Employee Engagement- It’s more than just a buzzword! At least that’s what Innosphere has taught me. But what does it really mean?

Not to be confused with employee satisfaction, employee engagement is the extent to which employees feel passionately about their jobs, are committed to the organization, and put discretionary effort into their work. The priorities of the Millennial workforce has encouraged many companies to shift their focus towards emphasizing the importance of employee engagement, understanding that if there is one thing to know about the Millennial, it’s that if they are unhappy, they will leave.

Pre-COVID, employee engagement was a little easier for employers to execute. At Innosphere, employee engagement has always been one of our top priorities. This includes office lunches, snacks and beverages, gym membership, sports tickets, paid time off, and a professional development fund.

In March of 2020, the pandemic forced Innosphere to a work-from-home environment indefinitely. The beginning of this transition was as seamless as possible, since Innosphere had already implemented work-from-home options pre-pandemic. However, as time went on, we started to feel the effects of losing that in-person form of employee engagement. Though we had begun to feel the effects, the advancement of technology didn’t make it difficult for Innosphere to fill this void the pandemic created.

At Innosphere, it quickly became a priority for our team to fill this gap as soon as possible. For instance, though team meetings ran as scheduled and cameras were on so we could see each other and maintain that human element, there was still something missing. It was that good ‘ol water cooler talk.. that’s right, those small moments we took for granted where you would just chat with your coworkers. How could we continue those conversations we were used to having at the water cooler from home? Although these are conversations we may not realize add value to our day, they do! It allows us to build relationships with our colleagues, take a break from our desk, and just overall, maintain that human connection at work.

In an attempt to reconnect and encourage engagement with our peers, we at Innosphere decided to start allocating time for ‘Water-cooler talk’! Time where we discuss things like what we had for dinner the night before, our weekend plans, and even recommending shows that we’re currently binge-watching. I can say my list has grown exponentially since (thanks team!).  Another big shift in working remotely is no longer being able to hold those holiday lunches at the office. In another attempt to keep connected, for both the winter holiday season and Valentines Day, Innosphere sent over gift baskets filled with goodies such as chocolate, pretzels, candy, and coffee beans, delivering the spirit of festivity to my door.

Another thing I missed dearly at the beginning of the pandemic (and I’m sure I’m not alone) were the catered lunches Innosphere offered from local businesses! Although our team lunches were no longer enjoyed in each other’s presence, in an attempt to encourage engagement within teams, Innosphere would provide our team with UberEats vouchers so we could order a meal of our choice to enjoy during team lunch events or meetings. In case you’re wondering, the Mama burger from A&W is my go-to.

Lastly, to keep our sanity through the pandemic and create some light-hearted fun and distraction from the chaos of living through a pandemic, Innosphere has created weekly challenges to keep everyone engaged in games throughout each week. This has been great, especially during those long weeks of lockdowns brought on by the pandemic. We even managed to play a game of pictionary via zoom, where I learned many Innospherians were actually undercover Artists (I’ve seen some pieces that would make Edvard Munch scream). It’s always fun to find out new things about your colleagues!

As Innosphere continues on this journey of remote work, I believe our company will uncover new methods of maintaining employee engagement. The aim is to have these efforts tide us over to a time where we can occasionally work in one of our two offices in Kitchener and Guelph and get back to our in-person connections. Innosphere’s effort to keep us engaged has not gone unnoticed and we hope to continue nurturing relationships at work even through a virtual portal.