16 Employee Engagement Ideas for Remote Workers

A cheat-sheet for HR Professionals looking to boost employee engagement & preserve a close-knit team culture while teleworking

With the Coronavirus pandemic seemingly at its worst, businesses have 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.

During these difficult times, 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 16 unique team building ideas for remote workers that you can consider trying during the Coronavirus crisis (and continue to implement long after the pandemic has subsided).

Let’s jump right in.

Employee Engagement Ideas for Remote Workers [+Tips on Following Through]

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:

  • Slack – Team Communication Tool
  • Asana – Project Management Tool 
  • GoCo – HR, Benefits, and Payroll Tool
  • Zoom – Video Conferencing Tool
  • Milanote – Creative Project Organization Tool

Aside from that, here are some unique ideas that you could consider implementing:

1. Virtual Coffee Breaks

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.

Remote employee engagement ideas
Our Client Success Team always finds creative ways to interact together – Like Zoom ice-cream dates

2. Introduce Them to Your In-House Employees

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.

3. Home Tours

Your employees may not be comfortable getting onboard 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.

4. Show-and-Tell

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).

Remote employee engagement ideas
Here’s part of our Growth Team showcasing their fur-coworkers

5. One-on-One Video Calls with the Founder(s)

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, by scheduling a short face-to-face meeting with an employee every day, it’s attainable.

Aside from providing feedback, the remote team members should get the opportunity to share their concerns and opinions.

6. Offering Online Training

If you haven’t already, consider purchasing an online learning management system and upload 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.

7. Ask for Their Feedback

A great way to ensure remote employee engagement is to ask your teams for feedback.

This feedback could be about anything, including:

  • Opinions about improving an existing process
  • Concerns about an on-going project and how it could be improved
  • Views about the current management
  • Opinions about the company culture
  • Tips on giving the actual workplace a makeover (however, that’s not recommended these days)

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.

8. Invite Them to Play Multiplayer Games

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):

  • The Jack Box Party Pack
  • Call of Duty: Mobile
  • Words With Friends 2
  • Crossy Road
  • Minecraft (Also available in Spanish)
  • Heads Up!

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.

9. Allocate Funds to Help Spice Up the Home Office

You can’t provide workstations to your remote employees.

However, there’s a work-around – 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).

10. Recognize Them for a Job Well Done

Every now and then, a lot of professionals suffer from imposter syndrome – a persistent gut-wrenching feeling that you’re not good enough and/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 to offer positive feedback and recognize your employees for all the great work that they do.

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 a modern HR software with built-in performance management and employee feedback tools. 

11. Provide Freedom in Choosing Schedules

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 where all team members should be available to collaborate or discuss projects, and make sure your leadership team is on board with any proposed schedule. 

12. Give Peer-to-Peer Feedback a Shot

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. 

13. Provide Special Perks and Benefits

Finally, make sure that you’re providing appropriate benefits to your remote employees.

Here are some ideas:

  • Offer free subscriptions for Netflix, HBO, or Disney+
  • Provide state-specific healthcare coverage
  • Give allowances for groceries
  • Offer generous PTO (just because your employees are working from home doesn’t mean you can always expect them to be available for work – especially in times like these)
  • Provide access to online fitness training programs

Before anything else, have a chat with your finance department to see what you can realistically afford.

14. Talking About What’s Going on in the World

We’re dealing with an unprecedented crisis, and it’s unreasonable to expect employees to completely 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.

15. Host Walking 1:1s to Keep Teams Active

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.

16. Make It a Family Affair

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 employee’s kids to connect over Zoom.

It gives them a break from the boredom, makes them feel involved, and creates space for connectedness for our families.

Ending Note: Don’t Forget to Measure!

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:

  • Do your coworkers respect you?
  • Does the management live up to the core values of the company?
  • Do you get enough creative freedom from your supervisor?
  • On a scale of X-Y, how satisfied are you with your job?
  • Do you find your job meaningful?

In the end, make sure you’re using the right metrics, such as:

  • Employee Engagement Index – a simple score that directly reflects how engaged your employees are. There are a number of ways you can measure the employee engagement index, one of which involves calculating the mean score for favorable/positive survey responses.
  • Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) – this score reflects how likely your employees are to recommend your company to someone looking for a job. To calculate, categorize your employees into two groups – promoters (satisfied) and detractors (dissatisfied). Then, subtract the percentage of the former with that of the latter.
  • Employee Turnover Rate – the rate at which your employees abandon ship says a lot about the engagement.

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 💚

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