The importance of employee engagement in the new normal

Feb 25, 2021



Employee engagement and well-being should be a business’ number one priority. It adds to productivity, creativity and importantly, employee satisfaction.

Which is why, as an agency, we’ve invested heavily into employee engagement, and have performed even better, in this new adaptation of normal: at home, in isolation, away from the office.

The challenges that come with that are evidenced. GWI (Global Web Index) conducted research into professionals working from home, revealing that:

  • 34% miss not having social interactions with colleagues
  • 19% struggle to manage their mental health
  • 40% struggle to maintain a work/ life balance

We want our employees to be the best that they can be. So to do this, we follow a rule of three: listening, understanding and recognising.

Lucy Ennis, Modern’s PA HR Manager explains:

“Strong relationships and a positive culture can be more difficult to foster at a distance, but both are still vital aspects of employing and retaining a talented and engaged team.

“The objective for any business should be for their culture and vision to thrive and for employee engagement to be an integral part of the company culture, even when we are working apart.

“At Modern, we want our people to thrive and we do this by creating opportunities to have meaningful connections that become part of our working life and not just one-off activities.”

Here’s how we’ve broken down the process to make sure our employees are feeling happy, motivated and connected in these unprecedented times:

1. Listening

The first stage is to listen. Having the right systems and touch-points in place to communicate, offer support and pick-up on any issues people might be experiencing. This includes work related issues or anything else.

Weekly stand ups

At Modern, we have a 30-minute stand-up meeting on Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Friday’s. The stand ups are an opportunity to share what we’re working on, any highlights and a chance to check-in and hear how each other are getting on in these difficult times.


Employees are buddied up with someone outside of their team to build a support system. We’re all hidden behind the ‘WFH screen’, so it can be hard to know if someone is struggling or missing the work-life balance. The buddy system encourages employees to take their head out of work, to reach out and support each other.


A quarterly check-in with your line-manager. To discuss how employees are coping, share wins and ways of working and set goals for the quarter. We’ve found that creating a visual goal process, split into quarters can really help motivate employees. It’s also a chance to discuss additional qualifications – something we’ve built into The Modern Academy – an educational body we’ve created to build the skills of our employees and form a learning culture.

2. Understanding

Take all feedback on-board and work towards a solution.

Walk and talk

If Zoom fatigue is getting too much or perhaps someone is struggling working in their bedroom, then we try to mix things up. This could be taking a weekly catch-up on a walk. Or, requesting a coffee and chat with a member of the team you don’t usually speak to. It’s about interacting and adding variety to your day.


A monthly company-wide Zoom call. This is a chance to outline business-wide goals, clarify KPIs, share updates and call-out outstanding performance with the whole team. For oversight, alignment and well-deserved recognition.

Having the right communication tools

We wouldn’t be a digital agency without a big fat tech stack. So to stay in contact, we use Slack, Email, Teams, Zoom, WhatsApp and more. Each tool has it’s benefits so we don’t think this is too over the top. However, the most important communication medium has to be GIFs in Slack…

Here’s the team getting excited for our ‘Virtual Happy Hour’ on the last Friday of every month:

3. Recognising

This is the action stage. We know what the team want, we’ve understood what needs to be done, and now we need to achieve it.

Knowledge-share lunches

Our employees are the agencies greatest asset. They’re always wanting to see more of each other and learn about what they’re working on. So we’ve introduced monthly “Lunch and Learns” to bring teams together, share best practice and inspire new ways of thinking.


We also hold a guided meditation “Breathing with Dax”, lead by our Head of Digital. Dax has found meditation and simple breathing techniques help keep him grounded and prepare for the week ahead. Members of the team have found this a calming and useful exercise.

Stuart Ray, Modern’s Co-Founder is a regular attendee:

“I thought that it might be a strange experience meditating with the team on a Zoom call (but thankfully we all turn off our cameras whilst we practiced), but actually I found it to be an excellent way to start the day. The Wim Hof breathing method was something I had never tried before, it was like a breath of fresh air!”

Gift boxes & subscriptions

Every day in lockdown is the same. So we’ve introduced adhoc gifting for the team. Receiving a small thank you gift, flowers, a cake on your birthday or a coffee subscription can make someone’s day.

Exercise classes

Anything is possible on Zoom. Even yoga. As part of our wellbeing offering, an external yoga teacher hosts a class on Zoom once a week for the team to get together for an exercise class. This is a chance to stretch, switch off, and add some movement into the day.

Unsung heroes

Recognising hard work and rewarding employees is even more important when working-from-home. We announce a “Star of the month” (as cliché as it sounds) and the winner receives a voucher of their choice as a reward. It’s also important to hear all of the lovely things we have to say about each other…


We’re bored of our same-old playlists and not hearing eachothers jams in the office. So we’ve created a collaborative playlist on Spotify that the team can add to.

Fun activities

As well as the above, we host ‘Friday Fun’ at the end of each working week to relax, unwind and switch-off in preparation for the weekend. There is a virtual alternative for almost everything nowadays. We’ve tried everything from:

  • bingo
  • murder mystery parties
  • wine & cheese tasting
  • awards ceremonies
  • and one too many quizzes

Help your employees to thrive

Right now, everyone is experiencing their own challenges; mentally and physically. Which is why at Modern, we see it as paramount to put extra effort into our employees wellness. Check-in with each other, encourage taking breaks, and create an ecosystem of care.

If you like to discuss any of these structures, get in touch with Lucy, our HR Manager.

Like what you see? Join our team!
We’re growing and are always looking for talent. Take a look at our open roles here.

Further reading

The Modern curve of return: develop your demand strategy

The Digital: keep ahead of the B2B digital marketing trends

The impact of the strategic skills gap in marketing technology