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There’s no denying that the challenges we have faced during the Covid-19 pandemic are some of the toughest of our lifetime. Lockdown restrictions have demanded huge changes to both the way we work and how we live. Colleagues, families and friends have all had to learn to do things completely differently to how they were done little more than a year ago.
For businesses looking to ‘hold steady’ through these unprecedented times, some of their biggest challenges have centred around how the work gets done. Ways of working that seemed acceptable before March of this year have suddenly become severely outdated. Change hasn’t just been necessary, but entirely mandatory.
Everything from company culture, IT infrastructure and the design of internal communications have all been placed under the microscope. But there’s one area which has seen the most attention from company management in the last eight months, as they try to figure out how to continue in spite of difficult circumstances: employee experience.
Where employee engagement is designed to change behaviour, employee experience is designed to evolve culture by focusing on things that only people can respond to – like purpose, trust, meaning and pride. Getting this experience ‘right’ is the key to building meaningful working lives for your staff - working lives which are rewarding and encourage employees to stay with your company for the long term.
One way to improve employee experience - especially during a pandemic - is to find ways of helping people maintain a healthy work-life balance and avoid burnout. With remote working now the norm, businesses need to be aware that most of their employees don’t actually leave what they might define as their work space anymore. Some will be working in their kitchen, others their living room or even their bedroom. The temptation to remain ‘switched on’ is therefore greater than it has ever been.
But staying online during ‘off’ hours or replying to emails quickly is far from healthy. Employees who feel compelled to act this way might not realise it, but they’re fast-tracking themselves to burnout. Businesses must do everything they can to help staff find an appropriate work-life balance
How exactly do you help encourage people to avoid working too hard? When Workplace customer Clarins UK found themselves with a huge number of their employees working from home, as well as in the field, they were determined to help employees retain a healthy work-life balance.
The luxury skincare and cosmetics company created a bot for their Workplace platform which reminds people to finish their day’s work at 6pm. It’s not quite the same as bursting through doors and turning work devices off, but it’s a clear reminder that there are bigger priorities to focus on beyond the world of work.
The right tools
Another way to improve employee experience is to ensure that your staff are using the most appropriate tools available for their work. Especially now in a remote-working led environment. Recent Workplace research found that 39% of frontline workers and 34% of head office leaders felt poor information sharing had prevented them from doing their jobs properly during the Covid-19 crisis. The problem is that both HQ workers and those on a company’s frontline continue to use different communication tools, meaning that when it comes to sharing important information they may as well be speaking two different languages. Companies have been suffering from employees in different departments becoming ‘passing ships in the night’. Not ideal, and certainly not appropriate in the current circumstances.
Tearing down these barriers to make cross-team collaboration smoother during periods of remote working only happens when everybody feels like they’re on the same page. Having a platform that unites everyone in a company, and empowers them to work with their colleagues to the best of their ability is key. It shouldn’t matter if one team works in a company office, whilst another works in the field or at home - everybody should have the opportunity to be connected. Everybody should have the chance to work seamlessly with one another via one dependable hub.
Nobody understands this better than Moneypenny. The Wrexham-based company that handles outsourced calls and live chats for different companies worked with The Bot Platform to create a rapid onboarding assistant to help their staff transition into remote working as smoothly as possible. The bot used on their company’s Workplace platform posed a survey to staff, asking them questions about their hardware, internet speeds and home working environment to ensure employees felt entirely ready for long-term remote work. Those who felt they were missing necessary hardware were sent out packages containing devices such as laptops, as well as keyboards and headsets.
A font of all knowledge
An often-overlooked benefit for collaboration and communication tools is their ability to become ‘knowledge libraries’ for companies, giving everybody in the organisation simple access to highly important information as and when they need it.
In the current circumstances, this information might include a company’s stance on furlough and lockdown restrictions. There is also a big case to be made for acknowledging staff feelings during challenging times. A recent study from the Mental Health Foundation found that 49% of the population had felt anxious or worried due to the pandemic, highlighting that employers should be taking extra care to check how their staff are coping and adjust their workplace policies accordingly. ‘Reading the room’ has never been more important.
Moneypenny took responsibility by launching a ‘How are you doing’ bot to check in on everyone’s well-being and gauge their work-life balance. Within 24 hours, 75% of employees had answered the poll, giving the company a significant insight into the true needs of their staff.
Flight Centre Travel Group, one of the world’s largest travel agency groups, has been using their own bot for a more practical approach to alleviating anxieties. The bot works to promote employee safety by encouraging them to answer several questions, all designed to ensure that the latest safety measures are being met and the spread of COVID-19 is being restricted as much as possible.
Whether it’s promoting a better work-life balance, providing digital tools or simply having the right processes in place to help staff feel looked after and connected to their business, there are many different ways companies can improve their employee experience. Especially now during the pandemic, which has placed these issues in the spotlight so brightly they can no longer be claimed to be unseen by leadership.
These circumstances remain tough and will continue to bring many difficult challenges as lockdown restrictions evolve and businesses have new guidelines to contend with. But if the current times usher companies towards changes for the better in the way they value and treat their employees - that’s a step in the right direction.