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Five Considerations for Managing Personal Engagement Now

As communities around the world respond to the coronavirus pandemic, many of us are facing jobs, communities, and homes that look radically different than they did a few months ago. Remote work. Children adjusting to distance learning. Shrinking investments. Impending layoffs or reduced hours. Daily tallies of the number of people “testing positive.” Bare shelves at the grocery store.

Although I have telecommuted for 20 years and I write about engagement in the virtual workplace, I can’t tell you how to manage your conference calls when your 12-year-old starts playing with the dog instead of doing school work. I can provide ideas for managing personal engagement in this up-ended world of work. This is not a primer on every factor that influences employee engagement (we have a book about that). This is my list of what to draw on today:

Buffers. Buffers are activities that help you step out of a situation to gain distance and perspective. They help you clear your head and move from swirling emotions to productive action. We explore five buffers in our Your Career program: physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, and social. Don’t worry about the labels. Think instead about the activities that help you regroup and fuel your resilience. Modify them for your socially distanced reality. Exercise? Find an online workout you can follow at home. Talking with friends? Video chat or set up a virtual wine and whine. Journaling? An activity made for social distancing! Spiritual practices? Stream. Many churches, synagogues, and mosques are holding virtual services. Also, try a guided meditation app.

An engagement GPS. It’s hard to move forward in your personal engagement when you don’t know your starting point. Our X model can help you reflect on where you are and why, so you can determine what to do. The model defines full employee engagement as the intersection of maximum contribution for your organization and maximum satisfaction for you as an individual. Simply put: It’s when you give and get as much as you can. My hunch: No one is experiencing maximum anything these days (except, perhaps, stress).

Priorities. You can’t achieve full engagement if you don’t know what maximum contribution looks like. As businesses and agencies determine how to respond to the pandemic, work priorities will change. You may have taken on additional tasks already. So it’s time to prioritize. What’s most important now? Talk to your manager. Shift your focus. Agree on what you won’t work on. Check in regularly to recalibrate.

An updated play book. It’s one thing to clarify work priorities, but results (and your engagement) will elude you if you don’t define how to work together now. If you’re working remotely, think beyond what technology to use to how you’ll use it. Talk with your manager and teammates. How often will your team connect? When should you instant message, call, email, or video conference? (Some people, for example, may assume a phone call equals escalation, especially if they’re used to stopping by your desk to ask a question.) How will people adjust their schedules to handle altered responsibilities at home?

Your talents: I explored employee engagement in the aftermath of 9/11 and through the Great Recession. One critical theme: People consistently stepped up to deliver for their organization and community. This is the time to take inventory of your unique capabilities, dust them off if they’ve been shelved, and use them. Where can you make an impact now? Which of your skills and knowledge can really make a difference? Share your ideas. Make them happen. Achievements in difficult times fuel personal satisfaction and organizational results—just what we all need right now.

A parting thought: Resist the temptation to crawl under the covers and wait for leaders to tell you what to do or for things to return to normal. Do something to manage your engagement now. You don’t have to venture out of the house, stand in line, or pay a premium to stock up on metaphorical engagement supplies. You’ve got this. Reflect on what’s important to you and your employer. Talk to your manager and teammates. Take action—wherever you are.

If you lead others… Leah Clark’s recent blog Eight Insights for Leaders if COVID-19 Requires Your Team to Work Remotely has some practical tips for taking care of your team.

If you want to learn more… check out our Taking Control of Your Engagement program and tools.

About the Authors

Mary Ann Masarech

Mary Ann Masarech spent the first third of her career writing, designing, and marketing skills training for top-notch consulting firms. She acquired a broad base of instructional design and client experience building learning experiences in sales, negotiations, account management, customer service, selection interviewing and leadership skills. The programs she designed were all about the “how.” (When “X” happens, do “A, B, C.”) When she joined GP Strategies’ BlessingWhite division in 2000, Mary Ann began to explore worlds beyond skills: The internal workings of individual learners – expressed as personal values and goals, the puzzling workings of organizational culture, and the often complicated dynamics of trust and relationships at work. She quickly realized there was no going back. As Lead Consultant for BlessingWhite’s Engagement Practice, Mary Ann creates practical tools and strategies that clients worldwide apply to create successful businesses and thriving workplaces. Think of her approach as "research meets real world." She is passionate about great days at work – where individuals experience the highest levels of personal satisfaction, apply their skills to what matters most, and deliver their best work to drive their employers’ strategies. As lead consultant, she also works with senior HR and business leaders on how to take meaningful action on engagement survey results to drive organizational performance. She is co-author of The Engagement Equation: Leadership Strategies for an Inspired Workforce (Wiley, Oct 2012), has written numerous research reports and articles, and is a well-regarded speaker on the leader’s role in engagement and building a culture of engagement. Mary Ann's commitment to meaningful lives and meaningful work extends beyond her day job. She is a founding member of the Norma Pfriem Urban Outreach Initiatives, a not-for-profit that addresses food insecurity (serving 10,000 meals a year) and education of underserved adults and children. She is a graduate of Wesleyan University. She enjoys her mostly-empty nest with her husband, 2 cats and a dog, cooking, reading and running (not simultaneously) in her spare time.


  1. Rhoda Pitts
    • August 6, 2021

    I especially love this part under Priorities. You can’t achieve full engagement if you don’t know what maximum contribution looks like. This is so very true and important when determining what to focus on.


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