8 Practical employee engagement tips (on-premise staff)

Share Button

Looking for ideas for Employee Engagement during COVID?

8 Ideas For Employee Engagement

Today we’ll focus on those who can’t work from home during COVID. 


Let’s look at ideas for Employee Engagement for factories, supermarkets, hospitals, logistic workers…

When it comes to practical ideas for Employee Engagement, we showed corporate philanthropy examples that help keep morale high.

We also gave tips from users who nailed How to engage remote employees during COVID.

But what about the workers on-site?

Those blue-collar workers, or essential workers who still physically go to work every day?

What can leaders do?


1. Step out of your office: Be VISIBLE

It doesn’t matter if you lead a small team, if you’re a Line Manager or leader for the whole manufacturing site.

In times of crisis, people want to see their leaders.

They need to see visible and accessible leaders.

(And yes, they might be secretly glad that some bosses work from home, but that’s for another article.)

According to Gartner research, employees’ desire to be recognized increases by 30% during tough times and challenges.

What’s cooking right now? How’s the mood this week?

If you measure your employee mood continuously, use that insight as a starting point for your informal conversations.

Perhaps the cycles of cleaning annoy your staff, as it interrupts work?

Employee Engagement Health and Safety measures during Covid

Or when you talk with your team, you might realize that there’s resentment from workers that are physically on-site, towards the office workers who are ‘safe’ at home?

Or resentment like “I get paid peanuts to come in to work meanwhile the office staff are at home, making a lot more than me“.

Address it carefully.

Perhaps have the employees who work from home send a message to the on-premise workers? Or give a small part of their salary to the ones on-site?

Or scramble together to get yummy muffins delivered. Actions are louder than words.

Visualize as often as you can.

Take into account informal leaders that you might need to be win over within the company.

Many leaders adapt the way they communicate to make sure they reach each group.

It’s not the same to come to work for someone who is a risk-group, or someone who battles with mental wellbeing, or who has recently lost a loved one due to Covid.

Let’s stay humble.

OK, let’s look at more practical ideas for employee engagement:

2. Team Managers: Frequent check-ins

Check-in with your people. Every day.

If you’re a team leader or line manager, take the first couple of minutes of your daily shift meeting to talk about how people are doing.

This is a leadership skills example that Martin Minaric, Production Manager at METZO, uses to get his employees to open up:

“We have a daily operational meeting where we discuss the mood results from the last day, and try to see if we understand the situation. What we learned is that you have to care about, and discuss it daily.”

Face to face meetings do wonders when connecting with employees.

Perhaps think of something fun to visualize the recommended distance between your employees?

I.e. if you’re a supermarket manager, grab sweeping brushes so your team can get a feeling for how big – or small – that distance really is.

Visualize employee engagement

A visual way to indicate minimal space between employees

Make sure your team members feel comfortable to speak up.

It could be:

  • With you
  • Their nearest manager
  • Someone else they trust at work
  • Also, make sure your internal ‘whistleblowing’ systems are operational and effective


In conclusion, when you use quick feedback loops you stay close to what is happening.

If you’ve got access to the shift breakdown of your employee engagement data, you can also quickly see if one shift is responding differently for example.


Shift workers engagement ideas

How engaged are your employees?

You need to communicate more than you think, and repeat the messages a lot more in times of crisis.

When people are part of the solution, they are more likely to feel responsible for the outcome and get more engaged in the process.

For instance, one take away from BASF was that the management team’s response time to people’s concerns made employee engagement go down:

“It helped our management understand that we need to talk more with our employees about the changes we’re implementing“.

Because when managers go silent, employees pick up the slack and invent news instead. That news doesn’t tend to be very positive though…

How are people finding out about news where you work? From a posted message? From their nearest manager? Or over a shared cigarette at the loading dock?

Do they feel that you, as a company are doing enough? And as a manager?

What do YOUR employees need most during Covid-19?

3. Address the Fear

Obviously, your employees are worried. They’re worried about getting sick, about the safety of their loved ones, bringing COVID back home to their spouses and kids…

What do YOUR employees worry most about during Covid-19?

Older people might have more concerns. Or employees with auto-immune disorders that they may – or may not – have disclosed to HR or their manager.

Perhaps their husband lost their job. And they worry over income.

Many managers reassure their teams

Safety concerns are obviously a big chunk. We’re not gonna get into that here, just make sure that you comply with your country’s health and safety laws and WHO recommendations.

And prepare for post-trauma effects like depression and anxiety (particularly for those who were sick with COVID). This will most likely affect their job performance and employee engagement levels too.

Which brings us to one of the fears we hear most of: Do I still have a job here? 

4. Business transparency? Oh yes

Pretty much every industry is it hit by a COVID-effect, one way or another. Depending on your sector and financial health, your employees might have nothing to worry about.

Or the very opposite.

Your employees will judge you by how honest and transparent you are. Show short-time company goals, try to make people feel proud (see next point on how to do this). Let your people know that you NEED THEM. Now more than ever.

What do your employees talk about over coffee these days? This is the fear we hear most of: Do I still have a job here? 

What are you as a company doing to handle and improve the situation? Are you using credit lines, internal funds, government help, etc.

How about giving high-level numbers for your cash flow situation? Best or worse case scenarios to help people plan? And reassure?

One company chose to take a pay cut for everyone, instead of firing.


“We decided to move ahead and furlough everyone in the same way. This way everyone is financially impacted a bit. But no one loses their job.

After the discussion with our employees, we had a very green day. This affirmed us that the approach we took was the correct one from everyone’s perspective.”


Their current employee engagement level is 83%.

That is remarkable for a manufacturing site even without a COVID-effect.

Another interesting business recovery aspect is what your coworkers can bring to the table.

Practical employee engagement tips

Maybe they have some solid ideas?

One of our German users saw a whopping 80% of implemented improvements come from the mouths of their employees. Perhaps there are additional ideas to be considered?

Maybe you can’ get into the nitty-gritty details of your plans, but if you plan to shift production from one facility to another, etc… remember that rumour spread. Fast.

Your employees may have to do other tasks or be asked to do stuff they normally don’t. Thus, the more you make them feel involved and informed, the higher chance you’ll get them on your side.

Involve the works councils too and get everyone to think about:

  • What should we stop, start and continue doing?
  • How do they see X happen?
  • Or Y improved?

Explain WHY decisions were taken.

Why were the work schedules changed for the third time this month? The majority will understand the need for flexibility and change.

It’s about how and when you communicate it. Well, and sometimes WHO communicates it.

And if you haven’t made a decision yet, that is news! I.e. “We are still working on it”.

Good leaders are not afraid to repeat their messages.

Regarding the people who matter most, make sure you get their feedback and input. Not just the input from the loudest ones.

5. Customer Transparency (and Providers)

One of your big customers just went bust? People will quickly find out, and rumours will spread.

Even if they aren’t closing down, the market is very shaky. This breeds fear.

Again, be as transparent as you can be. Control the message or your employees will just make up their own news and start rumours.

If your sales and customer services teams are in regular contact with your customers, you could have them explain how things are going.

Get your departments to share how they are dealing with supply chain planning, market developments, the impact of productions stops at providers, etc.

Not everyone will be interested in this but hey… being transparent as possible, you and your company’s got nothing to hide.

Perhaps also avoid coming across as someone who has all the answers.

With COVID, it’s clear the situation still isn’t under control, and we simply don’t know how things will pan out. But we still make plans though, right? Keep them in the loop.

If you don’t know an answer, just be honest.

You can always come back with an answer, or a better answer, later.

6. Today’s Question: What can we do to make you feel better?

Let’s look at more ideas for employee engagement:

A lot of managers think they already know what their people need, or want.

Many are surprised when they actually ask, and find out that they were wrong. Their employee engagement tip is to be curious! And to be open to listening. Well, and learn of course.

Open up the conversations.

Ask your people what would help them. Small things matter!

How can we best support each other, as a team? What do you wish I or your team leader was doing right now?

There might be individual needs that are greater.

Perhaps organize a surprise food delivery to Jake’s parents he hasn’t seen in 2 months?

Or are they asking to keep windows open for better ventilation? Or anti-fog masks? Or N95 masks?

Are the face shields uncomfortable compared to the last model? Do they need to be changed or disinfected more often?

Or perhaps they prefer to do the temperature checks, when they enter and leave the workplace, in a different way?

People Engagement during Covid

Photo By: Danny De Angelis, NNSY Photographer

Is the feedback based on need or worries?

Address it either way. This is what people will be talking about when you’re not around. If it’s an issue for them, it’s an issue for you and your business.

Do people feel you do ENOUGH in terms of protecting their safety at work? If not, ask them to think of specific occasions when they feel like their safety isn’t a top priority.

Good leaders don’t just repeat that you care about them. They share how they practically show it: I.e updated safety processes, checking temperatures, furlough conditions, etc.

Another aspect is if your managers lead with compassion. Is there time for the human aspect at work? Do people have a buddy at work to check-in with?

Do they have the autonomy to make reasonable shift changes? Be clear on HOW decisions are made.

Be light on missteps. Sometimes we are quick to judge coworkers.

But remember, we are battle different types of challenges. No one is perfect (no, not even YOU do everything perfect hehe).

Forget what they say, observe what they do.


7. What can YOU do to make you feel better?

Encourage people to look after their mental wellbeing. It’s OK not to be OK.

When you strike a conversation with someone who’s struggling, they might not always have the answer the first time you ask them.

Let it sink in and then ask again a bit later. Or even the next day.

Perhaps they realize that it WOULD be a good idea for them to ask to work a less crowded shift?

Or perhaps they feel more in control if they are given products to clean their own workspace? (“I don’t trust that sloppy janitor!“)

Share stories of how other employees have coped by asking for help.


8. Hyper-practical ideas for employee engagement: Small Stuff

Depending on what type of manager you are, you’re gonna love or hate some of these ideas.

Find the ones that fit your personality and leadership style and your employees:


1. Draw a smiley on your face mask. Quick and fun! Or write a new word every time you change your mask?


2. Buy different masks for each of your line workers. Who always wanted a beard?

Fun face mask Covid

Note: These masks are for general public use only and are not intended for use in medical settings. 


For the brave leaders: Show up as Homer tomorrow?

Homer face mask

3. Crazy sock day. What’s not to love about this idea?

Crazy sock days ideas for leaders at work



4. Leave fun reminders where the hand sanitizers are. Tasteful jokes?

Or generate your team’s favorite song.

Hand wash lyrics

5. Post-it days. Leave post-it notes in fun places. Give clues to a riddle that can only be solved if people work together, and something where everybody wins. Hot-dog day when the employees have 40 post-it notes combined? See point 10 below.


6.  Post-it Note Wall. Inspired by the Subway Therapy which was a way to “promote stress relief, while building community, inclusion, and peaceful expression.”

Get employees to contribute with their own thoughts, ideas or messages.

Give company feedback when appropriate.

Post-it note wall

7. Offer meditation or yoga sessions, either led by a coworker who is experienced enough to lead, or use a big screen.


8. Get lunch boxes delivered. In accordance with workplace health, safety, etc. of course.


9. Do something for your local community? Dedicate time? Get involved with a food bank? Get your team/s to suggest ideas, vote and decide.


10. Organize a Hot-Dog Day. A great idea to boost employee engagement. And hey, pretty low-cost too.

Employ Engagement Activity Idea

11. Change your face masks regularly. Here’s the one to wear for HotDog Day:

Hot Dog Day Mask

12. Music to engage people? Let the team put together a Spotify list.

Put up a fun note at the entrance to let your supermarket customers know who picked it!

Aka who to blame for the terrible taste in music hehe.

Music for staff engagement


13. Breakfast with the CEO.

With social distancing! Build bridges at your workplace, during an informal meal. Ask for general feedback to see how your employees are doing lately at work. What do they need help with?

Breakfast with the CEO


14. Training or learning session. Pick something unrelated to pure work tasks. Anything that your team would like (ask 2-3 people what they think others would appreciate), that isn’t COVID related. It’s on everyone’s mind either way :)

Suggest 3, let your team vote and then organize the winning one.


15. When you just CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE

Upload a photo of your face and print a mask.

Send your neighbour, dog or kid to take your place at work.

Employee Engagement ideas for manufacturing

“The masks are uncanny and awkward, especially if people mix and match faces,” says the Danielle Baskin, creator. “N95s are kind of boring and dehumanizing.”


So those were our ideas for employee engagement! Small actions can have a great impact at work.

Employee engagement has always been a marathon, not a sprint. Looks like the same is the case for COVID.

Hang in there :)


A shorter version of this article was published on Thomasnet.com.


Smiley Feedback Terminal

Rebecca Lundin, CelpaxHej! I’m Rebecca, co-founder at Celpax. We manufacture simple tech tools to improve workplaces. And build a better society while at it. Let’s talk more ideas for employee engagement feedback on Linkedin? 

Header photo by freepik.com

Share Button