The Coronavirus pandemic left many businesses with no choice but to embrace the WFH lifestyle.
But besides dealing with operational issues, many HR professionals are having to come up with creative employee engagement & team building ideas for remote workers, while also juggling the ever-changing FFCRA law, and creating COVID-19-related policies.
It’s more important than ever to work on raising morale, and companies with little or no experience in managing a remote team are really feeling the heat.
Employee engagement is difficult as it is, but how does one go about engaging a remote employee? Unsurprisingly, it’s one of the common HR FAQs relevant to COVID-19.
Don’t worry, though. With the right tactics, you can easily boost those engagement levels.
In this post, we’ll discuss unique team-building ideas for remote workers that you can consider trying. We’ll also provide a list of actionable engagement goals you can implement today!
Let’s jump right in.
Before we discuss the specific employee engagement ideas for remote workers, we recommend that you implement certain project management, HR, video conferencing, and team collaboration tools, to make telework interactions easier between and within teams.
Consider giving the following a try:
Aside from that, here are some unique ideas that you could consider implementing:
Who says proximity matters when it comes to coffee breaks?
Ask your team members to brew mean cups of joe (or make any other drink they want).
Then, get them all onboard a video conferencing tool and start chit-chatting.
Ask them about their day, how they’ve been feeling, if they’re facing any work-related challenges, etc.
Everyone needs a break from work, even if they’re working from home, and small talk over coffee can go a long way.
If you never bothered with the icebreaking or intimate side of onboarding for your remote employees, now is the perfect time to make them feel a part of the team.
Since you’ve probably never had your in-house employees interact with your remote workers, get them all on a video call.
Then, ask them to formally introduce themselves to their fellow co-workers.
To make things interesting, you can have everyone choose from a list of pre-determined questions to break the ice.
Your employees may not be comfortable getting on board with this, but home tours are a great way to emotionally connect with your employees and ignite some good ol’ team building.
In a video conference, ask each employee to walk around with their smartphone/laptop and give a quick tour of their beautiful home. This could be especially fun if a team member has just moved into a new home, after the home inspection phase.
Of course, those who aren’t comfortable in doing so must not be forced to do so, otherwise, you might end up doing more harm than good.
Do your remote employees have something cool to show/share?
Schedule an online show-and-tell and give them a platform to share something interesting.
This could be anything – an awesome gadget, a precious item, an interesting story, or a sick skill that they never got the chance to show off.
Let your remote workforce connect and share whatever they want.
While the concept is to have fun, you can make things more interesting by having a small panel of judges. Turn this into an online workplace X Factor and announce a winner at the end (i.e. the person with the most interesting thing to show or share).
To make the employees feel like their voices are heard, leaders need to have one-on-one meetings with them – whether they work in-house or remotely.
While this may sound exhausting, scheduling a short face-to-face meeting with an employee every day, is attainable.
Aside from providing feedback, the remote team members should get the opportunity to share their concerns and opinions.
If you haven’t already, consider purchasing an online learning management system and uploading different training courses for your employees. When it comes down to it, social distancing can take its toll on an individual’s mental health. A good, productive way to keep oneself occupied is to watch and finish any company-mandated training.
On top of your native training material, consider purchasing and providing access to other relevant training courses, as well. This can allow your employees to advance in their careers in ways that will help them reach their goals.
“When it comes to remote employee engagement, we have found that career advancement opportunities have been a great motivator,” says Jonathan Zacharias, President of GR0. “Obviously it can feel difficult to move up within an organization if you are living on the other side of the country. However, by offering job postings to internal employees before releasing them to the public, we have found that we have been able to reduce employee turnover and promote engagement instead.”
It’s important to let employees know they can move up in your organization, whether they’re located in the office or across the world.
“To help keep remote employees engaged and valued, we work to let them know their development won’t slip through the cracks because they’re not in a traditional office,” says Ruben Gamez, Founder of SignWell “We created career maps for any interested teammates so they could get in touch with their biggest aspirations and see how those desires would shape into a real career path with our company. By pairing our career map creation with a virtual team mentorship program, employees are now receiving guidance, insights, and support from employees working in roles related to their potential career paths. Our team has built some strong connections with each other and is motivated for future growth!”
A great way to ensure remote employee engagement is to ask your teams for feedback.
This feedback could be about anything, including:
You can achieve that through online employee engagement surveys or through one-on-one video calls.
Don’t just stop there – make an effort to show your remote employees that you care and act on their feedback.
Your employee engagement ideas for remote workers don’t have to be boring or limited to work.
Give your teams a chance to unwind and relax by inviting them to a multiplayer game.
Here are some of our favorites (you just need a mobile device to play these):
Games don’t have to be high-tech. You and your team can come up with simple ideas that help you know each other better.
Once a month, instead of sending a newsletter with company updates, we send a multiple choice trivia quiz where we share fun and interesting facts about different employees,” says Jessica Ulloa, Community Manager at MyPerfectResume. “Facts like, ‘Which of the following people is a twin?’ or ‘Whose childhood crush was Ricky Martin?’ We then share the answers during our All-hand meetings and let the person share the story behind the response. Our employees love this game as the questions are always fun. The game allows our employees to get to know their colleagues better and also share fun facts about themselves.
You can even turn your company’s regular workflows into opportunities to play games
“Gamifying our teamwork has helped our remote employees stay engaged and motivated,” says Lorien Strydom of Financer.com. “We set up a points system or leaderboard, so our teams have something to strive for. This helps create healthy competition and encourages everyone to work together more effectively. You may also want to consider offering rewards for employees who reach certain benchmarks. This could be anything from a gift card to extra vacation days. Whatever you choose, make sure that it is something that your team will appreciate. Gamifying your teamwork is just one way to keep your remote employees engaged and productive. Implementing this strategy can help you take your business to the next level.
Ask each employee if there’s any specific game that they’d like to play. And if it gets enough votes from everyone else, throw it in the list.
You can’t provide workstations to your remote employees.
However, there’s a workaround – you can dig up some funds to help pay for their home offices.
Regular telecommuters might not have this problem, but your in-house employees who are accustomed to an office environment might have difficulty adjusting to the WFH routine.
Your employees will love you for helping them build up their home offices from scratch (or spice up existing ones).
Many professionals suffer from imposter syndrome – a persistent gut-wrenching feeling that you’re not good enough or a fraud. Such feelings of inadequacy could affect an employee’s performance, and ultimately, lead to disengagement.
To prevent that from happening, the best thing to do is offer positive feedback and recognize your employees for all their great work.
Celebrating team members and recognizing them for their hard work is an engagement strategy that employees love,” says Gregg Dean, Co-founder, and CEO of Layla Sleep. “It not only makes them feel valued for their work completed independently, but it also reminds them that they are a part of something larger which maintains loyalty and trust. We’ve seen our recognition strategy improve retention and productivity.”
Now, it is easier to give them a pat on the back when you’re working in-house.
And things don’t always go so smoothly when everyone’s working from home.
Therefore, to turn it into an easy process, consider opting for modern HR software with built-in performance management and employee feedback tools.
Employee empowerment and engagement go hand-in-hand.
There’s only so much you can do in that department when it comes to managing a remote workforce.
You can give your employees the freedom to set their own schedules, as long as they’re getting the job done on time, they could be able to pick their working hours.
By letting your employees choose their own working hours, you’ll essentially build a sense of trust and mutual respect. Keep in mind though, that collaborative work between and within teams is also important. Set clear times when all team members should be available to collaborate or discuss projects and make sure your leadership team is on board with any proposed schedule.
Feedback doesn’t have to bounce between an employee and their manager.
Fellow co-workers can applaud one another for their hard work, make suggestions, and offer their two cents.
Some employees might consider feedback from their peers more honest. As a result, they’d be more inclined towards acting on it.
Besides, by encouraging peer-to-peer feedback, you can ignite conversations among your employees and boost engagement.
You can also use an employee recognition tool for this purpose.
Finally, make sure that you’re providing appropriate benefits to your remote employees.
Here are some ideas:
Before anything else, have a chat with your finance department to see what you can realistically afford.
We’re dealing with an unprecedented crisis, and it’s unreasonable to expect employees to entirely tune out the headlines while they’re working. Try starting every meeting by asking your team how they’re feeling, what’s going on in their world, and how you can support them.
You can also invite your team members to schedule news and family check-ins throughout the day. Make sure they don’t feel like they can’t follow the headlines or check in on their family members. Just invite them to do it in a way that’s conducive to staying focused in between.
Go for outdoor walks during 1:1 meetings with your team to encourage physical movement throughout the day. Use Zoom from your phones and give each other virtual tours of our neighborhoods.
If you’ve had success with wellness challenges in the past, you might try reviving it with a remote spin. Just make sure it’s accessible for all levels and abilities.
If you’re a parent, you know that your biggest challenge in working remotely is going to be keeping your kids entertained throughout the day, especially while you’re on calls. But if your kid has a severe case of FOMO (fear of missing out), give them a chance to participate once in a while. Set up a “conference call” for employees’ kids to connect over Zoom.
It gives them a break from boredom, makes them feel involved, and creates space for connectedness for our families.
When it comes to setting goals for your team, there are a lot of different things you can aim for. But if you’re looking to increase employee engagement, then here are some goal examples that you can use as inspiration. By focusing on initiatives that get your team excited and motivated, you’ll be well on your way to having an engaged workforce!
Employee surveys consistently show that the single most important factor in employee engagement is an employee’s relationship with his or her direct manager. In fact, employees don’t leave companies; they leave their managers. And they’re willing to do this despite tough economic conditions.
According to HR Magazine, engaged employees perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave an organization. So, managers and team leaders need to become expert relationship builders and they need to learn how to nourish and sustain those relationships over time.
Managers can build and maintain strong employee relationships at the employee level by:
Employees need to know that they are working for their own goals as much as the organization’s when they come into work each day. When they have this understanding, they also realize how their individual role impacts business profitability overall.
Your organization’s core values should be conducive to creating a work environment that enables active employee engagement and provide employees with opportunities to demonstrate the company’s core values through their daily work.
In high-performing organizations, employees and leaders regularly refer to and use their core value statements as a real-time compass and positive shaper of both formal environments and work-life behaviors.
For true leaders at every organizational level, the organization’s core values are the moral and ethical law of the land. High-engagement employees thrive on being treated fairly and honestly.
The strongest organizational science is clearly teaching us that employee recognition simultaneously builds and maintains healthy employee/manager relationships and greatly impacts bottom-line performance. Organizations that actively recognize their employees see a 6% higher net profit margin over companies that don’t. [ Towers Watson Study ]
Doing effective employee recognition is all about implementing the “3 R’s of employee rewards and recognition:”
R1: The Right Kind of Behaviors — Role Behaviors proven to meet clearly stated performance goals. Examples of clearly defined and communicated performance goals include:
R2. At the Right Times — It turns out that the best time to provide effective employee recognition is right when the employee is doing or completing a performance goal.
R3. In The Right Ways – Recognition is something that must happen consistently throughout the year and not just as an annual event. 43% of engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week compared to only 18% of employees with low engagement.
Feeling valued, confident, inspired, enthused, and empowered are the key emotions that lead to employee engagement. These emotions can’t be fostered unless you build strong relationships with your employees and by seeing them as human beings.
Actively engaged employees are fully aware and secure in the knowledge that their managers really know them and care about them as human beings. Employees thrive when managers really understand and connect with them through the lenses of their personal values, goals, and passions.
Aligning individual goals and organizational goals through shared values is one of the most important distinctions between real leadership and management. Key questions here include:
The bottom line: A healthier happier employee is a more productive and engaged employee who sticks around for years and rarely misses work.
Heightened employee well-being directly translates into increased employee engagement and performance. The world’s leading organizations are growing and sustaining employee well-being through integrated work-life balance and innovative employee assistance programs.
These wellness and support initiatives provide everything from personal money management to professional counseling with relationship, parenting, and stress management experts. They also provide employees with flex time planning and work-from-home options for maximizing work-life balance in an ever-increasing world of stress and responsibility.
Can you think of a better way to show genuine interest and concern at the employee manager interface than to help solve serious stress, parenting, marriage, family, and money problems?
Many employees have a shared need to know that their work is making a positive difference in the world and to their fellow human beings.
High-performance organizations identify and facilitate ways for their employees to give back to the community as a function of their work — running employee-driven community assistance, volunteering, and go-green programs.
The most effective workplace giving programs allow individual employees and teams to define the why, how, and when of giving back. They also provide solid tools and processes for formally meeting co-created community-giving goals.
Now that you understand the importance of building strong positive relationships and organizational bonding at the employee/manager level, the next question becomes what do you do with all this new positive relationship energy and employee motivation to generate results-driven organizational performance?
Again, help employees understand how their behaviors align with performance goals. It’s really a cascading effect: senior leadership identifies the over-arching business objectives for the organization, managers then take these objectives and create more focused goals for their teams, and then employees, in partnership with their managers, need to establish their individual goals. The performance management process is crucial to facilitating this process.
In general, help employees establish personal goals by using the SMART methodology:
Specific — Goals are objective, clearly stated and very specific.
Measurable — The goal’s progress is measurable in terms of objective and easily shareable quantity quality and time measures.
Attainable — It’s one that you can actually achieve and is realistic. High-performing organizations don’t reward goal attainment that is outside of the control of employees or team members. They primarily define, recognize and reward goals that are within the complete control of a given employee.
Relevant — This is where the organizational performance dimension comes into play. Goals need to be clearly linked to meaningful business or positive organizational outcomes. Key questions here include:
Time Bound — The question here becomes: When will the particular task, project, or goal be completed? Not only does time-limiting a goal facilitate performance by reducing wasted time, but it enables time-based processes and quality improvements as well.
Setting time-bound goals also enables managers to precision target their recognition and reward efforts on employee behaviors that approximate, meet, and exceed clearly predefined expectations.
Only 27% of employees feel they are involved in the important decisions made by their organizations. Yet the bottom line is that increased employee involvement = increased employee engagement.
Employees are more likely to buy into and feel a motivation-enhancing sense of ownership for goals when they play a major role in creating them versus feeling that they are simply executing someone else’s vision. In short, it evokes a sense of ownership and shareholder stake in the success of the business.
The essence of operating as a high-performing team and using team-based organizational design is that you already have all of the basic ingredients needed to capitalize on active employee engagement. For example, effective teams must communicate, collaborate and interact with each other in order to meet their goals and objectives.
Effective team leaders know how to instill trust in their teams so that each employee can work with each other and share work, they also know how to reduce conflict by helping each member of the team to get to know one another better and to understand each other’s personalities, and finally, good leaders know how to increase collaborative efforts by conferring with each other and valuing each other’s opinions.
Really high-performance teams actually distribute the leadership role among team members, taking on and relinquishing the leadership role based on the team’s current performance goals and by recognizing and leveraging the “superpowers” of each team member.
The world’s leading high-engagement organizations hire for leadership potential as expressed in individual values that align with core organizational values. Finding employees who will fit into the company’s culture is more important than hiring based on work role competency.
For example, a high-performing team is a direct result of the leader who manages it. The best managers have personalities that are predisposed to the role: strong work ethic, natural leadership, genuine interest in helping others, and intent on finding the right solutions.
Underperforming, low-engagement organizations, on the other hand, continue to hire managers primarily based on their work skills rather than their demonstrated capacity for leadership effectiveness. These are the organizations that are most likely to be hemorrhaging top talent.
These are the same managers who can’t tell you what their organization’s core values are or why each value is most critical in continuously guiding and shaping a real high-engagement organization through expert relationship building and maintenance.
What are your organization’s core values? What is the best example of when you consciously made a leadership decision today, that was in complete alignment with those values?
In the end, it’s important to have a process in place for actually measuring how engaged your remote employees are.
What’s the point of implementing those employee engagement ideas for remote workers if they’re not working?
For those who’ve never done this before, the best way to measure employee engagement is to use surveys.
You can include as many questions as you want in your surveys (as long as they’re relevant).
Here are a few examples of employee engagement survey questions:
In the end, make sure you’re using the right metrics, such as:
If you’ve tried everything, maybe try revisiting your remote work policy and look for any potential flaws. The GoCo team is working hard to support HR pros through COVID-19. Visit our COVID-19 Resource Center for more tools and tips 💚