Employee Engagement in the Age of COVID-19

By: Michael Pope
Jul 16, 2021 9:30 AM ET

Originally published by the National Environmental Educational Foundation (NEEF)

Considering how much of our time is spent with them each week, our coworkers can sometimes feel like a second family, providing us with much-needed support and a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves. The best organizations foster this attitude and build it into their hiring practices when looking for new team members that will slot seamlessly into their existing office environment. 

But what happens when that environment is taken away, and the family you have spent so many workdays with is reduced to a handful of boxes on a computer screen? How would that change your relationship with the work you do every day? 


The tremendous impact of the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be overstated. Setting aside the (albeit massive) implications for public health, the business world is still struggling to adjust to seismic changes brought on by the abrupt pandemic lockdowns of early 2020. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), over 7 in 10 employers said adjusting to remote work during COVID-19 has been a challenge, with 2 in 3 citing low employee morale—especially those organizations with 500 employees or more. 

An unfortunate side-effect of necessary and lifesaving social distancing protocols has been an almost complete dissolution of the typical office environment—and the sense of camaraderie and engagement that comes with working among your peers. 

Dr. Alissa Campbell Shaw, senior manager of Community Engagement at International Paper (IP) (pictured at right), a leading producer of renewable fiber-based packaging, pulp, and paper, felt this impact firsthand.  

“At International Paper, we say that we’re a force for good in the communities where our employees live and work. Our employees take this to heart and bring this commitment to life through volunteering,” said Shaw. “Our typical methods for reaching out to our communities and engaging with our employees changed drastically as the realities of the pandemic set in. Understanding and working with the limitations COVID imposed enabled us to think creatively about how to help them be that force for good.”

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