Whether your company is big or small, ensuring good employee engagement is never easy. It can be even more challenging when your entire workforce is scattered across many remote working environments.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, remote working has become the norm in countless firms worldwide. While established business owners have now adapted to the sudden drop in employee engagement that hit in the early days of the pandemic, if you’re the owner of a fledgling start-up, you may find it hard to know where to begin.
Today’s post will go over some of the most effective tips for creating an engaging employee experience for your remote teams.
Use Group Chats to Encourage Socializing
As we’ve all seen throughout the pandemic, being separated from your colleagues can not only bring up some significant challenges for collaboration, but also a degree of social isolation too.
When most of your conversations are text-based, occurring through programs like MS Teams or Slack, it can make it hard for workers to pick up on social cues or relate to the other members of their team. This issue can be especially prevalent if you’re just starting an online business and don’t have the resources or reason to meet in a physical office.
One of the best ways to counteract this kind of personal siloing is to create casual spaces that encourage socializing on your company’s messaging platform.
Whether it’s a business wide “good news” chat or smaller chats divided by teams or interests, establishing these “virtual break rooms” will help build a more cohesive workforce who will feel much more engaged with their work.
There are many ways to introduce these social spaces, and the best method will depend on the existing social and structural make-up of your company.
Some companies have kick-started a more casual, social use of their group chats through regular, business-wide meetings to recognize achievements, and chat about goings-on.
Writing for his company blog, John Furneaux, CEO of Hive, said: “The most important keys to remote work at a startup have been weekly stand-ups. At Hive, we all get on Zoom once a week to chat and give shoutouts to the team. We also have regular 1:1s with video on. Having your video on totally changes the tone of a meeting and is critical for a startup.”
If your business is moderately-sized and divided into departments and teams, you may want to use SMART goals in your 1:1 meetings with managers to delegate the creation of these social spaces, trusting them to the people who know their teams best.
If you’re just starting with around 5-20 employees, then it’s probably best to take the reins yourself, and show your staff that you want to connect with them as humans, not just as colleagues!
Offer Perks for Working from Home
Business owners who have been in the game for a long time (and are maybe a little stuck in their ways!) will often consider working from home and choosing flexible hours a perk in and of itself. However, with all business operations becoming increasingly digitized, these are now considered standard aspects of work rather than privileges.
It’s also important to note that while some people love remote working, this isn’t an opinion that’s shared by everyone. One study by Slack conducted in the first year of the pandemic indicated that 12% of knowledge workers wanted to return to working exclusively at an office.
Make sure you’re going past the basic home-working model and offering extra perks to help round out your remote teams’ employee experience.
If you’re running a relatively new venture and still getting to know your workforce, it can be understandably hard to know what kind of perks will be best received at your company. Case studies have shown a sizable disparity between the perks that men and women favor, let alone all the other ways you can categorize the people at a given company.
Don’t be afraid to communicate with your staff, using Google form polls and other accessible tools to gauge how your team will respond to different perks.
With a suite of solid remote-working benefits, you’ll be able to maximize your employees’ productivity while minimizing turnover, help your staff feel more fulfilled in their jobs, and nurture a better standard of remote working experience.
Organizing online team-building activities, sending out branded swag gifts, setting up a work wellness program, and other initiatives that strengthen the company culture all contribute to a healthy work-life balance. This will also encourage more social interactions between employees and help every individual at your company feel like a part of a team.
Organize After-Work Virtual Hangouts
Another great way to enhance your remote teams’ employee experience at work is to organize virtual hangouts to substitute in-person socials.
Like the last two items on our list, this will help build trust and camaraderie between employees who don’t get a lot of chances to talk to each other, help to release the pressure of work, and remind everyone that the management cares about them on a personal level.
Just like any social event, a successful virtual hangout requires good preparation. Having something fun for everyone to focus on will give the evening some structure and get the conversation flowing, which is an essential first step when people are only just getting to know each other.
Simple activities like quizzes can be a great way to get the ball rolling! Water Cooler Trivia, one of the leading online quiz providers, has been used by business giants such as Nike, Amazon, and Strava.
After a bit of ice breaking through the group activities, the group will start to feel at home in no time! You’ll soon notice buzzing conversations and closer working relationships developing naturally.
Provide Online Counseling
When you don’t have a physical office where you see your colleagues regularly, it can be easy to drift out of touch with the business's general mood and mental well-being.
You don’t have to be a personal confidant to every member of your workforce to maintain good mental health at the company, but making sure people know there are resources to use can go a long way in this area.
Whether you keep it within your own HR department or outsource it to a workplace counseling agency, providing online counseling can be a great way to improve the remote employee experience.
Workplace counseling is often seen as a kind of ultra-modern, wishy-washy service that doesn’t offer many tangible benefits for the company where it’s implemented. However, just like CRMs or shift planning software, online counseling has changed how remote workers perform their roles.
Offering wellness classes to employees has been shown to drive down absences, give them the confidence they need to exceed their goals, and help people healthily deal with stress. One study conducted by US wellness agency Helping Hands Miami shows that stress levels drop overall after wellness classes.
In 2022, counselling and mental health can be a pretty sensitive topic. If your business is relatively small, it’s often a good idea to introduce the subject gradually. General wellness sessions that include a large section of your workforce are a great way to mitigate any awkwardness around the topic and avoid singling anyone out. At the same time, you must encourage your team to seek individual help if they need it.
Offer Mentorship Programs
No matter what niche your business belongs to, your staff will need to be in a state of constant development to keep the company competitive. They’ll also need to feel like they have a job that fits in with their personal motivations and aspirations if you want to keep employee turnover to a manageable level.
A high employee turnover rate can inflict substantial losses on your company, especially in terms of time lost and recruitment and training costs. Keeping your employees engaged through a mentorship program will give your staff a sense of value in their jobs. You can also reduce the cost of employee development and nurture a culture of learning within your business.
Your mentorship program should be flexible enough to adapt to the requirements of your organization. It should start with a clear definition of the program’s goal, where you can establish how you’d like your company to benefit from the program, the developmental needs you’re hoping to meet, and what your current resources are.
There are different forms mentorship programs can take, including one-on-one, peer, group, and team mentoring. Read into each one and try to find a way to match it with your company's size, resources, and goals. This should help you map out a mentorship program that will provide tangible value to your team members and the company.
We hope you find these tips useful and insightful as you navigate the varied challenges of engaging your remote team.
Though a feeling of disconnect within remote teams isn’t totally avoidable, taking a more proactive role in your staff’s remote working experience will help you discover the kinds of perks, programs, and other initiatives that make working remotely more manageable and engaging.
From there, you’ll find it easy to implement effective ways to enhance your employees’ remote experience!
Jimmy Rodriguez is the VP of eCommerce of Shift4Shop, a completely free, enterprise-grade ecommerce solution. He's dedicated to helping internet retailers succeed online by developing digital marketing strategies and optimized shopping experiences that drive conversions and improve business performance.