Working from home. It used to be a perk of the job. Now, it’s an essential requirement. In response to the recent crisis, many companies have been forced to ask their employees to work remotely. When it comes to employee engagement, this is a real logistical challenge. While around a quarter of employees were already working some hours away from the office, this has now increased dramatically. The UK’s Office for National Statistics showed that 49% of adults were working from home in April 2020. This had risen to over 60% by September 2020. Many employees are working out of the office for the first time, without the usual preparations and policies in place.
In an ideal world, we would have been prepared. We’d have clear remote-working policies already in place, we’d have run training sessions on new software platforms, we’d have IT solutions ready to go. However, in the midst of crisis situation, this just wasn’t going to happen.
The effect of remote working on employee engagement and motivation is quite striking. New research by Finder revealed that employees have reported working longer hours and finding it hard to switch off. Over 30% reported feeling loneliness away from the office environment. And as many as 62% wanted employers to provide them with technology that would help them stay better connected to their colleagues.
So how can we improve employee engagement for remote workers? We have pulled together 15 employee engagement ideas that will help to reconnect your staff, wherever they’re based. These creative ideas for employee engagement are easy to implement and extremely effective at restoring that all-important sense of belonging across your organisation.
#1 Begin with a strategy
Why? A defined employee engagement strategy is the blueprint guiding you to success
Start as you mean to go on. With a detailed employee engagement strategy that defines your business goals to increase staff engagement and plans the activities required to achieve these goals. Just because you’re reacting to an immediate need, it doesn’t mean that you should ignore this essential background planning.
In order to do this effectively, you will need to tie down your employee engagement definition, as it applies to your unique business needs. Do you need your staff to be able to adapt to more upcoming change? Or maybe you need your employees to work better together as a team? Every organisation has different challenges to face and this will affect the strategy you decide on.
Once you have your plan, it will need to be executed. Make sure you have all the resources in place. Make sure all departments have been consulted and are on board. And, crucially, make sure your strategy is connecting everyone in the organisation.
#2 Inform your audience
Why? A steady flow of information helps to connect directors with those at the coalface
The best staff engagement ideas always start with information. You need to create free flowing channels of information to share the strategic direction and company vision. Directors make decisions on how to run a company daily and employees are the ones who live and breathe the impact of these decisions. Without understanding the what and the why, employees risk not feeling engaged at work.
This is even more essential when your workers are separated from the office environment. News that once flowed freely between colleagues now needs to find a new route to travel along. Employee engagement software is an ideal way to centralise communications and keep that news stream current. Instead of using disparate channels from a number of sources, you can keep the news relevant and on brand, and essentially, easy to access from one central hub.
#3 Listen to your people
Why? Engagement starts with a feeling of inclusion. Listening shows you care.
Implement an employee listening strategy by allowing your employees to voice their opinions. It’s a great way to check the pulse of what matters at the coalface of your business. However, according to a Gallup report, it’s a sad truth that only 30% of staff feel like their voices are heard.
This figure is likely to be even higher with the rise in home working. When the boss is no longer accessible, it’s harder to give an impression of a listening, caring management team. However, of all the employee engagement improvement ideas, listening should be a number one priority.
In this age of social media, people now expect to be able to engage in a two-way conversation. This presents an interesting challenge for internal communicators, especially given that many organisations haven’t yet adopted this type of channel internally. Fortunately, an employee app will have these two-way channels built in, easily facilitating the flow of feedback. By opening up channels for discussion – in the right forum and on the right topics – you can go a long way towards improving employee engagement and creating a collaborative workplace.
#4 Get to know your team
Why? Creating a unified workforce will encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing
The disconnect between management and the greater team is a long- standing issue that is one of the main barriers to employee engagement. It’s even more pronounced for remote workers who have no physical connection to the office. It’s vital that this divide is addressed if you want to create an engaged workforce. The impact of leadership on employee engagement should not be underestimated.
To facilitate this shift, try putting some team engagement ideas in place. You can encourage your management team to get to know their staff by implementing a virtual open-door policy and motivating them to take an interest in their people as individuals. It’s important that employees and management find a common ground to reduce the perceived gap.
To help promote the connection that you want to see between management and employees, it’s key to introduce a variation of communication channels. Not all of your staff will be happy communicating with their managers face-to-face. Employee engagement software can provide the perfect space for this type of communication, with individuals able to choose from a range of channels to interact with their manager.
#5 Be flexible
Why? If your staff feel able to structure their work around their lives, their wellbeing and productivity will improve.
It’s essential to understand just how much a little bit of flexibility can change your employees’ working lives. Balancing professional and personal commitments can be a real sticking point for lots of people. This is especially true for remote workers who find it hard to define the cut-off point between working life and home life.
There are numerous ways to show your staff that you are willing to offer the flexibility that they need. You could allow your employees to restructure the hours they work. You could introduce wellness breaks to make sure they get enough time away from the screen. Keeping remote workers engaged is no easy task. It will need some extra flexibility and understanding if you’re to get the best out of them. All the best employee engagement ideas take the worker’s personal needs into account.
As long as they are achieving their targets, and maintaining productivity, the extra flexibility will do nothing to harm your business, and everything to improve engagement levels.
#6 Empower employees
Why? When you give your staff a voice, you create a better workplace culture
Empowerment is about accountability and trust. You need to give employees a certain degree of autonomy and responsibility in order to gain the best performance from them. It’s all too tempting to lay down hard and fast rules for remote workers, but one of your employee engagement objectives should be to give them back control. Delegating authority and decision-making, sharing information, and asking for input are all ways to pass the power back to your staff. It also takes a lot of work off your shoulders.
To go above and beyond, allow your staff to dedicate time to their own creative ideas for employee engagement. By giving your staff the control, they not only engage in their preferred way, but it also saves you time and effort in engagement activities as well.
#7 Focus on health
Why? If your staff feel healthy and cared-for, they will be less stressed and more productive
Taking a caring approach to your employees makes good business sense. It stands to reason. If your employees are operating at maximum health, they are going to be fully engaged in their work. It’s not just physical health you need to consider; make sure you address mental and emotional health issues as well. With loneliness being reported as a real issue amongst remote workers, it’s your responsibility to address this.
There are many fun employee engagement ideas which will assist with the sense of loneliness and disconnection. You could set friendly challenges, start a ‘good news’ conversation or hold tours of remote working set-ups. An employee engagement app will help you to set up these virtual events. It will even allow you to set up a virtual break room for employee to meet and chat.
#8 Give back
Why? Charitable giving helps employees connect with the company’s aims and ideals
Corporate giving is known to have a greatly beneficial effect on company culture. It is a way for the organisation to reinforce their greater purpose – beyond that of just products and services – and communicate it to employees in a meaningful way. In short, it’s showing staff that you care. This is especially important in times of crisis, when charity becomes an essential lifeline for many people. It’s one of the employee engagement ideas that will really make an impact.
Organising and promoting charitable events among employees results in significantly improved work engagement. It is an opportunity to create traditions that staff can take pride in. Ask your teams to get involved with your charitable choices. Nothing promotes employee advocacy better than a sense of pride and ownership.
#9 Make recognition public
Why? When you praise in public, everyone present feels encouraged to work harder
Hard work should never go unnoticed, even when it happens from the home office. Otherwise, your employees may be less inclined to deliver again. Instead, promote visibility of your staff by being generous with your public praise and recognition.
In addition, everyone who witnesses public appreciation will register this subconsciously. Not only will they consider the company culture to be supportive and nurturing, they will also feel motivated to follow suit and seek praise themselves.
Simply putting a staff member’s name to a project can help to promote engagement, especially when they are thanked for a fantastic job. Digital platforms and employee apps make it easy to tag employees in this simple but effective form of recognition.
#10 Celebrate the personal stuff
Why? Your employees will feel valued and appreciated if you celebrate what matters to them
Without the traditional birthday cakes and after work drinks, working life can feel very dry. But the celebrations don’t have to stop, just because people are working remotely. When it comes to employee engagement ideas and activities that really connect with employees, celebrations will always score highly.
Remember, don’t just limit the celebrations to company targets and milestones. If you take the time to celebrate things that matter to your employees, you will reap the rewards in improved employee engagement. Workplace celebrations have a huge impact on morale. They foster strong relationships, enhance retention and encourage staff to put in that extra bit of effort to achieve results.
Employee engagement software will make it simple to wish staff members a happy birthday or to celebrate accomplishments whether it is passing an exam or running a virtual marathon. Staff should always feel like they matter to an organisation to ensure they are as engaged as possible.
#11 Create employee advocates
Why? A genuinely engaged employee is always the best ambassador for your brand
Brands are increasingly turning to their employees as advocates of their products and services. Nurturing brand advocates internally gives your messaging an engaging, peer-to-peer channel. So, as well as being a measurement of engagement, employee advocacy can become the catalyst for greater engagement throughout your organisation. This is especially true in times of upheaval, when the company’s stability may be thrown into question.
A recent report by Weber Shandwick shows that 50% of employees already post messages, pictures or videos about their employer on social media. It makes sense to harness this power, rather than trying to silence it. Your employee engagement initiatives ideas should always work with the natural impetus of your staff, rather than fight against it.
These social media stories are then available to the wider external audience and provide share-worthy material. This helps build strong internal relationships, breaks down silos, and encourages more meaningful interaction.
#12 Use motivational speakers
Why? A motivational speaker can bring a new perspective to reinvigorate staff
One of the best things about motivational speakers is that they don’t work for you. Therefore, they are not bogged down by the daily grind. They can see the bigger picture and present it to your staff in an original and inspiring way that could inspire an influx of new ideas.
Most people think of motivational speakers presenting at conferences and events. However, there is no reason why they can’t operate virtually as well. In fact, motivational speaking is one of the most successful employee engagement initiatives that works despite social distancing. You can still engage staff wherever they are. Webinars, videos and transcripts can all help to engage staff and ensure they don’t miss out, even if they aren’t based at head office.
#13 Master onboarding
Why? Successful onboarding reduces turnover and ensures immediate productivity
Many companies overlook the importance of onboarding. But the process of integrating new employees into the organisation is a crucial one, especially if they are unable to join their team in person. Employee engagement survey results suggest almost a quarter of employees will look for a new job within the first 45 days. However, such high turnover levels are easily avoidable.
A structured onboarding programme improves employee engagement and helps get them up to speed with seasoned hires much more quickly. As a result, new employees are more productive and less likely to feel stressed, disconnected and ready to look for work elsewhere.
Group chats have proved a highly effective strategy. Employee engagement software will help to organise new starters in a group chat led by management. Questions can then be answered as they arise and tackled before they become problems. When it comes to staff engagement ideas, onboarding is a crucial element of any strategy.
#14 Delegate responsibilities
Why? Giving employees their own initiatives produces greater employee satisfaction
Managers tend to delegate tasks. There are always too many tasks that need ticking off the to-do list and passing them on to staff is the obvious option. However, if you take a moment to think through the total requirement of a project, and then delegate the full responsibility, you will achieve a better result and increase employee engagement.
This is particularly relevant when it comes to remote working. The natural impulse is to micromanage your team when you don’t have direct access to them. However, this can lead to a reduction in morale and enthusiasm. By giving your team their own initiative to see through from start to finish, you’ll be energising them to bring their best efforts to the task. It also grooms employees for future managerial positions and encourages employee advocacy. Plus, it frees up more of your time as well. A win win.
#15 Encourage fun
Why? Fun can help to cut through the monotony of a workday, and inspire creativity
Most employees wouldn’t associate the word ‘fun’ with work, but there should always be room for fun in a professional setting, especially if you’re looking to improve employee engagement. There’s very little fun to be had when you’re working from home, so your staff engagement ideas should always include something light-hearted to lift the mood.
Ask your remote workers to get involved in planning virtual social events for the entire team. See what fun employee engagement ideas they come up with. Giving your staff the autonomy to get involved in planning these types of events is a fail-safe way to improve engagement levels. An employee app offers the ability to create social spaces where staff can meet, chat and simply have a laugh. By simply inserting a bit of fun into your employees’ work lives, you create a culture that breeds positivity and productivity.