With many businesses in lockdown and employees working from home, now is a critical time to understand your employees’ needs and experiences to help them through this global pandemic.

In our latest episode of The Best Run Podcast, I spoke with Steve Bennetts, Head of Growth and Strategy – Employee Experience APJ at Qualtrics, to discuss how COVID-19 is changing the ways we work and communicate with one another.

Steve has 20 years’ experience in organisational psychology, working with organisations across the region to help plan out their employee strategies, build their listening programs, and offer strategic support to help business leaders understand their employees’ experience.

“Employee experience is helping organisations understand that the experiences that their employees are having day to day can impact positively or negatively on the way the employee thinks,” Steve explained. “As a result of that, those behaviour and attitudes of the employee can then impact on productivity. We look at those experiences and experience data that are impacting on people’s lives.”

According to Steve, other critical elements of employee experience include understanding employee engagement or the potential variances between job descriptions and actual experience of those in the role, which is vital for creating seamless hiring and onboarding processes for new employees.

Steve noted that organisations have been digitalising their listening programs, creating a regular cadence for surveying employees and understanding experience gaps – today, it’s about understanding that experience from home.

“We need to talk to our employees and find out some fundamental things that we can help with them,” Steve said. “Ask is your communication strategy suitable; are you communicating with them enough; do employees need you to communicate more or less; what’s the leadership like, are they interacting with employees enough; have employees got the right equipment at home to enable them to do their jobs; what’s happening with the team dynamics and are you ensuring it’s working?

“And what’s happening with your end customers,” Steve continued. “How are you feeding this information back to your customers? All of this is critical now, so you should be gathering that data and pivot your listening program towards those data points.”

Steve says businesses should be collecting any data that can help improve employee experience. “There may be some really great experiences and we want to capture that data and then let other people know how to replicate that,” he expressed. “We also want to intervene quickly in those experiences that are impacting on people’s health, wellbeing, and overall productivity.”

According to Steve, during crises employees want to see their company is looking after and caring for them, which is why asking about employee engagement now would seem tone deaf. “You should not be running your engagement survey right now; you should be pivoting your tool, you should be listening, and collecting data around the cons, around leadership, around people’s health and safety, around team dynamics, and around the customer. We should 100-percent be listening, surveying our people, but we can’t be using the same methodology.”

Steve noted the importance of being able to move and adapt quickly, as he saw within his own organisation. “Qualtrics moved about three weeks ago to working remotely, but like most other organisations we also didn’t think about what it means for our workforce and what some of those gaps would be.”

Qualtrics Remote Work Pulse is a working-remote solution free and readily available for businesses that need assistance in understanding employee experience during this global pandemic. “Remote Work Pulse allows us to go out on scale and listen across our organisation,” Steve explained, “gather some data about how employees feel about the organisation, and how confident they feel about the organisation looking after their health and wellbeing.”

Steve suggested employees and leaders should regularly communicate, run online sessions through digital resources like Slack, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams. “For leaders, it used to be really easy to go up to the desk of your team member check what’s going on in a very quick and informal discussion, he added.

“Now, the informal discussions are now formal, and you have to find time in someone’s calendar to have a five-minute chat or briefly ask about something. There is a bit of dynamic shift and change to be conscious of, so it helps to be vocal about it within the team.

“For those in leadership, this is your time to show employees how much you care, how much you want to help enable them, how much you want to focus on what you can do to get through this patch with clear communication.”

From an employee perspective, Steve highlighted the importance of taking regular breaks and maintaining communication. “For us, as employees, be kind to yourself, look after your team members, reach out, say hello, and interact with others,” he suggested.

“In relation to your health, you can’t sit in one spot for eight or nine hours all day long like I’ve caught myself doing; go for a walk, if you can, around the block or around your house if you need to. Remember, this is a short-term problem that we’re all working through – it’s not going to go on for the rest of our lives; there will be an endpoint, so keep that in mind.”

Check out The Best Run Podcast series and listen to the latest episode for more information on how to stay safe, engaged, and flexible during this time of uncertainty.

This article originally published on Linkedin.