Since the Credit Crunch of 2008/9, the U.K.’s productivity has declined much more than that of other countries. According to the Financial Times, only Italy’s productivity was worse.
And overall, the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t helped. New research from Ohio University shows that elevated anxiety related to Covid-19 is affecting employees’ engagement at work. Many employees are afraid of being in the workplace, despite the measures employers have taken to keep them safe, and this fear reduces engagement. Key workers are particularly affected by this, and healthcare employees are struggling with the workload and stress of their jobs right now. Others are reporting lower levels of engagement because they don’t have the same level of contact with their supervisors and colleagues: they feel disconnected from what’s going on.
While all this is bad news for businesses in the UK in general, declining engagement is catastrophic for small and medium sized businesses. But focusing on employee engagement when the supply chain has been disrupted, employees are self-isolating or furloughed, and bills still need to be paid can seem counter-productive.
And yet, results show that productivity could increase by an average of 3-5% (Gallup) if employee engagement was more actively developed. Shifting from the bottom quartile to the top quartile of business units with respect to engagement can increase productivity and profitability by more than 20% (Gallup). These kinds of gains could be crucial in the current situation. The research also found that servant leadership is particularly effective in guiding employees with state anxiety associated with COVID-19 to be more engaged in their jobs. “Servant leaders care about their employees’ well-being and prioritize their personal growth and happiness at their jobs,” the researchers say, “Servant leaders encouraged their employees to find meaning in the pandemic“.
Keeping employees’ well being as a priority helps anxious workers stay engaged. Other factors that can help include:
- doing work that matters – finding meaning in the pandemic;
- making a significant contribution – through work or contributing to the community and those most impacted by the pandemic;
- working in an environment in which their opinion matters – particularly with the new stresses associated with socially-distanced working or remote working;
- working with colleagues they can trust – in general, but also specifically with regards to social distancing and health protection measures in the workplace;
- having freedom to act with clear ground-rules and standards of behavior and performance so that they know what is expected of them.
If you’d like to discuss more ideas to help your employees engage and thrive through this pandemic, please get in touch.