Remote working has become the new normal. According to research by video conferencing company Owl Labs, 52% of the global workforce worked from home at least once a week in 2018. In 2020, that figure has of course increased – leaving many employers looking for new ways to engage remote employees.
Studies suggest over one third of workers don’t feel engaged this year; it’s clear that demotivation in the workplace is rife. If your team is spread out around the world, the challenge of navigating different time zones can make employee engagement even more tricky. So how can you make sure that your team feels committed, energised and appreciated?
Here are our top five remote employee engagement activities to help businesses create an effective strategy to engage remote employees and ultimately boost their productivity.
1. Daily Stand-Up Meetings
Facilitating regular face-to-face interaction is one of the most vital remote employee engagement activities. It can be easy to feel isolated when you’re working remotely, and if an employee doesn’t have the opportunity to share their achievements or concerns with their team, they can quickly feel as though their work isn’t important to the business.
Virtual meetings will give you the chance to check in with your remote employees. Lasting just 10 or 15 minutes, these meetings should be energising – an opportunity for every member of your team to share their progress and goals. Not only does a ‘little and often’ approach to meetings help to keep employees accountable, but it also enables people to identify (and solve) potential issues more quickly.
2. Gamification Challenges
Gamification in the workplace shouldn’t be dismissed as ‘just fun and games’. In fact, according to a study conducted by the American company TalentLMS, gamification can increase productivity levels by a serious 87%, making it an excellent method of engaging remote workers.
There are a number of ways to introduce gamification activities to your business. These can range from the strictly work-related – such as rewards for team members who refer new employees or complete an onboarding process – to the extracurricular.
Organising inter-team competitions can help to promote collaboration between employees, fostering stronger relationships and improving motivation as a result. Possible extra-curricular activities that make use of gamification could include:
- Awarding employees points for sharing stories or pictures in a dedicated Slack channel
- An opt-in fitness channel where employees can compete to take the most steps in a given week or month
- Virtual quizzes about different members of the team to help employees get to know each other on a personal basis
3. Leadership Q&A Sessions
According to research by Gallup, managers can account for a staggering 70% of variance when it comes to engaging remote workers. If the leadership doesn’t take an active role in employee engagement activities, it can create a feeling of disconnection between different layers of the business.
This is particularly true for remote workers, as employees who don’t work closely with the leadership team won’t ever have a reason to spend time with them (and obviously can’t bump into them getting coffee in the office kitchen).
Virtual leadership Q&A sessions are a great way to make senior staff members seem more accessible. Whether it’s a presentation on something they’re passionate about or an informal chat about their career history, these activities can boost employee engagement by connecting them to their colleagues and creating a sense of shared purpose.
Some of these sessions can also be used to mentor younger or less experienced employees. Employees feel more engaged if they can see a path forward in a company, so mentorship can be an effective way to help remote workers feel as though their leadership team is investing in their skills and wants to see them progress.
4. Virtual Hangouts
The world may be tired of Zoom quizzes, but if you’re looking for activities to engage remote employees, there’s a wealth of other virtual events that can promote team bonding. Research suggests that being friends with your co-workers can significantly increase your performance; so organising informal activities to foster friendships should be an important part of a company’s employee engagement strategy.
Although it can be easier to organise separate activities for teams based in different countries, businesses could also consider timing suitable events so that as many employees as possible can join. An example of this could be a relaxing Zoom yoga session, timed so that it’s at the end of the working day for your UK team and at the start for employees based in the US.
5. Open Working Sessions
Engaging remote employees can be difficult when every interaction has a sense of purpose. In an office, some of the closest working relationships grow out of water-cooler conversation or spontaneous lunch runs. When remote group hangouts have to be planned in advance like meetings, it can lead to employees feeling as though they have to be constantly ‘on’ – and can eventually make social interactions feel inorganic.
Over time, this can even lead to employee burnout and exhaustion. Big group calls can feel performative when everyone’s main focus is watching each other (and being watched) and this can quickly become a drain on your workers’ energy.
One way to combat this is by organising optional open working sessions, during which employees can work together as though in a virtual break-room. Although these are still held over video call, this can give team members the chance to chat in a productive yet casual setting.
For some remote employees, the act of working with other people can boost their motivation and help them stay focused, without worrying that the purpose of the call is to be entertaining.
Time to engage your remote employees
Staying in touch with your remote employees and involving them in social activities, is crucial when it comes to supporting wellbeing and boosting performance. Gamification is fast-emerging as one of the most effective ways to do so.