2020 will be remembered for so many things, and one of them is being the year when remote working was pushed to be the norm in a matter of months. With teleworking, or working from home, as the new normal for many businesses now, keeping your teams close-knit and engaged can be a challenge.
The chit-chat over coffee in the morning, the team huddles at the start of the shift, taking lunch breaks together — the seemingly minor activities that actually help build relationships in the workplace — are now gone. Businesses are now compelled to take a fresh approach to employee engagement in order to maintain productivity, keep the company spirit and culture alive, and retain talent.
Here are a few creative ideas that you may want to consider:
- 1. Virtual group workouts: Staying indoors for long hours, if not 24/7, can take a toll on remote employees’ physical and mental wellness. Your team can benefit from doing physical and mental activities together in more ways than one. Initiate different activities they can choose from — yoga, circuit training, meditation — to make sure you cover all possible activities that employees may be interested in. Schedule regular sessions and have them sign up according to their availability.
- 2. Online team building activities: Team buildings done onsite are so much fun to plan and execute, but planning a virtual event can be something that is new to most of us. The good news is there are a lot of online activities that you can do that can help your team members, especially newcomers, get to know one another and build connections. You can have a game and movie night, or you can even do a karaoke night virtually, too. Or if you're gearing towards a more formal atmosphere, you can have a company culture workshop followed by a chit-chat over drinks. Whatever you decide, make sure that it is aligned with your company culture, as well as your employees’ wishes.
- 3. Cake Day: Celebrate your employees — and celebrate with them, too. Another thing that remote working took away from teams is the occasional birthday or milestone celebrations in the office break room. These little breathers only last 15 to 30 minutes, but they can sometimes be the highlight of a team’s day, especially during crunch times. So, make sure to plot these tiny virtual events on the team’s schedule to celebrate birthdays, milestones, work anniversaries, promotions, and the like. Have a Zoom toast or a cake day for these events, and your team will definitely enjoy looking forward to these breathers every once in a while.
- 4. Awards Night: Recognition is linked to higher employee engagement, productivity, and loyalty; all of these contribute to higher employee retention, according to Gallup Research. To support this, you can host an awards night on a regular basis depending on your team’s schedule. Spice it up with different themes each time — maybe you can ask them to dress up nicely for the special night. The same research suggests that the most appreciated type of recognition in the workplace is one that is honest, authentic, and personalized.
- 5. Care Packages: A thoughtful care package is good vibes, happiness, and solidarity in a box, and will surely kindle employee engagement and boost the team’s morale in difficult times such as a pandemic or unrest. Care packages may come in many forms. It can be a bag of goodies and drinks that are perfect for weekend unwinding, socializing, or celebrating. Or you can send a package containing home office essentials that can make their workspace at home more joyful and comfortable. Make sure that the items you choose are universally appealing to fit all tastes. Depending on your priorities and resources, come up with something that your employees will truly appreciate. You can conduct a survey first before deciding what kind of care packages to send.
- 6. Passion Projects: Promote innovation and creativity by allowing employees to work on personal side projects that are aligned with the organization’s culture and goals. One reason why Google remains to be one of the most innovative companies in the world is its 20% program, which allows employees to spend one full day of their workweek to work on Google-related passion projects of their own choosing. You can implement a version of this program in your teams to promote creativity and camaraderie.
- 7. Learning Opportunities: Aside from passion projects, most employees seek coaching and mentoring, and other learning opportunities at work. Provide online coaching sessions to those who want to discuss strategies on how to be more efficient in their current role. Conduct online knowledge sharing sessions, as well. Sharing expertise, best practices, and skills among coworkers come naturally and spontaneously when working onsite, but with people working in different locations, there needs to be a little structure to it to make sure it happens.
Boosting employee engagement in the remote work environment is definitely doable, and the ideas above are just a few of the many creative ways to keep your teams engaged and happy in the workplace. Make sure to also regularly evaluate if the measures you are taking are working for you. You can do this by conducting surveys and regular check-ins with your teams.