Right now, the workplace is adapting to the ongoing safety threat that is COVID-19. While some have made home offices their new workplace, others remain in-person with the addition of safety regulations such as masks and social distancing. As more employees return to work, two possible obstacles arise. First, because of all the disruption caused by COVID-19, employees may have trouble attaching themselves to work in the same way they did prior to the pandemic. Employees returning to work will be faced with a fluctuating workspace, which can lead to lower levels of employee engagement. The issue of fluctuating workspaces is that it creates uncertainty on how long their current work situation will last and how much will continue to change in order to ensure their safety. Second, accessibility to “engaging” work activities are limited to digital or individual activities to prevent the spread of the virus. Meetings may be confined to digital spaces and other team building activities will have to find a way to be as equally effective in a manner that follows health and safety regulations provided by the CDC and the company itself. So how do we reconnect with work and what does that look like?
At the beginning of any workday, It is the cognitive and emotional demand that keeps us invested in the work we do. When we clock into work, we detach from outside distractions and obligations and attach to our work responsibilities. When a workplace has high job attachment, employee engagement and productivity increase as employees are able to fully invest themselves into what they do. However, when having to simultaneously work and worry about personal safety, it becomes difficult to dedicate all focus to one’s job.
In previously studied cases where safety was a concern among employees, it has been the enforcement and dedication of leaders that has had a great effect on being able to feel safe while at work. These leaders are ones who enforce safety procedures, create environments where the health of employees is important, and where workplace safety is actively maintained. When employees are asked to reconnect with work for a leader who does not value workplace safety, it leads to employees being unable to fully devote their minds to work. As a leader, you are the mediator between safety protocols and your employees concerns. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, employee safety and job engagement is increased by the use of PPE, personal protective equipment. Having fully engaged employees leads to positive work behaviors such as higher productivity. If nothing is done to assist the transition of employees back into work, job engagement will decrease, leading to a decrease in both productivity and positive work behaviors.
As more and more people are able to return to work they will need to be present both physically and mentally. This is where job engagement is most important. Employees will return to work and be most attentive by being able to feel safe. One way that enables security and participation is through PPE such as masks, face shields, and gloves. What is also necessary is the participation of leaders to promote the wellbeing of employees by ensuring that everyone stays safe and away from any dangers presented by the virus. Employees need a leader who will lead by example in terms of preventing spread of the virus, so that employees can feel safe from harm and relatively free of distraction.
In conclusion, organizations must be ready and willing to support their employees through their journey on reconnecting with work. We must be actively trying to increase healthy practices in the workspace in order to tackle safety concerns and lack of job engagement caused by COVID-19. In order for all employees to return to work with an engaged and ready to connect state of mind. Leaders must first allow employees to mentally attach to work responsibilities and then made to feel safe through PPE, and by following safety protocols. Employees should also make time to analyze how they previously prepared for work before operations were either halted or changed by COVID-19. Review previously worked on tasks or jobs previous worked. Then, create a list in order to organize priorities and responsibilities before coming into work. This list should involve new and pending tasks that need to be completed, and what safety precautions are needed or desired in order to successfully execute responsibilities.
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