Creating a work environment where all employees are engaged may feel like a pipe dream for some. After all, not everyone feels the same about their work, some people love it, others hate it, while another section of the workforce is only there for the paycheck. As such, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to employee engagement.

There are even different types of employee engagement to consider, from physical and social to intellectual and behavioral. But we are taking a look at emotional engagement in the workplace to help us build better relationships and the emotional attachment staff have to their job and their workplace.

What is emotional engagement and why does it matter?

Humans are emotional beings, some more than others and some less than others, but we are all at the mercy of our emotions on some level. It’s therefore impossible for us to leave our emotions at the door on the way into our office. We also know that employee engagement is a significant contributor to increased levels of employee retention. Employers who have little or no emotional investment in their work often lack commitment and loyalty. For these reasons companies need to find ways to improve the emotional connection staff have to their place of work, and each other. 

Employee engagement in its broadest sense ranges from a purely transactional relationship, where employees are financially rewarded for their work, to physical and psychological ones, where staff are involved in meetings and team tasks, communicating with each other, and sharing equipment, ideas and office space. 

By valuing the importance of your staff’s emotional engagement at work and within any of these settings, an employee is more likely to thrive and stay committed to the company. This, in turn, can lead to improved feelings of satisfaction and well-being at work.

This article looks at five effective ways to boost emotional engagement at work.

emotional engagement in the workplace
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1. Create and widen channels of communication

One of the best ways to encourage and create emotional engagement in the workplace is through empathetic managers. It is nigh on impossible for HR directors to know 100% that their staff feel safe from anything from theft, sexual misconduct, internal staff harassment and even violent disorder. However, there must be good and open channels of communication coupled with supportive managers and safe spaces for employees to speak up, and report instances where they are emotionally harmed or under threat. This can only be achieved on a ‘no repercussion’ basis for reporting negative issues with clear lines of trust and privacy orders in place. 

It is important that staff feel confident about talking openly with their line managers, leadership teams, and HR reps. This not only includes open discussions with managers but opportunities to contribute. The emotions we associate with our place of work are powerful, but to ensure that they are positive rather than negative we should also acknowledge and appreciate staff efforts. 58% of job performance can be linked to emotional intelligence, so it’s great for managers to have a level of empathy that allows them to understand how their staff feel about certain situations or events.

Understanding the needs of employees and being a company with the agility to acknowledge and work towards accommodating them can further deepen the emotional connection staff feel.

2. Recognize and reward achievements

While staff members are there to do a job, a little appreciation goes a long way to improving the emotional connection and engagement levels in the workplace. Taking the time and making the effort to celebrate staff successes or meeting their performance goals is an effective boost to staff happiness and retention.

A survey by Achievers found that 44% of respondents planning to switch jobs cited a lack of recognition as the number one reason. While you won’t need to get employees in front of the whole company to appreciate their accomplishments, a small gesture goes a long way. Rewards or perks must be tangible, so lunch at the company, an extra day’s holiday or encouraging staff to take a vacation is key. A gift certificate and vouchers are also useful ways for staff to feel appreciated by their employer.

3. Create a sense of belonging

Recognition can also come from a sense of belonging, and the sooner a staff member is made to feel a part of the team, the better. This could be through staff photos, allowing staff to see themselves as part of the team, or by highlighting diversity to reinforce your brand’s central message of inclusion. Other ways to portray a positive image of your team can be achieved by celebrating milestones, and organizing socials outside of working hours.

The more ways an employee can gain that sense of belonging in their company, the greater the emotional bond and engagement levels. Remote working is a great test of your employee inclusion and engagement practices as you must overcome the challenge of helping a team member who is rarely or never present feel like they are just as important to the team as the office manager.

Through regular communication, check-ins, goal setting, team-building activities, and celebrations of your diversity and team dynamics you can engender a welcoming team environment.

4. Safeguard health and well-being with safe workplace

Since the Covid pandemic, HR teams had to focus their attention towards creating a safe workplace environment that attracted staff back to the office or encouraged them to feel safe amongst other people while doing their work. Safeguarding both our physical and mental health at work undoubtedly stepped up a gear. 

Creating a safe workspace covers a variety of areas, from ensuring there is healthy air circulation at optimal temperatures and hygiene measures in place in kitchens to providing the right ergonomic equipment, fire procedures, and inclusive gender-neutral toilets. The priority is to keep staff safe in a physical space or with proper protection from machinery, hazardous chemicals or heights,to name a few of all matters. Taking the right steps to ensure correct policies are adhered too at all times will help your employees to feel safe and valued. This applies to  hybrid and remote-learning patterns of work. 

Likewise, safeguarding your staff’s well-being is paramount too. Emotionally, if we feel threatened or nervous for whatever reason, we are more likely to take days off absent, avoid colleagues or workplace tasks, and underperform. Every effort should be made to protect worker’s mental health fromImplementing menopausal policies to offering helplines or signposting staff to support groups. Every measure needs to be made to monitor whether employees are working too much, abusing and showing signs of unhealthy dependancy or symptoms of anxiety, depression and addictive behavior.

5. Strengthen company culture and boost business success

For the most part, employees want more from their jobs than just a paycheck. People want to feel good about the work they do and finish their day or projects with a sense of fulfillment. And companies want to keep them around, but in a world of job mobility that allows for remote positions and flexible working, that can be difficult.

One way to help improve emotional engagement is through a strong company culture that promotes ownership of projects and that provides development opportunities. Tasking staff with finding development projects that appeal to them and that they can justify undertaking to aid their professional development should be encouraged. 

Now, rather than a training program thrust upon them by management, that member of staff can have a personalized training schedule designed purely for them. There will be a greater emotional connection with this project, so the staff member will be more invested in seeing it through and implementing their knowledge across the company and within their role. Emotional engagement matters because it encourages employees to align their personal growth with their company’s success.

In summary

In HR we know that the cost and time spent training new starters is significant and the longer we can keep employees in our workplace the better. Putting the focus on creating stronger emotional ties throughout the company will go a long way towards retaining valuable staff you can’t afford to lose.

Emotional engagement may sometimes be overlooked but it can be a key driver to an employee’s happiness, their well-being as well as their willingness to work hard for their team and each other. Staff recognition, creating a sense of belonging, and safeguarding mental well-being with open lines of communication will protect your staff’s physical health, the business overall and carve out a healthier work space for everyone to work better together.

By putting in place policies and practices that help to keep staff emotionally happy and present in their roles will then ensure business operations run smoothly. With all things considered, there is likely to be an improved workplace culture that is the fundamental building blocks to achieving improved employee emotional engagement.