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5 Key things leaders should do to build engagement, inclusion, and productivity in their workforces in a post-COVID workplace

In a post-COVID world where we will be increasingly embracing Work From Home (WFH) and feeling less secure and connected – how can we create an environment where we connect deeply, engage with each other, increase productivity and profitability?

Sep 08, 2020

COVID has meant most workplaces have been working from home or remotely for the past 6 months. This has led to a new way of working that we have all been forced to adapt to and in many cases have found to be as effective as 5 days in the office. 

However – with one in five employees surveyed by LinkedIn saying they intend to continue working from home until they feel more comfortable being around others in a workplace setting, how should businesses and leaders keep their teams feeling engaged, included and productive? 

1. Communicate with gratitude and Celebrate the little wins 

Communication as they say is key – and in times of uncertainty where leaders do not have all the answers, the ability to communicate with gratitude is a skill that will reap benefits in time. 

      • Communicate often to colleagues, customers and stakeholders – be transparent about the lack of certainty but provide certainty about the lack of transparency – share the things that you can, acknowledge the things you cannot, and provide support and autonomy to empower decision-making throughout the organisation.
      • Pay extra attention to new and junior staff – they haven’t had the time to bond with colleagues in the way that experienced and senior staff have been able to. The best leaders know that this ‘relationship time’ has to be structured in, for it to be effective, and for colleagues to feel supported.
      • Celebrate the little wins when you can! The small wins build momentum and the big wins will follow. They don’t need to be physical or financial – a little thought and gratitude goes a long way – using something like Tribute to show appreciation for your colleagues can make a meaningful impact.
2. Focus on amplifying the ‘downtime’ or ‘interstitial’ moments of the day 

In COVID times where we are working away from the vibe of a team, our mental wellbeing and physical health can be neglected. We don’t have the same ability to connect or to be exposed to the moments of creativity and opportunity sparked by chance conversations with colleagues over a coffee: 

      • Focus on opportunities to engage during meal times and breaks in the WFH environment. How can you make the most of these ‘interstitial’ moments when you’re not in the same location? With tools like Teemyco colleagues can join virtual rooms to hang out in – technology is available to help amplify the watercooler moments.
      • Add more ‘downtime’ by structuring in group wellbeing sessions and create safe spaces where people can come together either virtually or in a small group bubble.
3. Use the power of food to build your company culture, community and connections – 

Food connects people – it fuels the social energy for teams to perform. Google has long known the importance of food by providing free food to their employees. However, in a post COVID world that is recessionary with limited catering options – companies will be looking for COVID safe and more cost-effective ways. 

Food can be a powerful way to build your company culture as people share stories and connect in ways that are more than just about work. We know that teams that eat together perform up to 20% better (Cornell Study into Fire Brigade teams), so if you can have colleagues cooking for each other, the level of connection and trust that can be built far exceeds any number of expensive team building off-site days. Not to mention if we eat more healthy food – the cost of sick days and underperformance is reduced significantly. 

      • Provide healthier options through work – switch out the soft drinks and sugary snacks for more natural, wholesome and plant-based options.
      • Use a platform like Lunch.Co where colleagues can buy and sell home cooked meals from each other – colleagues connect more meaningfully with each other through the platform as they share the passion for food while both saving and earning money.
      • Set up one-on-one lunches for more meaningful conversations – take the opportunity to set up a buddy/mentor-mentee system or even random pairings of colleagues through Lunchtime roulette.
      • From a safety perspective, use more contactless food options – this is available through Lunch.Co, or smart vending like Convini and the new Mr Lee’s noodle kiosks. 
      • Ignite the passion and discover your cooking stars through a COVID-Safe Pot Luck event to kickstart Lunch & Learns or online Fika.
4. Deliberately architect ways to engage and include colleagues socially 

As we return to a hybrid work environment, we need to consciously architect ways to engage and include colleagues. It is too easy to slip through the gaps and for colleagues to feel disconnected and isolated. As leaders this is the time to show care and compassion. 

      • Structure in group social sessions during working hours – try anything from a light hearted pop quiz run via Kahoot to Virtual Afterwork Online tastings and group online yoga sessions.
      • Book it in – treat it like any other meeting or Zoom session but it needs to be led by example from the top to set the tone.
      • Bizarrely, the most effective way is for it to be mandatory – but it works if colleagues understand that it is as important as your ‘work’ time.
5. Have a Clear Plan of Action that allows for Flexibility
      • As a leader, have a clear set of objectives and plan – always much harder in uncertain times when information changes daily. Teams need to operate with a high degree of ambiguity and this needs flexibility to incorporate new information effectively.
      • The Army uses what it calls ‘Warning Orders’ where the latest thinking and information is provided to the front lines as soon as it is available. By having a set of principles by which the front line can adjust their plans according to local conditions, they have the flexibility to make the best decision in the moment. 

With these points in mind, businesses who lead with care and compassion for the individual; who express gratitude and communicate through the uncertainty with flexibility and support; and who use the power of food to connect and build teams – will be well placed. They will not just survive, but also thrive through the coming months, with their teams intact, energised and performing, ready for the new normal, whatever it becomes! 


Lunch.Co – We are a marketplace platform for colleagues to buy and sell home cooked meals from each other in the workplace. 

We help connect colleagues more deeply through the power of food, so if we can help to connect your teams and inspire them through the joy of food at work – contact us at Lunch.Co.


Thank you for taking the time to read this article, if you are excited to hear more, make sure to tune in to Back to the Office Digital Summit on Sept 9-10 and hear out some amazing speakers! 
Thank you!