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Why COVID-19 is Making Employee Turnover Worse

Losing good talent costs businesses money. In fact, employee turnover could be costing your business about one-third of that worker’s annual earnings just to fill his/her role. A recent USA Today article shared a startling new statistic: 30% of working professionals would quit if they had to return to the office after the pandemic. But remote work poses its own challenges and doesn’t guarantee a happy employee.
The poll conducted by LiveCareer consisted of a random sample of 1,022 professionals, and reflects a rising demand for flexible work arrangements. Nearly 42% of the U.S. workforce has grown accustomed to working from home amid COVID-19. And it appears many of them love their home office so much they would risk their job to maintain it.
While some professionals are willing to walk away altogether, a committed 61% still agree they want their company to allow them to work remotely on an indefinite basis, even after the pandemic is “over”. Meanwhile, many companies plan to return to the office once COVID-19 vaccinations become more readily available.
COVID-19 has radically shifted employee perspectives and priorities over work, life and purpose, and has created unique challenges that add to everyday stress. So how do you keep employees happy, regardless of whether you see them face-to-face or over Zoom?

Here are a few reasons why your business may be experiencing higher than average turnover during the pandemic, and how to improve employee morale in the year ahead:

1) Inflexible work arrangements

Even before the pandemic hit, I think we all can attest to the need for improved work-life balance. At the end of the day we are human, which means we have families, personal commitments and individual needs. The COVID-19 crisis has pushed many companies to better accommodate their employees and offer more leniency and flexibility.

From offering unlimited time off, flex work spaces, integrated mental health services and remote work opportunities companies should get creative when it comes to the benefits they offer. By working directly with new hires, employers can create competitive and tailored benefit packages.

Think outside the box. Can team building events make a difference to employees that miss daily interaction? Are certain employees in need of flexible work hours? Are you offering alternative options for those that value something outside of paid benefits?

2) Micromangement

There are three words to describe micromanagement—it’s the worst. But you need your business to be the best, and by extension the best place to work. If you’ve ever had a boss that seems anxious, controlling or lacks faith in your ability to get a job done you’ve met the all-too common micromanager.

You’d think staying out of the office might give you a little breathing room from your overwhelming boss, but more likely than not it has exasperated the problem. Micromanagers may associate remote work as a cause for decreased workplace productivity (when in fact the opposite it true). When this happens, this type of manager may impede on employee productivity with frequent check-ins, intrusive monitoring, lengthy meetings and perhaps lack positive feedback.

Great businesses become great through constant improvement. Therefore, it is important that employees feel comfortable in addressing workplace challenges, even when it comes to dealing with a boss. Human Resource Professionals should establish themselves as friendly liaisons available to mediate workplace misunderstandings, and see it through that there is appropriate accountability and resources available to facilitate a healthy workplace culture. Great managers know how to assist team members when needed, and are equipped with the skills and resources they need to encourage employee confidence and growth.

3) Isolation

Whether you enjoy the freedom of working from home or not, isolation and social distance has had a significant impact on countless lives. Loneliness caused by the pandemic and work-from-home environments can trigger a host of mental and physical health issues. Increased rates of depression, suicide, heart disease and even dementia are just a few ways loneliness can impact your health.

These findings have big implications for employers. In fact, “lonely workers” are two times as likely to miss a day of work due to illness, and think about quitting their job more than twice as often as “non-lonely” workers. More than 1 in 10 lonely workers say their work is not as good as it should be, which could reflect decreased work quality during episodes of depression.

To maintain productivity, work quality and employee retention it is imperative that companies provide engagements for their employees outside of work. Safe in-person events, e-gatherings and volunteer projects will foster a sense of connection. Create a calendar to keep employees connected throughout the year. Encouraging simple expressions of genuine personal interest between team members is a good starting point.

4) New demands

The word “pivot” is etched into our mind as companies have been forced to remain savvy and adaptable during the pandemic, but what new level of demand has this placed on your team? While some companies have had to minimize overhead, others saw increased demand or had to shift the way they do business altogether. All of these scenarios can lead to increased workloads and the feeling of burden, pressure and burnout.

Combine new work demands with isolation, risk and uncertainty and you’ve got a recipe for dismal employee morale. So what’s the solution? Businesses should prioritize creating reward systems, new growth opportunities and positive feedback mechanisms. Employees need to feel valued as they adapt to rapid changes.

Managers should be aware of the work-related and personal circumstances of their team members, and consider ways to meet their evolving needs. Investing in your employees during times change can help to retain talent. This could mean strategic raises, ongoing learning and training opportunities, or positive feedback. Because after all, a truly rewarding job should well—reward.

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