. Get in touch with us by filling out a quick form.