Have You Been Seduced By The COVID Trap?

As more and more team members have started working from home as a result of the lockdown, great leaders have been taking the time to check in with them and ensure that they are staying engaged and motivated.

As a result, many businesses have seen their employee engagement scores increase at this time. According to Engagement Multiplier, engagement levels have risen 5% since the start of the COVID quarantine.

But why is this? Have team members suddenly become more engaged? At first thought, one might think the results are in some way paradoxical, but on closer examination it is apparent that as leaders have gone into crisis management in response to the pandemic, team members have become unified behind the common enemy, COVID-19.

And this is the COVID trap. Higher engagement scores make leaders feel that they are doing a great job, but the reality is that this engagement is just temporary as, in effect, COVID-19 has replaced the purpose of an organization and this is why team members are now galvanized and pulling in the same direction.

One of the other reasons that leaders may be blinded by this fact is that leadership communication has changed in the last few months.

  1. Tone – changes in the message tone and volume impact employee engagement.
  2. Frequency – many leaders have increased their frequency of communication, in some cases to daily updates.
  3. Structure – leadership communication has become clearer and more structured.
  4. Content – many leaders have become more empathetic and, as a result, their communications have focused more on team member well-being than is the norm.

As a result, team members feel more cared for and acknowledged than they have in the past. This represents an opportunity for leaders to recognize that team members value leadership that values them and cares for their well-being. The team also appreciates the increased communication and transparency of what is being said, as opposed to the old-style office politics emails. And therefore it is paramount that leaders leverage this knowledge and solicit team members’ feedback on what is working well for them right now, so that actions can be changed in the future.

There are five COVID trap indicators:

  1. Finding new ways to work more efficiently from home
  2. Going the extra mile to retain clients
  3. Embracing necessary changes quickly and following them through to make happen
  4. Spending extra time to encourage and connect with co-workers
  5. Employees and management teams working harder to respond quicker

And ironically these are also the same characteristics of an Engaged Workforce that is aligned behind a common purpose.

So how do leaders identify if they have been seduced by the COVID Trap?

  1. Observe – what behaviors are occurring that are outside the norm? What are team members doing differently?  What innovations are now occurring? How are people behaving differently? What has surprised you? What can be harnessed from this situation that can be used to propel the business forward in the future?
  2. Ask – collect feedback from the team on how they really feel. Ask a mix of reflective, present, and future questions to get some well-rounded information on the pulse of the team.

Based on this feedback you may feel the need to revisit the purpose of the organization. In my experience, many people are using this “pause” to re-evaluate their priorities, and I would not be surprised if a raft of people change jobs in the near future as they begin to appreciate that the 90 min commute, for example, has not been serving them and has impacted their well-being.

And as more employees recognize they want to make a contribution, the pressure will be on employers to have crystal clear clarity on the purpose of the organization, why it exists, and the contribution each team member makes to it. This makes good business sense too, because according to research from E&Y prior to COVID:

  • 85% of purpose-driven companies saw growth in revenues
  • 42% with no purpose saw revenue drop
  • 77% of millennials choose workplaces based on Purpose

Therefore, the solution to avoiding the COVID trap is to gather feedback from your team members in order to accurately learn from the past, confidently act in the present, so that you can thrive in the future.


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