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5 Creative Ways to Engage Remote Employees

Are you looking for ideas on how to engage your employees remotely? See 5 ways to make your employees thrive in a virtual working environment.

Whitney Tipton • Fri 3 September, 2021

Employee engagement is essential for organizations to retain quality employees, decrease turnover, and increase their bottom line. This is the reason why so many software companies are now focused on developing solutions which aim to boost engagement.

As the number of remote employees increases, it can be difficult to maintain engagement levels. However, engaging remote employees is more important than ever. According to a 2020 State of Remote Work report, 79% of those surveyed want to continue with some level of remote work after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.

To find out how great organizations engage remote employees, and how you can do the same, let’s look at the importance of remote engagement, the role of employee motivation, and specific employee engagement tactics for remote employees.

Why Remote Employee Engagement Matters

Given the many communication tools available to support remote work, creating a culture of engagement can be done in the virtual environment. A culture of flexibility and respect for one’s time, role, and unique resources are key factors in employees’ search for jobs with remote options. According to SHRM, a desire for flexible, yet connected work is leading between 25-40% of people to look for a new job. This wave of transition, known as the Great Resignation, is being led by workers who feel their current job does not provide the level of flexibility or connection to co-workers that they need. Setting up systems to help remote workers connect with their team can mitigate the impact of the Great Resignation on your organization.

Understanding Employee Motivation

While a strong organizational culture can help attract and retain quality employees, employee motivation also plays a key role. According to Quantum Workplace, employee motivation increases when employees know their contributions are appreciated. Appreciating employees remotely can be a strong external motivator. According to Forbes, external motivation like praise and gifts should be combined with a strong communication culture to promote engagement in the long term.

How to Engage Remote Employees

One of the reasons remote employees feel disconnected from their workplaces is a lack of feedback. Feedback is a key factor in the engagement process, but it can be difficult to share remote feedback. Below are a few options to make this process easier for you and your remote employees.

1. Reflections to Start a Meeting

Spending a few minutes to reflect on recent projects is a great way to both receive and give feedback. There are several questions you can ask to elicit feedback:

  • What are two things that went especially well with [project name]?
  • What communication tools helped you complete [project name]?
  • What should we do differently next time to improve [project name]?
  • For your next project, what are two mini-goals we can use as check-in points?
  • What can I do to better facilitate [project name]?

These questions will help you get the information you need and convey to employees your willingness to accept feedback.

2. Gamification for Employee Engagement

Virtual games are a great way to spark engagement during meetings. Starting a meeting with activity can improve focus and promote a team spirit amongst remote employees who are often unable to break the ice with co-workers.

Team-building Activities and IceBreakers During Covid

To kick off a meeting with employees who don’t know one another well, a simple game called “This or That” can be used. By sharing your screen and using your platform’s polling option, you can share two options (i.e. dog or cat, beach or mountains), ask employees to vote, and reflect on the results. Simple similarities can go a long way in helping employees feel more comfortable engaging with one another.

If your teams are in geographically distinct areas, you can play an online game like Geoguesser, or “Tell us your city without telling us your city.” Employees provide a piece of trivia about their city, and others try to guess where they are located (i.e. “My city is the third-largest in the EU.” Answer: Madrid). This can lead to a productive conversation about the different working conditions employees experience.

As your team grows closer, you can narrow your activities and relate icebreakers to your current projects. For example, you can ask employees to share about the app, piece of equipment, or software that makes their job better, and how it can help others.

Podcasts to Listen to at Work: Internal Employee Podcasts

Despite our best efforts to make virtual meetings engaging, Zoom fatigue can make engagement difficult. Internal employee podcasts are a great way to combat Zoom fatigue. Internal podcasts allow you to share information, conduct training and make remote employees feel included. While remote employees might not be in all the meetings, knowing that everyone is listening to the same message can provide a sense of unity and collaboration.

SafetyCulture CEO Luke Anear creates podcasts with Whooshkaa. Private podcasts allow SafetyCulture employees to stay up to date without being tied to their desks. Learn more.

3. Employee Engagement Training Activities

Investing in remote employee training and development helps organizations attract and retain top talent. Remote employees want the same opportunities as in-person employees. By providing professional development opportunities, your organization will be seen as a great place to work.

4. CSR Employee Engagement

Research shows employees want to work at a socially responsible organization. There is a strong, positive relationship between corporate social responsibility initiatives and employee engagement. Because remote employees may not be able to attend in-person CSR events, it is helpful to facilitate other opportunities. For example, organizations like Salesforce have developed Volunteer Time Off (VTO) policies that allow employees six paid days off for volunteering. VTO or employer donation match programs can show employees you care about them and the world around them.

5. Gifts for Remote Employees

Small gestures of appreciation can increase short-term engagement, while your communication practices will promote long-term engagement. There are a variety of free and low-cost ways to show remote employees you value their work.

  • Send a personalized email describing a specific, well-done task or project. Directly reference the employee’s contribution, and how their contribution helped the organization.
  • Write a thoughtful endorsement on employees’ LinkedIn profiles. Endorsing an employee on LinkedIn not only boosts the employee’s personal brand but also highlights your management skills.
  • Highlight employee accomplishments during meetings. An easy way to do this is a slideshow highlighting specific employee accomplishments. Employees will be excited to see their names and accomplishments shared in a professional setting.
  • Highlight employee accomplishments on social media platforms. (Be sure employees are comfortable having their name shared in this way).
  • Make professional development opportunities asynchronous. This gives employees more flexibility while showing you value their development.

In addition to free efforts, there are also low-cost ways to appreciate remote employees.

Low-cost ways to show appreciation:

  • Tailor employee benefits, like wellness programs, to remote employees. Include remote employees in goal-setting sessions, and make sure they are aware of any perks, like gym discounts. If your organization sends a newsletter, be sure to include content specific to remote employee health.
  • Food delivery services such as GrubHub or DoorDash have premium features that include free delivery or discounts. Consider purchasing a premium account for remote employees (often less than $10/month).
  • Send care packages or flowers. A thoughtful gift can be a great way to show appreciation.

Employees who are appreciated will be more likely to share ideas, engage with others, and go beyond the basics to support organizational goals.

How to Overcome the Challenges Faced by Virtual Teams

Communication and low engagement are two of the biggest challenges faced by virtual teams. These suggestions, as well as our resources about improving employee engagement, and employee engagement software can help your organization engage with remote employees. This segment of the workforce is expected to grow in the coming years, so attracting, retaining, and engaging remote workers is crucial.

Already seeing how these remote employee engagement ideas can be beneficial to your company? Read our Remote Onboarding Guide for more tips on creating a successful virtual working environment even for new employees.

Author: Whitney Tipton

Whitney Tipton

Whitney is a writer, consultant, and communication professor specializing in internal communication and employee relations. She is passionate about using technology to enhance workplace communication.

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