Inclusive Employee Engagement Ideas for Remote Teams
25 August 2020
Remote working brings both highs and lows for HR departments. One of their biggest struggles? Engagement ideas for remote teams. Here are ways to keep your remote workforce working together, even when they’re miles apart.
For all the benefits remote working enables, reduced overheads, increased flexibility, and no commute –– it certainly has drawbacks for engagement and inclusion.
How can you preserve, or even improve upon, the potential for engagement that exists when everyone’s working under one roof?
This is the challenge that many HR directors, hiring managers, and heads of talent are facing today. It is no secret that an engaged employee is healthier, happier, more productive, easier to retain, and produces a higher standard of work than their disengaged counterpart. These characteristics are not just ‘nice to haves’ either — they have a direct positive impact on your bottom line.
Naturally, you want to keep employee engagement and inclusion as high as possible, especially when your teams are working remotely. But the question of how to keep remote employees engaged remains. The following initiatives help you get it right.
Inclusive Employee Engagement for Remote Teams
1. Build a remote digital space where everyone belongs
Remote work can be an isolating experience. At home — and separate from the buzz of the workspace — employees can be left feeling shunned and overlooked. Common complaints include co-workers not respecting their priorities and being unaware of changes made to active projects.
But the remedy is probably right in front of you: your digital device.
Whether it’s Slack, Microsoft Teams, Notion, Google, or any other of the hundreds of online collaboration tools, these software solutions empower teams to connect professionally and socially on a day-to-day basis.
GitLab — an entirely remote business structure — pairs members of staff up for a virtual coffee break using Slack and a clever bot called Donut. They also run a “random room” via Google Hangouts; a place for employees to drop in and out of, whenever they need virtual watercooler chat.
Elsewhere, Clevertech — a New York based tech firm employing hundreds of remote workers — found that organizing online gaming sessions between staff was a great way to build trust and promote collaboration, even when not occupying the same physical space.
Regardless of budget, there’s a creative and on-brand way of using digital connectivity to bring your teams together.
2: Return to your cultural DNA
Creating and affirming a remote company culture is a challenge — that’s true whether you’re transitioning to WFH, or you’re building a remote-first organization from the ground up.
Your success in tackling this challenge will depend on how strong your company culture is. Have you defined clearly enough for employees and customers to connect with it in a meaningful way?
If we think of culture as “how we do things around here”, then there’s a lot of up for grabs when you’re establishing remote ways of working. Remember why the business started in the first place — what’s your mission? What characteristics do you champion?
Returning to this essence will help you design engaging, inspiring remote workflows. For existing companies, employees will be able to recognize the organization they chose to work for. And, in new teams, everyone will be singing from the same hymn sheet right away.
3: Prioritize purpose
Employees who see the value and purpose of their work are 30% more likely to be high performers, and are 50% more likely to actively promote the company externally.
And here’s the good news: it might, in fact, be easier to instill a sense of purpose in remote workers than those operating from an office space.
Because with centralized communications you can share success stories and other meaningful updates across the entire company in real-time. You can create instant feedback loops and enable collaboration on a scale that simply isn’t possible if everyone were sharing the same physical space.
Instant messaging platforms, like Slack, allow you to compartmentalize different teams and projects across channels, ensuring everyone knows what they need to do, when they need to do it, and — most importantly — why they need to do it, too.
People feel a sense of purpose when they know how their work connects to the big idea. The platforms we have at our disposal now make it possible to connect someone’s home office or kitchen table to the beating heart of the largest corporations — a direct link back to the business mission.
Sending monthly, weekly, or daily digital updates across the team should be step one. From there, you can even partner people up with teams in different departments — giving them never-seen-before insight to how their cog impacts other parts of the machine. With digital connectivity this is quick, easy (and low-cost). In the physical world? It’s much harder indeed.
4. Guarantee employees are seen and heard
Nothing disempowers an employee faster than feeling they’re not being listened to or recognized.
It may start with lack of autonomy, believing their skills are under-utilized, or a manager who doesn’t celebrate their wins, but the result is almost certainly the same: lack of engagement, and maybe even giving notice.
Unfortunately, this happens all too easily in work-from-home set-ups. When we become siloed, we forget to thank other people for their input — we become so focused on balancing our own workload (alongside doing the laundry, feeding the kids, walking the dog), that we overlook the far wider community that’s helping us do our jobs well.
Resolving this starts with managers and leaders. Creating a remote culture of reward and acknowledgement — taking the time to guarantee colleagues know their efforts have worth.
But it doesn’t have to stop there.
Help Scout — another organization with a sizable remote workforce — host ‘Troop Talks’, regular, structured calls with ever-changing themes. The talks connect employees across countries and languages, encouraging everyone to give a tour of their hometown, discuss what movies they’ve watched recently, or even share their favorite recipes.
It’s the ultimate example of reinventing digital communication at work — of moving past seeing it as simply a way to get more done, and instead using it to add meaning, empowerment, and purpose to each day. The result? A more engaged — and productive — workforce, today and in the future.
Remote teams have untapped potential — will you help them access it?
With the right tools, there are countless ways to keep employees engaged while working remotely. In this article, we’ve covered just four of the most important engagement and inclusion ideas for remote teams.
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