Boosting productivity and morale from afar: 16 Ways to Keep Your Remote Team Engaged
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The Great Resignation, the Big Quit, or the Reshuffle – whatever you may call it – is an ongoing economic trend and a reality impacting organizations around the globe. Employers are looking for ways and mean to retain employees and trying to demonstrate investment and commitment to the same.  

But the majority of the global workforce doesn’t feel engaged at work. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report states that 85% of employees aren’t engaged in the workplace. 

Another 2021 study reveals that 73% of employees would consider leaving their job for the right offer, and 50% were ready to leave their jobs if they were not offered a hybrid workplace model. 

And not all employees would consider a job change for a salary hike. 74% of the young employees would go for their ideal job despite a pay cut, and 23% would accept a new position without any change in compensation. 

The engagement challenges that have risen with remote work and hybrid work culture are new and must be tackled differently. 

Dr. Hobson from Emotive Technologies says,  “trying to increase employee engagement with money alone would be a difficult (and very expensive) endeavor compared to leading change to foster higher levels of fit.”   

As such, employers feel the need to create engagement for their employees, regardless of their location or employment status, for building growth and optimizing costs in the modern enterprise. 

But what constitutes employee engagement, especially in the remote work setup, and what are the ways to keep the remote employees engaged at work? Let’s find out. 

What is Employee Engagement? 

Different experts and research companies give different definitions for employee engagement. 

Gallup defines engaged employees as “those who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace.”

Willis Towers Watson refers to employee engagement as “employees’ willingness and ability to contribute to company success.” 

And Quantum Workplace defines employee engagement as “the strength of the mental and emotional connection employees feel toward their places of work.”

To put a comprehensive definition into perspective – employee engagement can be defined as the emotional commitment an employee has to the organization and its values. Engaged employees are actively involved in the implementation of organizational goals and achievements.

Interestingly, a happy or satisfied employee cannot be considered engaged. They may be happy with the perks they may be getting but are they engaged with their roles and dedicated enough to deliver success? 

Engaged employees feel a sense of pride and connection with their work and organization.  

Why is Employee Engagement Essential? 

Katie Brennan, HR knowledge advisor at the Society for Human Resource Management, says, “When employees are engaged, they are more productive, loyal, and committed, which improves employee retention, customer satisfaction, and an organization’s overall financial health.”

Employees who are not engaged at work view their organization negatively or do the bare minimum to get their work done with barely any commitment to the company goals or emotional attachment. Such workers hardly take responsibility for their attitude or own their mistakes. Instead, they drain the overall productivity of the workplace. On average, in the US, disengaged employees cost organizations $450-$550 billion annually. 

Conversely, Another Gallup study stated that an organization with an engaged workforce of 10,000 could save up to $16.1 million in turnover annually. 

The impact of engagement in the workplace is real and substantial. The effect is more conspicuous as more remote workers become part of the hybrid workforce. In the last 5 years, remote workers have grown by 44%. Studies suggest that remote workers feel far less engaged than their physical counterparts. 

According to Forbes, employees who work remotely felt less engaged by 182% than their physical or hybrid counterparts. However, companies are taking initiatives, allocating budgets, and introducing technologies and applications to improve communication and engagement at work for remote and Hybrid work employees. 

Employers can utilize hundreds of new and innovative engagement ideas to deliver engagement and make happy and productive remote work employees. This article summarizes some top employee engagement ideas for working from home.  

16 Virtual Employee Engagement Ideas  

Human capital, or the people that make up any organization, is its most valuable asset. Their significance and the need to keep them engaged and happy at work are being realized more than ever. Fun and entertainment constitute only 5% of employee engagement. A good virtual employee engagement strategy has to be built from grounds-up.    

Here is a mix of fun and serious engagement ideas that organizations can use to build engagement for employees working from home. 

#1 Celebrate work accomplishments 

The best motivation for any work is the act of appreciation that follows. And likely so, a happy, productive, and committed employee is one whose work is recognized and appreciated. 

Now, recognition programs are a vital part of employee engagement initiatives in organizations. Research shows that 80% of employees surveyed would work harder if appreciated and were 6x more likely to stay in their jobs. 

Employers should celebrate individual and team milestones, no matter how small they are. For instance, At Cision, there are designated Slack channels where the team and individual accomplishments of the employees are celebrated.   

#2 Re-orientations for the remote setup 

While HR people can’t stress the importance of onboarding new hires enough, companies confess, it is harder to retain than hire them. Additionally, an organization may undergo shifts and changes in composition over time during an employee’s career. 

These shifts make it necessary to reorient employees about the changes and what they need to learn to adapt quickly. During the pandemic and after it, most organizations underwent changes in their policies, work culture, structures, and team setups, with remote work becoming a norm. 

Companies can organize re-orientation programs or training for employees to provide them with a clean slate and let them approach work from a new perspective. For instance, Kahoot’s 360-degree Spirit tool provides a great platform for employees to engage and attend training from anywhere, anytime, and on any device.      

#3 Meets and Greets 

There can be many kinds of meets and greets serving official or personal motives, one-on-one, small group sessions, or C-suite level meetings with executives. Meetings and greeting sessions help to keep the employees in the loop and make them feel more involved at all levels. 

To manage a hybrid workforce and infuse collaboration, meetings become one of the major channels where employees interact, discuss, and share goals and targets. Companies should ensure that the time spent in meetings is productive and leads to higher engagement levels. 

 As per the 2021 State of Meetings report, there was an increase in team socialization meetings by 10%, while one-on-one meetings increased by 18% during the pandemic. 

For personal greet events or chats, chatting apps, social media, and separate channels on office apps like Slack serve the water cooler chat area in the virtual setup. The time spent together fosters a connection between the members, and they feel more belonging to the company. 

These meet and greets may take the form of virtual coffee breaks, townhall or focus groups, open office hours, and informal interviews as icebreakers between the employees. These sessions also benefit higher management which gets a peek into the experiences and expectations of the average employee.  

#4 Improve communication channels 

This engagement idea is the most basic yet critical factor affecting employee engagement. With the nature of work having changed, the NBER (National Bureau of Economic Research) found that meetings, communication, and workday hours were the most impacted elements. Most of the meetings that were conducted focused on virtual socialization and maintaining team and individual connections. 

To successfully implement plans and policies and adopt performance tools suitable for the virtual work environment, employees need to understand the why and how of everything related to work. 

To facilitate communication in a hybrid work setup, tools such as Slack for team communication, Asana and Milanote for project management, Zoom for video conferencing,  and GoCo for HR and payroll benefits can come in handy. 

The communication channels should be transparent and accessible to all, allowing quick grievance handling and settlement of disputes. Also, higher management must make it a norm to discuss the current performance and the future plans and vision of the company with the employees to keep them engaged and involved. 

#5 Team Celebrations and Personal Milestones

Remote workers need team spirit and bonding to achieve work results and gather collaboration. People and their dynamics should come under one motive for achieving set goals and success in a project. 

And when such success arrives, companies should make it a point to bring together the team members and let them celebrate, whether through virtual parties or physical tours, to help them bond on a personal level. 

Companies should set aside a budget for such events specifically. In the remote work scenario, these initiatives could be a video game team event or a visit to a resort. 

Similar to career-focused achievements, personal goals such as birthdays, promotions, and work anniversaries shouldn’t be neglected. It’s time companies celebrated their people and use it to strengthen the company culture.

#6 Virtual team building activities

These team-building activities, once initiated, can fast become a norm in a working setup devoid of personal or face-to-face interaction. Teams can hang out together over fun chats or activities like knowledge swaps, where coworkers learn from each other and learn new subjects and skills. 

These fun activities include open mic events, game events, data exchange, teaching lessons, or any other fun interactive activity. Employers can also set up an advertisement board where employees may pin their lessons or activities like guitar playing, coding, gaming, pet days, and other interest areas, encouraging clubs and communities within the official setup. 

These team-building activities help employees to know each other better, appreciate each other as a person, and develop team spirit while cherishing being part of a lively community. A happy worker, after all, is a productive worker. 

And research shows that workers tend to look for other jobs if their peers are doing so. By keeping the employees and teams engaged, companies can avoid these domino effects building and explode into bigger issues.    

#7 Virtual coffee breaks and happy hours 

Coffee breaks aren’t restricted to physical offices. Companies can ensure dedicated breaks where employees brew a coffee or their favorite drink as part of the custom and sit together and chit-chat via video conferencing tools. 

Regular, small breaks between work can be refreshing and help employees get back to work feeling more rejuvenated and enthused. Similar to coffee breaks, there can be happy hours when employees are encouraged to set aside their work and interact with each other to know each other better.

Employees get a chance to interact with members outside their teams, find common interests, and build connections. For instance, Bitly organizes ‘lunch and learn’ per week, encouraging employees to gather together to foster learning and community building.  

#8 Wellness perks and Incentives 

Reports suggest that 73% of remote workers today suffer from stress and burnout. Disconnectivity from coworkers leads to increased loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Office perks, in the case of remote work, should deviate from the cliche. Employers must offer meaningful perks that employees will truly use and benefit from. 

These perks may be the flexibility to work from home or the office for the least number of days, unlimited PTOs, lunches and outings once a week, meditation classes, and other wellness programs to help employees relieve stress and feel at home while at work.        

#9 Strong company culture 

A company with a strong culture has employees who clearly understand what is expected of them and what goals they are working hard to achieve.  Such employees live the company philosophy in their day-to-day work life and remain motivated and engaged. 

The employees remain connected to the company’s mission and adopt a positive approach to work. Individual passion translates into teamwork, passion, and perseverance to contribute to the success of the company. Employees who think the company’s success will ultimately lead to their own success are truly engaged. 

Organizational culture and employee engagement are interconnected and are driving issues for HR professionals and leaders around the globe. A company culture rooted in diversity, equity, and inclusivity is healthy and supportive and can be called a high-performance culture, as employees tend to be proactive in their work.   

#10 Role clarity and flexibility 

Role clarity, or having a clear idea about where employees fit in the organization and how their work contributes to the success of organizational motives, helps them realign their personal motives with that of the company. 

Rather than making them believe themselves as invisible cogs in the wheel, it is pertinent that managers help employees realize their status and contribution in the hierarchy of the company. 

A step ahead of this would be the flexibility of roles. A report states that role flexibility in the workplace can improve employee satisfaction by 87%, productivity by 71%, and retention by 61%. Reciprocally, 75% of employees consider workplace flexibility as the top benefit. 

HR should allow lateral flexibility in roles for young employees to decide their perfect career path and help them map their careers based on the same.    

#11 Work-life balance 

Workplace Trends report found that 45% of employees feel their job doesn’t give them work-life balance. The ratio becomes more skewed when remote and hybrid workers are involved. To counter the dissatisfaction, work-life balance is being addressed more than ever today, with 60% of the firms spending as high as $20,000 on work-life benefits.  

HR professionals can consider paid time off, work hour flexibility, and the freedom to work from anywhere as a robust model for maintaining a work-life balance. HR should recognize and value employees as individuals having a personal life and motives of their own. Work-life balance, in turn, can be a great factor in increasing employee engagement at work in work-from-home scenarios.   

#12 Value-based employee recognition 

While 80% of organizations claim to have an employee engagement strategy, most recognize employee performance figures and punctuality. Companies should consider designing employee recognition programs based on the core values and vision that define the company.  

Such recognition programs help employees identify themselves and their work in line with the company values, strengthening and deepening their sense of belongingness. This tactic also shows them these core values in action, which they learn to follow and live in their workdays.  

#13 Mentoring and growth opportunities 

Feedback is a great indicator for measuring the type and level of engagement of remote employees, and employees also feel involved, valued, and motivated when their feedback is appreciated. Such feedback can be collected via surveys, feedback forms, and one-on-one sessions with founders, and analyzed to measure the gaps and the need for mentoring or training sessions. 

A training session may appear to be a boring idea, but when employees understand the technology, the project they will be handling next, and the need to upskill themselves continuously, they can optimize the tools to their advantage, improve their performance, and feel productive and satisfied at work. 

Growth opportunities like promotions, lateral movements to more favorable and better departments, seminars and free access to courses, etc., can be great opportunities where employees can be engaged for personal motives and show them that the company cares for their growth and cares for them. 

#14 Office ‘Bucket’ Lists 

Bucket lists, or more precisely Clock-It lists, are lists that employees can use to write things they want to accomplish before they clock out instead of the usual ‘things to do before you kick the bucket.’ 

Depending on the wishlist, these Clock-It lists may have a time period of a day, a week, or a month. Employees should be encouraged to take the initiative and complete their list as well as their fellows’ in the stipulated time. 

These lists can be as basic and as quirky as the employee wants. From getting a high five from a CEO, helping someone in the department, lunching with a coworker, attending training, giving compliments, taking breaks, to even proposing to their colleague – the lists can get colorful and interesting. 

The contents of the list can be checkboxes, and those completing the tasks they set for themselves in the list can be rewarded for the same.   

#15 Farewell and Acknowledgements 

A yearly awards night when the employees are acknowledged and appreciated for their contributions and achievements can be a great way to make the employees feel recognized and wanted at work. These events may be conducted in person or via virtual setups like Kahoot. 

These awards nights can also be the moment to celebrate company achievements with the employees. Faction is a company that regularly hosts annual awards where employees get nominated and win exciting prizes. 

Giving farewell to employees when they leave and celebrating their achievements can help connect the emotional bond of the existing and past employees with the company.  

#16 Community building 

At the individual level, birthdays, anniversaries, etc., should be acknowledged as holidays. And once in a while, a day should be allotted when workers can enjoy themselves with their families, catch their favorite movie, or catch up on some sleep. 

At the group level, initiatives should be taken to build communities so that workers may interact beyond work. A peer reward system like the one at Zappos could be a great example. There are four ways employees can reward each other, including programs where employees earn Zappos money and spend it however they like. There’s another program where employees can gift each other the best parking spaces in the office parking lot. 

In remote work, these physical activities can be substituted with virtual events like concerts or stand-up shows and other engagement activities like book exchange, themed days, etc., that help foster communities.  

Employers should use meetings for the benefit of the employees and remove any unnecessary ones to cut short the working time, especially in the case of remote workers. Efforts should be made to introduce the in-house team to the remote team to help break the ice and get conversations started. Departmental exchanges can also be a good initiative for community building. 

Wrap-Up 

The above list of virtual employee engagement ideas isn’t exhaustive, but it marks some significant gestures and initiatives that make employees feel cared for, imbibe competence via learning, and improve and boost their career trajectory. 

This 3C model of engagement (Career, Competence & Care) can help foster the dedication, passion, and commitment in the employees to engage and retain them, ultimately leading to success in the long term. Employee engagement, though not a new concept ideating employee policies and work culture, has gained much more prominence as workforce trends shift toward the hybrid model. 

A good virtual employee engagement strategy can lend an organization an edge, reduce employee turnover rates, and set it apart from its competitors.     

FAQs on Employee Engagement for Remote Teams

How do remote employees improve engagement?

Employers and organizational policies can be crucial for remote employees to help them improve their engagement levels. Employees can improve engagement by building healthy relationships with their fellows, maintaining work-life balance, getting recognition and appreciation for their work, and engaging in team-building activities. 

What are the five engagement strategies? 

While there are many tricks and tips to build employee engagement levels, the strategies that underlay these initiatives include – Considering employee wellbeing at the workplace, valuing employee feedback, setting up robust communication channels, empowering employees, and acknowledging their efforts. 

What are the top 3 things you will do to improve employee engagement & retention during the WFH situation? 

Work From Home or WFH situation relies a lot on the tools and technologies employees use to collaborate and communicate with each other. When given the right tools and knowledge for the implementation of the same, engagement levels in remote work can be enhanced. 

Besides, efforts to encourage employees to socialize and build bonds and recognize and appreciate them for their performance and other milestones can be three crucial steps to improve employee engagement and retention. 

What are the three Cs of employee engagement?

The three Cs of employee engagement are as follows: 
1. Career: opportunity to grow career-wise via promotions, rotations, and assignments. 
2. Competence: Opportunities to grow one’s competence to learn and improve while on the job. 
3. Care: day-to-day gestures and initiatives that make employees feel cared for. 

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