Even before the pandemic, many employers recognized employee experience as a key driver in building an engaged and productive workforce. In fact, the interactions and touchpoints that comprise the employee experience—relationships with coworkers and managers, opportunities for growth, compensation and benefits—impact your employees’ performance and commitment to their work.
Now, as the pandemic has changed how and where employees work, the employee experience is even more critical in building a workforce that can achieve company goals during the most challenging of times.
Factors Impacting the Employee Experience During COVID
Amid the pandemic—during which employees are dealing with a range of stressors in both their work and personal lives—it is essential to be aware of the specific factors that can impact the employee experience at work. Understanding the following factors could mean the difference between productive and engaged employees or burned-out employees on the verge of leaving your organization.
Availability of Talent
Though the beginning of the pandemic led to layoffs and furloughs, lately it has led many employees to reassess their careers and leave voluntarily. In fact, during the 2021 “Great Resignation,” record numbers of employees left their jobs, causing the number of monthly job openings to skyrocket to over 10 million and counting.
This rise in open positions impacts the employee experience because of its effect on remaining employees. When employees have to pick up the extra work created by an open position—especially one that goes unfilled for an extended time—they can quickly become overworked and burned out.
Though remote work initially created a slew of challenges for workers—including difficulty balancing work and home life and feelings of isolation—it has also led many to prefer the flexibility of working from home. According to a 2021 EY study, 90 percent of surveyed employees said they wanted flexibility in where and when they work, so much so that over half said they would consider leaving their company if they didn’t get it.
Whether your employees are working from home or beginning to return to the office, the degree of flexibility you provide will have a direct effect on their employee experience.
Mental Health Support
It’s no secret that the pandemic has prompted a mental health crisis. According to the American Psychological Association, the demand for mental health services has soared since the start of the pandemic. The more tools and resources you offer employees to manage their mental health—such as health benefits and assistance from managers—the more support they will have when working through their challenges.
Access to Workforce Technology
More employees than ever before are working from home, so it’s critical to ensure they can access the technology they need in a digital workplace. Whether employees work on-site or from home, a lack of technology shouldn’t be an obstacle to a positive employee experience.
A lack of tools that simplify basic functions—such as viewing schedules or requesting time off—can be frustrating for employees. Conversely, providing access to self-service tools for time and attendance, payroll, and other important functions can drive a more positive employee experience, no matter where employees are working.
Workplace Pandemic Policies: Which Will Stay and Which Will Go?
There’s no doubt the pandemic has changed the way many organizations approach workforce management. However, many of the workplace practices that made sense in the early months of the pandemic are likely to become less necessary over time. Conversely, other practices are probably here to stay. Here are some of the new workplace features that may stay or go and how they will affect the employee experience:
Health and Safety Protocols
Stringent cleaning protocols, including disinfecting high-touch areas and encouraging good hand hygiene, can prevent the spread of illness and are likely to remain a crucial element of operating a safe and healthy workplace. In addition, to protect employees, it is likely that procedures for reporting illness and staying home when ill will stay.
However, as more employees become vaccinated and COVID-19 cases fall, daily health and symptom screening may become less common. Over time, employees will have less fuss when coming to work and the assurance that their workplace safety needs are being met through other measures such as extra sanitizing, social distancing and mask wearing.
Flexible Work Arrangements
Given employee preferences for flexibility, it’s likely that remote and hybrid work arrangements will become the norm. With more options for working remotely part or full time, employees will have more control over where, when, and how they work. And when employees are empowered, their experience improves. IBM research found that employees who had greater freedom to decide how to do their work reported a more positive employee experience.
Focus on Workplace Technology
Workplace technology was critical to organizational success before the pandemic, but it has become more critical than ever for companies to evaluate and expand their technology portfolio. According to McKinsey research, the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies by at least three years, and those improvements are likely here to stay. For example, virtual hiring and onboarding have become more common, as have cloud-based time and attendance solutions that allow employees to remotely clock in, clock out, request time off and call in sick.
As new workforce management technologies continue to save organizations time and money, they will become a natural part of the employee experience. As a result, employees will be able to work more efficiently.
Mobile Solutions Are More Essential Than Ever
Although the pandemic has physically separated employees from each other and the on-site workplace, it has also created opportunities for employees to connect with their work, manager and team members in new ways. Mobile technology solutions have made much of this possible, allowing employees and managers to perform critical business functions from anywhere.
Instead of remaining isolated, employees and managers can access cloud-based workforce management solutions and stay productive at home and on-site. For more insights, read our eBook, Mobile Solutions Are Essential to Today's Workforce.