Employee engagement is often defined as the involvement and enthusiasm of employees in both their work and workplace. Some research indicates that telecommuting and location flexibility can positively affect employee engagement.
A large survey of U.S. workers by Quantum Workplace found that productivity and engagement is highest among hybrid and remote workers, when they are given the right technology and equipment. According to their 2021 report on The State of Remote Work, 81% of hybrid employees and 78% of remote employees report that they are “highly engaged,” while only 72% of on-site employees say the same.
However, when it comes to feeling connected to team members and engaged with company culture, remote work has its challenges. Isolation is often identified as the #1 problem of working from home. A 2019 survey conducted by Igloo found that 70% of remote employees report feeling left out of the workplace. Many remote workers are particularly concerned with being excluded from important in-person team meetings and in-office activities.
Employee engagement ideas for remote workers such as virtual coffee breaks, online team-building games, and virtual recognition boards can help remote workers build strong work relationships and feel more connected to company culture.
When it comes to organizational engagement of employees, much of what works well in an office environment is easily adaptable for remote workers. Keep remote staff engaged with your company culture with these highly effective employee engagement ideas for remote workers:
Create a Virtual Water Cooler or Break Room
A virtual water cooler or virtual break room is a dedicated online space where hybrid and remote employees can discuss topics other than work. They can plan after-work meetups and create ongoing discussions around common interests including personal or business travel, coworking spaces, family life, cooking, video games, sports, prestige TV, professional development, and more.
Having a dedicated online space for spontaneous social interaction helps recreate casual water cooler conversations in a virtual work environment and strengthen relationships among remote co-workers.
Building a virtual water cooler or break room can be as simple as starting a dedicated Slack channel with a fun name such as #random or #slacking-off. Many companies also set up a virtual water cooler in Microsoft Teams. Virtual tools like Donut (a freemium Slack plug-in that introduces random co-workers, facilitates social chat, and more) are also available.
Informal conversation plays an important role in building trust and community between colleagues. Use effective employee incentives and gifts to encourage remote and hybrid employees to adopt the habit of using a virtual water cooler or break room.
Organize Virtual Social Hours, Games & Other Activities
For remote-first companies like GitLab, intentionally organizing informal communication is key to creating engaged teams and building an inclusive company culture in a virtual work environment. According to Sid Sijbrandij, GitLab co-founder and CEO:”…every person who joins GitLab has to schedule at least 5 coffee chats during their onboarding. We also have social calls, Ask Me Anything meetings with senior leaders, and over 15 other explicit ways to encourage employee connections and relationship building.”
During a social or impromptu hour, remote workers chat about non-work related topics on Zoom or another video conferencing platform. Other popular virtual employee engagement activities that promote team bonding include:
- virtual lunches and pizza parties
- virtual talent shows
- virtual tours
- postcard swapping
- show-and-tell activities
- virtual campfires
- virtual happy hour
- mixer calls
- juice box chats
8. Juice Box Chats are a chance for GitLab team members and their children, grandchildren, or other members of their family to get to know one another as well. These chats can be informal or can focus on a specific topic, Legos, SuperHeroes, camping, and video games are all great— Sid Sijbrandij (@sytses) April 17, 2020
Online games are another common virtual employee engagement activity. Popular team-building games for remote employees include virtual scavenger hunts, icebreaker games, online trivia or quiz-based games, drawing games (and other online party games like Jackbox Games), and virtual escape rooms. For best results, make sure virtual games and other online events are hosted and well publicized ahead of time.
To improve remote team engagement, make sure to host virtual social activities and team-building games throughout the work year. However, don’t forget to also implement meeting-free days and/or meeting-free periods to avoid virtual meeting fatigue and burnout!
Hold Group Volunteer Days & Community Impact Outings
Traditional methods of improving employee engagement, such as corporate volunteer programs, workplace mentoring, and professional development opportunities, should be adapted for remote workers whenever possible.
Research indicates that corporate volunteer programs increase employee engagement, productivity, and retention. That’s why many remote-first companies hold group volunteer days (sometimes referred to as community impact outings). During a community impact outing, remote workers are given a block of time each week or month to volunteer in their local neighborhoods (at a homeless shelter, food bank, community garden, library, etc.).
Giving remote employees a break from their computer screens and ample opportunities to engage with and give back to their local communities is an easy way to reduce remote worker isolation. Community impact outings and other out-of-office engagement ideas for remote teams can also help improve productivity and retention.
I frequently hear from remote leaders: "We're over Zoom happy hours. But what else can we do to build camaraderie?" 🤔— Darren Murph (@darrenmurph) November 19, 2021
The answer is, paradoxically, outside of work.
Build a Culture of Virtual Recognition
What do in-office and remote employees have in common?
They need regular, meaningful employee recognition to thrive.
Research indicates that regular feedback and frequent recognition from managers improves employee engagement. Peer-to-peer recognition programs also help improve employee engagement.
A virtual recognition board can help facilitate meaningful, frequent employee recognition in a virtual work environment. A virtual recognition board, also known as a virtual appreciation board or virtual recognition wall, is a digital space dedicated to recognizing and celebrating the achievements and contributions of individual employees or teams.
A virtual recognition board can be as simple as creating a dedicated page on the company intranet for supervisors and co-workers to post thanks, shoutouts, and other acknowledgements. Digital group cards like Kudoboard can also be used to celebrate remote employee achievements and team milestones.
Utilizing the kudos or praise features in messaging apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams is another easy way to make regular recognition a part of your virtual workplace. Additional ways to recognize, incentivize, and engage remote employees include virtual awards ceremonies and Remote Employee Appreciation Day gifts.
Send Personalized Team Gifts to Remote Staff
One of the easiest ways to boost the organizational engagement of remote employees? Send personalized gifts of appreciation and recognition to remote workers. Team gifts like branded company jackets are especially impactful because they promote team identity and provide a tangible reminder of company culture.
Branded company gifts like custom hats and headphones can help make remote employee onboarding more successful. Effective onboarding is known to lead to higher employee engagement. Team gifts can also be used to celebrate company milestones and provide an enduring reminder of the fun and camaraderie of an off-site retreat.
An online company store is the easiest way to customize and send branded gifts to remote employees and distributed teams. For a no-obligation consultation, contact Metron Branding today or fill out the form below.