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9 strategies to engage remote employees

Managing and motivating your remote teams is not easy. But there are great ways to engage remote employees.

When I received the opportunity to work remotely, I jumped at the chance to move down the coast to warmer waters and more affordable housing. 

I assumed I would maintain the sense of belonging in the company and the connection I had enjoyed with my colleagues, especially with monthly visits to the office. Initially, I felt engaged and more productive overall. And many of my connections with individuals deepened as we chatted over Slack or Zoom. 

But as the entire organisation soon shifted to remote work during the pandemic, some of the challenges of remote work emerged. 

For that reason, I mapped what I learned in the process, what my company did well, and what I believe other organisations can learn from the experience. So here are 9 strategies to engage remote employees and keep your remote team connected.

Keep the weekly standup

Weekly standups might not involve standing up anymore, but they still keep your employees engaged and ensure alignment with your company’s OKRs. 

But just because you’re sitting down doesn’t mean meetings should drag on. The ideal length is 18 minutes, according to a recent survey by the video presentation app Prezi

Use standups at the beginning of the week to introduce new remote employees or contractors. During it, review pulse survey data and highlight any new initiatives or projects the company will undertake during the week. 

A Friday standup might include department updates and wins from the week. Give it a celebratory, happy hour vibe and include shout-outs to individual employees.

Define meeting attendance as optional 

Globally distributed workers might not want to join a standup in the middle of the night, so consider alternating the time of the meeting so that most employees can attend. Or allow meetings to take place asynchronously and send a recording to those who missed it. 

Don’t skip the small talk 

For individual meetings or those with small groups, don’t skip the small talk. In the same way, you chat with your colleagues as you fill your coffee, walk into a conference room, and find a seat, make your virtual meetings personal. 

Carving out time at the start of meetings to catch up a little creates and enhances business friendships and team performance. This is defended by Debra Fine, author of the bestselling book The Fine Art of Small Talk: How to Start a Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Networking Skills—and Leave a Positive Impression.

She encourages leaders to model this behaviour at both the beginning and end of business meetings.

Utilize breakout rooms 

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been in a meeting where it felt as if you may as well have just submitted a recording of yourself sitting at your computer. (Hand raised) 

Part of the challenge lies in meetings for larger meetings, especially those with 12 or more remote employees. Use breakout rooms to ensure everyone in a meeting has a chance to speak.

Rethink happy hour and game nights

While some remote employees might enjoy happy hours and game nights, it’s a sad substitute for the human connection we enjoy in person. And working parents, they can feel like yet another drain on their time. 

“At the start of the pandemic, employers flocked to Zoom to keep up the face-to-face interaction. However, employees started getting burnt out from the constant Zoom happy hours and meetings that they began losing the desire to show up,” says Heidi Lynn Kurter, a leadership coach and workplace culture consultant, in an article for Forbes

Host virtual classes and shows

Unlike a happy hour, we’re already accustomed to taking classes or watching music online. During the first month of lockdown, I hosted a cooking class for my colleagues. Another employee hosted a live yoga class. Both were after hours and totally optional. Later, another teammate hosted a virtual concert.

Double down on internal communication 

Employees who are accustomed to working in an open office are used to catching up on the latest news effortlessly. Remote workers don’t have that luxury. 

That’s why internal communication matters more than ever. Some of this can happen during standup and on Slack. Also, make a point of sending a quick note to your team with updates. It prevents some updates that might have been missed in other modes of communication.

Send gifts to engage remote employees

It doesn’t have to be big. Even chocolates, a card, or company schwag are enough to express your gratitude. A small gesture maintains a sense of connection to your organisation, especially one your team member will see again and again.

Deliver lunch 

While catered lunches don’t work anymore, treat your team to lunch before a big meeting or at a break (no one wants to see chewing!) by sending a virtual gift card. Uber Eats, DoorDash, and dozens of other food delivery apps make employee lunches a possibility. Bonus — everyone gets exactly what they like.

Let us know if you have other strategies to engage remote employees. Share through our social media channels.

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