Miles to Go in Corporate Quest for Employee Engagement

March 6, 2023 • John Salustri

Adaptation to what is commonly called the post pandemic “new normal” is top-of-mind for building owners and managers and the corporate tenants they serve. As BOMA International’s 2022 COVID-19 Commercial Real Estate Impact Study indicated, 65% of nationwide tenants surveyed stated that COVID-19 is transforming workplaces.

Key to that transformation will be boosting employee engagement, which at the end of the year was disappointingly low. In fact, reports Gallup in its “6 Trends Leaders Need to Navigate This Year,” by Ben Wigert and Ryan Pendell, last year started with engagement slipping to a seven-year low–with only “32% of employees engaged and 17% actively disengaged” (meaning they are disgruntled and disloyal due to unmet needs). Throughout the year, engagement levels remained largely unchanged. That translates to a global productivity loss of $7.8 trillion–11% of the global GDP. 

Folded into that lack of engagement is the worrisome state of employee wellbeing. Three in 10 US employees report being burned out “very often” or “always,” says Gallup. And four in 10 stated their jobs negatively impacted their mental health. It is not surprising, then, that “only 24% of employees strongly agree that their employer cares about their wellbeing.”

Now for the Good News


While employee disengagement is a constant threat, it is not a universal diagnosis, and in both the Gallup and BOMA researches, employers embracing hybrid work have already taken their first step to righting the corporate ship. In fact, companies that have embraced both engagement and employee wellbeing have doubled the degree of engagement from 2022 findings. 

“Reinvigorating your company culture with a focus on employee engagement and wellbeing -- particularly through better manager support and training–will have the biggest positive impact on our disrupted workplaces,” says Gallup, which points to hybrid work as a lynchpin in that strategy. 

Comparing BOMA’s 2022 survey with that of the year prior, respondents’ support for increased telework remained stable, “and investments will continue in that area, with strong support increasing slightly to 55%.” As they should, since Gallup sees six in ten fully remote workers and one third of hybrid workers “extremely likely,” to seek other positions should their current employers decide to back away from remote work. 

But hybrid work protocols are only a start. Gallup’s Jim Harter, in “US Employee Engagement Needs a Rebound in 2023,” sets out further engagement tools for managers to consider: 

First, “Establish on-site days as Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday,” he writes, not as policy, but simply to reflect employee preference.

Also, “hold one meaningful conversation per week with each employee–15 to 30 minutes,” says Harter. This provides the opportunity to check in on goals, wellbeing, and recognition. It also goes far toward ensuring a sense of employee connectivity. Done well, such conversations “bring clarity and purpose to work.” He also suggests conducting a Gallup Culture Audit to evaluate organizational strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. 

Owners and managers, of course, can play a vital role in supporting corporate tenants’ drive toward greater engagement, which, to be fully implemented, also needs to include office environments redesigned for wellbeing. The BOMA survey revealed that, indeed, 78% of employers felt comfortable returning to the office as did 76% of the people who work for them. But they are also seeking ways to adapt their offices for remote and hybrid work, and they are working with building management to brainstorm ways to make buildings, common rooms, and other amenities more welcoming. 

No doubt, corporate managers who dig in their heels on in-office-only rules stand to lose the engagement game to their competitors. On the other hand, those who can merge freedom of movement and environments that cater to engagement and wellbeing will emerge the winners.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Salustri is editor-in-chief of Salustri Content Solutions, a national editorial advisory firm based in East Northport, New York. He is best known as the founding editor of Prior to launching, Salustri was editor of Real Estate Forum.