47 Ways to Boost Remote Employee Engagement (Examples and Tips Included)
We wanted to start by saying: Remote work is here to stay.
But that doesn't need to be said anymore. Over the last two years, it has become the new truth. Only 4% of US employers expect all employees to return to the office full-time.
In this article, we will look at the effect and challenges of this change. You'll discover multiple ways to boost remote employee engagement, plus seven carefully curated real-life examples.
🔍 Is remote work good or bad for employee engagement?
Buffer conducted the 2022 State of Remote Work survey on 2118 remote workers hailing from 16 different countries. When asked about the struggles they faced, there were a few notable mentions:
- Unplugging and loneliness remained the main battle. 25% found it hard to unplug from work, and 24% reported loneliness as their top challenge.
- 17% of respondents reported difficulties in communication and collaboration.
- 52% felt less connected to work.
- 21% found it difficult to focus on work.
- 15% worried about their career growth.
Remote employees miss out on all in-person conversations. It's not just about major events like town halls or team lunches. There is joy and a slow-forming connection in even those small talks made in the company lounge.
As a result, it becomes easy to lose a sense of belonging.
On top of it, working from home makes it difficult to segregate professional and personal life. All of this adds to stress and increases the chances of lower well-being.
The result? Poor engagement.
While remote work brings many advantages, that doesn't mean we can ignore the above challenges. Planning is required to avoid its ill effects on employee engagement.
💡 47 Ideas for engaging remote employees
1. Foster social connections
Work friendships increase productivity and engagement. A Gallup poll found having best friends at work directly impacts work quality, well-being, and engagement. Here are ten tips to keep in-office and remote teams involved with each other.
Tip#1: Host virtual meetings and casual hangouts.
Tip#2: Create a virtual "water cooler" space.
Many of us see emails as formal communication. So, you can have a dedicated Slack or Microsoft Teams channel for small talk.
Tip#3: Celebrate together.
Plan meetups to celebrate holidays (e.g., Christmas or Thanksgiving) or relevant company milestones. You can also come up with fun themes based on the occasion.
Tip#4: Find time for small talk.
Meeting colleagues at the office meant fun conversations about last night's football match or a weekend trek.
In Zoom calls, it's easy to talk about work exclusively. But keep small talk as part of your agenda. It could start with a simple icebreaker like 'how's the weather?'
Tip#5: Walk & talk.
Having a walk with a colleague after lunch sounds lovely. But how can remote workers benefit from this?
Match people up for walking meetings where they get on a shared call and have a casual talk while walking outside. It's an innovative idea to reduce stress and increase workplace connections.
Tip#6: Make sure people know each other.
For example, introduce attendees at the start of every meeting.
Tip#7: Show and tell.
Have you played this game as a kid? It's still a super easy way to know your colleagues. Plan a call where employees show anything and explain why it is crucial for them, like hobbies, music, plants, pets, etc. Again, it's an excellent way to know someone beyond work.
Tip#8: Build your company's social media.
Have an internal communication portal like Yammer, often called Business-facebook. Here employees can share work or goals and show their life outside work too. For instance, a dish they are cooking or a book they read. These are great conversation starters.
Tip#9: Meetup ritual.
Are your employees missing fun coffee breaks at the office? Randomly match people up for informal coffee chats and get some conversations brewing.
Tip#10: Go beyond small talk.
Allocate time and match people for conversations that matter. For example, encourage your people to discuss who/what inspires them, how to find confidence at work, etc.
2. Show employees you care
Employees are the wheels of your business. Show them you care by making their lives simpler and listening to their desires. Let's see how.
Tip#1: Create a remote working resources library.
It's tougher to get basic details when you work remotely—for example, doing an initial setup or raising a code deployment request.
Having common documentation on a portal like Confluence and Notion will ensure employees are not struggling to get any information just because they are not in the office.
Tip#2: Allocate funds for the home office.
For example, a nice ergonomic chair hurts no one, and it will give you returns in dividends.
Tip#3: Avoid FOMO.
For example, if office workers have free lunch, offer lunch vouchers to remote workers. Don't let them sink into the Fear Of Missing Out.
3. Make it easier to collaborate
Remote collaboration gets even tougher if you do not provide your team with the right tech stack to work.
Tip: Give employees the tools to succeed. Please see below a list of basic tech stack.
The right software will drastically improve remote working conditions.
4. Have clear remote work guidelines
Set some ground rules by drafting a remote work policy. Important points to include in the policy are:
- Eligibility to remote work
- Working hours and availability
- Communication- ideal response time and mode of communication
- Security, privacy, and client confidentiality
- Tools and equipment
- Remote work benefits
- Remote work termination guidelines
Employees are excited about remote work(read: working from a beach), but these rules ensure they know what they can and cannot do. And when they have to be available. It's a preventive step to avoid things going haywire.
Tip: Have the remote work policy documented on any portal you use for company-wide documentation to be easily accessible.
5. Offer flexibility
A 2022 Envoy's Return to Workplace Report says flexibility is the currently most popular benefit.
63% of employees said flexibility would make them feel more empowered.
How can you empower your employees?
Tip#1: Offer a mix of remote and in-house work options.
Tip#2: Be flexible about when and where remote employees work.
Tip#3: Avoid micromanagement.
Give employees autonomy by:
- Trusting them
- Letting them set their schedule
- Discussing deadlines rather than just assigning
- Taking a step back
Tip#4: Limit meetings or have a no meeting day. Meetings take up a lot of time and hinder asynchronous work.
6. Don't forget about training and development [& enablement]
Buffer's report shows that 15% of remote workers are worried about career advancement and growth.
Reduce their worries with these tips.
Tip#1: Offer virtual training.
For example, webinars with experts, virtual training in on-demand skills, etc.
Tip#2: Plan knowledge-sharing sessions.
Have online knowledge-sharing sessions within the team, so there is no understanding gap.
For example, Freeletics organizes a People Manager Roundtable, a regular group activity where leaders learn from each other.
➡️ Discover how Freeletics engages and trains their global workforce.
Tip#3: Make development plans mandatory.
Every employee can have a development plan that assists them in career and personal development.
Tip#4: Focus on competence development.
Avoid haphazard learning. Instead, assign a series of courses and certifications in a particular skill, so the employee develops relevant competencies to their roles.
Tip#5: Dedicate time to learning.
Add a learning day to the schedule. For example, at Fidelity investments, a multinational financial services corporation, employees get one day weekly dedicated to learning.
Tip#6: Assign a mentor.
Mentor ensures the employee is putting their effort in the right direction. Plan a mentorship program at work where interested senior associates can volunteer to be a mentor. You can ask employees to fill out a mentorship form and assign mentors based on their strengths and weaknesses.
7. Focus on well-being
Prioritizing employee well-being is essential for a company's health.
LinkedIn 2022 global trends report says millennials and GenZ want a work culture built on mental health and wellness.
How to increase focus on well-being?
Tip#1: Encourage work-life balance.
Three quick hacks to create a balance are:
- Set clear schedule expectations.
- Provide reasonable workloads.
- Urge employees to take breaks.
Tip#2: Plan a wellness challenge.
For example, you can use the 10,000 steps challenge, counting water intake, and a digital detox challenge.
Tip#3: Use a well-being booster: a weekly invitation to a mindfulness exercise.
Use an automated platform that sends weekly nudges and asks meaningful questions to reflect upon.
For example, Zavvy's well-being booster asks questions such as:
What are you grateful for this week?
Who would you like to thank this week?
These simple steps reduce employee stress and make them feel more connected to the company.
Tip#4: Give a health and wellness stipend.
You can sponsor gym memberships, yoga classes, fitness app subscriptions, or wearable devices.
8. Acknowledge their accomplishments
When you are in the office, it's easy to walk into someone's cubicle and say: 'Hey, you gave an excellent product demo today.' But unfortunately, these small gestures go missing for remote employees.
Consider these tips to ensure remote team members do not feel that their efforts go unnoticed.
Tip#1: Celebrate milestones virtually.
You can reward points, swag, or any meaningful experiences.
Tip#2: Have a kudos channel.
Set up a gratitude wall on Slack — a dedicated channel for appreciation and gratitude.
Tip#3: Send gifts.
Holding a physical gift in hand feels way more personal and builds an instant connection. It could be an award, electronics, swag, or anything tangible.
Tip#4: Online recognition ritual.
Use virtual town halls to throw some limelight on your most promising talents. It's a great way to recognize their work.
Tip#5: Digitize your rewards and recognition program.
Use third-party portals like Bonusly or Wegift, where you can assign redeemable points as gifts. Employees can redeem these points to purchase what they like. Having a dedicated portal like this creates a lasting culture of employee recognition.
9. Surveys & Feedback
Keep communication a two-way street where you get points to improve, and employees also feel heard.
Tip#1: Ask for and listen to feedback.
One great way to do this is by having regular one-on-one check-ins with team members.
Tip#2: Encourage 360 feedback.
360 feedback means feedback from peers, customers, and self-reflection, not just from seniors.
Tip#3: Offer constructive feedback.
Keep employees on the right path to growth by providing constructive feedback.
Tip#4: Conduct team retro/huddle.
Bring the team together to discuss what's going well and what went wrong so they can solve issues collaboratively.
Tip#5: Conduct pulse surveys and share the pulse survey results and action items based on them.
10. Transparency & Communication
The employees working from the office may get more visibility or chances of interaction with leadership. It's easy for remote employees to feel second class. But transparency in all processes and communication will prevent it.
Tip#1: Record all (relevant) meetings.
Not everyone could be available in the same time zone. Recording meetings takes away the fear of missing out on critical discussions.
Tip#2: Have a knowledge management system—a centralized repository of information like Confluence, Notion, etc.
Tip#3: Send meaningful communication.
For example, use newsletters or virtual town hall meetings to send essential company updates.
11. Train managers
Managing a remote team is far different from handling an in-office team. It comes with its own set of challenges.
Conduct training for leaders on how to:
- Translate the company culture
- How to set expectations
- Bring people together
- Build a recognition system
- Gather(and act on) feedback
12. Make remote onboarding an unforgettable experience
Lastly, don't forget the new hires. Make the onboarding experience fun and keep remote employee engagement a priority from Day 1 by using the below ideas.
Tip#1: Assign an onboarding buddy.
It eases communication and also builds connections. Check out Zavvy's onboarding buddy template to know more.
Tip#2: Use video.
Videos are more engaging than text, and creating video content for onboarding training is a wise idea. You can also create a warm video to welcome new hires. Take inspiration from the Metropolitan Airports Commission welcome video — it's thoughtful and engaging.
Tip#3: Give a virtual tour of the office.
You can use recorded videos to show around the office and introduce each department head to the human element.
You can also explore high-tech ways and use 3D reality like Ikea to give a virtual tour.
Tip#4: Gamify the onboarding.
Add challenges, game-based learning, and rewards like any other game to your onboarding program. For example, Bazaarvoice sends its new employees on a scavenger hunt with 60+ tasks. Each task is training in its way and makes new hires familiar with the work.
Tip#5: Use employee onboarding software.
Create a logical and exciting onboarding experience for all new hires by pre-planning all content, tasks, and milestones with an onboarding software solution.
🏢 7 Remote employee engagement examples
After interviewing 25+ industry experts, we have compiled this list of six outstanding examples.
1. Team Zavvy focuses on meaningful connections
We might be a hybrid team, with some employees working fully remotely, but this won't stop team Zavvy from really getting to know each other.
"Walk and talk" and "Conversations that matter" are recurring monthly events that allow us to take a break from work and establish better team cohesion. No weather is too bad, and no schedule is too busy to prevent us from engaging remotely.
"Every time I tell someone I'm working fully remotely, people ask 'Oh, don't you get lonely? Isn't it weird that you don't even know your teammates?'
And I always say, 'What? No. Of course I know my teammates!' It's really cool how well we all work together, and I feel like I can trust everyone I work with." Martin Schmitz, Product Designer at Zavvy.
2. Forter prioritizes wellness
"For remote employee engagement activities, we've made important changes at Forter that prioritize wellness.
For instance, we've replaced planned in-person gatherings with virtual cooking classes, yoga sessions, and more. It seemed important to give people more life to look forward to than just weekends." Lauren Vigliante, VP, People at Forter.
3. SoStocked invested in an employee recognition system
"Employee recognition & reward system was our best idea for engaging remote employees, and we did it by utilizing Blueboard's personalized tool for employee recognition.
Blueboard is a special employee recognition & reward tool because it allows you to reward your employees with actual experiences, and everybody loved the approach." Chelsea Cohen, Co-Founder of SoStocked.
4. Instrumentl has an internal social media platform
"One thing that works really well is creating a sense of community. We do this by having an internal social media platform -Workplace by Meta, where people can share ideas and resources.
We've found that our employees share a lot of things on our internal social media platform. They share successes, failures, and achievements. But not just their own. They also share stories about others who have inspired or shown them kindness. It's great to see how happy they are to share these stories with each other, and it helps us all feel connected as a community." Gauri Manglik, CEO & Co-founder at Instrumentl.
5. Monitask’s weekly “Share your photo” tradition
"I implemented a Weekly Share Your Photo tradition in my team where one person on the team shares a photo of anything random - their workplace view, pets, foods they are eating, what they are wearing, anything goes! I assign this task in our Team Huddle.
This was a great way to keep everyone connected and also helped us learn more about each other's interests." Diana Stepanova, Operations Manager at Monitask.
6. SpanishVIP plans regular meetups
"We plan in-person meetups in various cities so our remote employees can meet once in a while. We recently had a meetup in Bogota, Colombia, and flew in a few employees for a meeting of 15!
We like to concentrate our hires in specific cities to make these kinds of meetings easier." Connor Ondriska, Co-founder of SpanishVIP.
7. Zillow changed the way meetings are conducted
Zillow levels the playing field for remote workers in how they conduct meetings.
For example, instead of having in-office employees gather in a conference room with remote employees dialing in, everyone will dial in separately on their laptop, regardless of whether they're in the office.
"Space is equal on the screen, and everybody's name is there," said Meghan Reibstein, VP of Product Management and Flexible Work, Zillow, in conversation with The New York Times.
❗️ Why is employee engagement especially important for remote employees?
Nicole Miller, the Director of People at Buffer, says, "Connection and teammate engagement in a remote environment requires twice the effort of in-person workplaces."
Employees feel more connected to company culture
Being intentional about involving remote employees makes them feel connected to the company culture. As a result, it affects not only employee well-being but also retention and productivity.
You cannot ignore the loneliness factor which comes with remote work. And it directly impacts job performance. Actively engage remote employees, so they do not feel out of the loop. As a result, you will see a rise in productivity.
Increased employee retention
Bob Sutton, an organizational psychologist and a professor at Stanford University, highlights:
"If you're in a workplace or a job where there is not the emphasis on attachment, it's easier to change jobs, emotionally."
Remote work can reduce the attachment. But your extra steps can make resigning not an easy choice and retain talent.
Improved employer branding
A survey by CareerBuilder shows that 77% of job seekers in the US prefer remote work. So, taking care of remote employees will help you:
- increase retention,
- build an impressive image, and
- attract better talent.
➡️ Ensure engaging remote experiences with Zavvy
Measuring remote employee engagement with no follow-up changes is like listening with closed ears.
You need tools to enable remote employees to perform at their best and hear their thoughts.
Make all the engagement activities like training, surveys, well-being tracking, check-ins, and gathering feedback a seamless part of your process with Zavvy.
Book a demo now with one of our experts.