Suddenly people all around the world are working from home, forced to self-isolate due to COVID-19. Some are working from their designated office at home, complete with mahogany desk, ergonomic office chair, computer with dual monitors, and the like. But many people have had to create their own office spaces: in the spare bedrooms, in the garage or under the stair case. For some people their office is more like a murphy bed that gets pushed aside when not in use.  In addition, many people are juggling work and family responsibilities all at the same time. At one moment, they are on a Zoom call and the next they are changing diapers.  It’s not so difficult or stressful if it’s just for a week or two. But when it drags on, it can create a crisis situation as people struggle to cope with Employee Engagement working while from home.

How are people handling the crisis conditions of remote office work?  Even more, how are employees staying engaged while working from home?

To answer this question about employee engagement, we thought we would start by asking, are there examples of people who are not only coping during the chaos, but who are thriving?  We were astounded by our findings! After researching hundreds of organizations around the world, from fortune 500 companies to innovative start-ups, we found HER. That’s right. We found the most engaged person in the world.

The ADP institute conducted a study of the most highly engaged 19 countries. Marcus Buckingham reported that they had found the most engaged employee in the world … Barbara!

Barbara is a fictitious person, of course, but her characteristics are not. She is an Employee Engagement composite with important features that make her highly engaged. First, of course, she is a woman, because statistics show that women are more engaged than men. She is a manager who’s been with the company more than 5 years. However, her most powerful characteristic is that she is member of a team that she really enjoys, even though she works from home 80% of the time. In addition to her full-time job, she also has a side job that allows her to do something that really matters to her. This combination makes for a highly engaged employee.

You’ll notice something extremely significant from the list of features; the most highly engaged people work from home, 80% of the time. That means that even though the pandemic forced many of us to work at home, it doesn’t mean that we have to be disengaged. In fact, with some creativity, we can shape our home office and space to serve us better.

Increasing Employee Engagement during work from home

The most significant driver of employee engagement for people who work remotely is that they are members of a team.  But more than this, they belong to teams that they enjoy. Undoubtedly, what has caused many people to feel disconnected and disengaged has been the physical separation from their team mates. People miss the comradery, having breaks together or socializing after work. In addition, people miss the collaboration of working together on meaningful projects.

Managers that understand the need for employees to stay connected are creating opportunities for employees to connect via virtual Zoom meetings, phone calls and social media platforms. But connecting with team members shouldn’t be the job of managers alone. It’s important for individual member to initiative ways to connect with others, too.

The second characteristic we noticed from Barbara was that she had a side job that allows her to do something that really matters to her.  This is often possible because when people work from home, they don’t spend so much travel time in the car or train. It allows them to do other things with their time. In this regard, it’s important to talk about people being engaged and not just employees being engaged. If working remotely from home allows us the freedom of working 80% of the time and as well to pursue our passion, it creates a highly engaged individual.

The third driver of engagement for people working from home is personal development. The home office setting allows for intense learning opportunities. Harvard Professor Lisa Laskow talks about Employee Engagement in organizations and employees who are part of a movement called Deliberately Development Organizations, or DDO for short. The name implies that development is intentional, and also defines the company’s culture. At a DDO everyone has an opportunity to grow every day. This concept goes further than merely giving people an opportunity. Everyone is expected to grow at Deliberately Developmental Organizations.

To be part of a DDO, people are constantly learning, deliberately putting themselves in high growth learning situations. In other words, they are constantly working on things they don’t know how to do, on personal growth, and on weaknesses. This modus operandi is an important concept! It creates a unique culture, one that is very different from most organizations where people typically hide their weakness and try to look good. In DDO’s, weakness is a strength and error an opportunity.

Remote work situations allow the flexibility to grow and development in many ways. Some of these growth opportunities will benefit the company and others will be valuable to the employee.  Laskow’s research supports the radical conviction that “organizations will best prosper when they are more deeply aligned with people’s strongest motive, which is to grow.”

For employees that find themselves working remotely at home, use this as an opportunity to connect with your team in meaningful ways, to pursue something you’re passionate about and to develop as a person.  With all three drivers, you’ll experience greater enjoyment at work, satisfaction and engagement.