Back before COVID, a lot of people would have jumped at the chance to work permanently from home. But now that it has happened, the general consensus is that some are finding it quite difficult to keep themselves motivated. Now, more people are saying that they’d like more of a hybrid model- working from home as well as from the office to incorporate some variety into their working lives.

This hybrid model is what most companies will opt for when it is safe to have their employees back to the office. However, it seems society isn’t at that point just yet and perhaps some people will never actually return to the office, so how can companies keep their employees motivated and engaged as the novelty of working from home wears off?

Recruit Ireland spoke with Emma Keane, with Relationships Specialist about how people become disengaged when working from home and what companies can do to reengage them.

What causes disengagement whilst working from home 

Emma told Recruit Ireland things wouldn’t be as hard for people “if we only had to work from home, and we weren’t limited in what we could and we could go outside our homes, but socially we are compromised. On a day-to-day basis, we are working from home and it has become a capsule environment,” she continued.

Emma compares working in the office every day to working from home every day and says “the room people are working from is the room they’re living in and there’s no variety. They’re not being stimulated enough and as humans we need stimulation. The basis of our behavior is interaction; something as simple as the human touch. There are a few human things that we’re lacking.”

A companies responsibility

Emma says those in managerial positions need to be responsible for the social needs of their team. She said that “before Christmas people would have been ok but now there’s no end in sight and we’re back to back zoom meetings”.

As a manager herself, Emma stressed the importance of “picking up the phone to people” rather than video calling to avoid Zoom fatigue.

Zoom fatigue is tiredness, worry, or burnout associated with the overuse of virtual platforms of communication, particularly videoconferencing.

The ‘Three R’s model’

“Response, recognition, and reward, that’s what managers need to be doing,” Emma said. “Respond to their needs, recognize what they’ve been going through as a person, the work they’ve been doing, and acknowledge that it’s not easy. Reward your employees; human beings are goal-oriented. We still need those rewards, get creative,” she said.

Emma acknowledges that the idea of wellness and mindfulness as a way of coping with working from home is a jaded concept and says that “coming together as an organization and bringing someone in from the outside” can help with a team’s re-engagement.   “Sometimes people come to work to meet their friends, that’s missing. Zoom isn’t the same and the workspace is cramped.

Companies are having to adapt. Some will do it brilliantly, those who are technologically aware, but the rest of us had to scramble,” she said. “Acknowledge how brilliantly we have done, we have done well in a very difficult time. Communication is key”.

Acknowledgment and affirmation

“Affirm that things will get better. A leader of an organisation has the responsibility to lead at a time like this, they’re the ones that will shine, are able to see beyond the short term, and know that in the long term things will be ok and we will recover. We have to be philosophical. The human spirit is strong, but spirits do need to be built up again. As professionals, we know that resilience can be built up again. On one level you’re dealing with a traumatized population and what heals that is time, affirmation, and positive regard. We need to hold our employees in positive regard where we can,” said Emma.

The positives

“It could be a good time for recruitment. People are realizing that there is a choice here and the choice is very important, autonomy is important because it gives us some sense of freedom.”

Given that people have been temporarily exempt from the office environment they have had more time for reflection. Emma advises organisations to “keep an eye on retention, it’s important to reengage and retain.

There will be positive choices we can take from this, one of those is work flexibility. Going back to something different but in a good way. I know I won’t have to sit in traffic five days a week. Companies should highlight the choices, options, and flexibility that will be afforded.

What’s really important is that if you’re fair. For example, working from home is negotiable, it’s not a given, it’s not black or white that you have to go back to the office or stay at home, it’s open for negotiation. If you’re fair with that you’ll come out with a win-win situation,” Emma concluded.