Employee Engagement in a COVID-19 Context: Exploring communicative displays of employee engagement among enforced remote workers
COVID-19 enforced remote work in a rapid and unplanned manner for a big part of the population, and the remote way of working is expected to continue beyond the pandemic. The extensive transition to working remotely has affected several aspects of organizational life and one of them concerns employee engagement which holds a dual promise of both organizational profitability and individual well-being. Research on employee engagement as a communicative behaviour suggests that employees communicate engagement both within, and outside the formal job role. However, literature regarding communicative displays of employee engagement has been limited and conducted within the frame of a physical office environment. The current study explores how employees communicatively display engagement during remote work due to COVID-19, both within and outside the formal job role. Fifteen semi-structured interviews with remote employees were conducted and analyzed using thematic analysis. Findings showed that the ways in which the participants displayed engagement was based on attempts to compensate for lack of physical presence, and to maintain personal relationships with colleagues. By using social exchange theory this study points to employee engagement being a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that can be understood through rules of reciprocity, but also as a collectively held benefit.