5 Tips for Remote and Hybrid Employee Engagement

As people leaders, the impact of the pandemic has been acutely felt within our organizations. After two years, the end is nearly in sight as companies start planning for returning to the office. As we examine what is happening, though, we notice something curious. By and large, many employees do not want to go back. 

The advantages of remote work, from work-life balance to location independence, are too good to give up for many knowledge workers. The data is stark. According to Microsoft’s study on remote work, 46% of employees plan to move to a new location because they can now work remotely. In addition, a HBS study found that 35% of employees would look for a new job if they were forced to return to the office. Given the fierce competition for talent, employers have no choice but to allow their employees to work remotely or risk losing them altogether.

This creates a new set of challenges for employers and people teams: how do you cultivate a thriving company culture when your people are split between in-person and remote? 36% of leaders told PwC that the biggest challenge in a hybrid work environment is the loss of corporate culture. At Welcome, we work with companies of all sizes that are going through this transition right now. As a result, we’ve compiled a list of best practices that can help you engage your remote employees.

1. Increase transparency and access to leadership

Employee engagement is an often overloaded term, but I really like Gallup’s definition. Engaged employees are those who feel “involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace.” 

For many employees, transparency is key to feeling engaged at work. This is exacerbated in remote or hybrid work environments. It’s much easier to stay in the loop in an office, where you can absorb the latest happenings through water cooler conversations and lunches. 

To keep remote employees engaged, managers and leaders need to be much more intentional about reaching out proactively and making sure employees have the context they need to be successful. 

2. Create virtual water coolers

It’s difficult to replicate the serendipitous interactions that happen in an office. Steve Jobs famously designed the Pixar offices to maximize these chance encounters. Working remotely, on the other hand, can feel like an endless series of Zoom meetings. No wonder remote employees are feeling exhausted and overworked. 

At Welcome, we’ve made an intentional effort to hold space for personal interactions. Our weekly town hall meetings alternate between business updates and unstructured conversations. The engineering team routinely gets together to play games and relax. We’ve recently also implemented a weekly “Welcome Cafe” where employees can bring their coffee and connect with each other outside of work. These non-business interactions have helped build a sense of community and belonging for remote employees.

3. Create an environment of recognition and celebration

We all know that recognition is very important for employees. In fact, recent surveys indicate that it is the MOST important thing for 37% of employees. When people receive recognition for their accomplishments, it pushes them to achieve more. 

This is very challenging in a remote environment. For the Welcome sales team, a congratulatory message on Slack when a deal is closed pales in comparison to confetti and gongs in an office. Part of this comes down to the perceived level of effort. Sending a Slack message or an email doesn’t hit as hard because it’s so easy to do. 

At Welcome, what we’ve done is make employee recognition a big part of our weekly town hall meetings. Whether it’s a CSM talking about a customer they renewed, or an account executive talking about a deal they closed, letting employees brag about their work has done wonders for morale. 

In addition, we’ve implemented a recognition platform that allows employees to give peer-to-peer recognition that’s tied to a scarce resource (in this case, points). The recognition channel is now one of the busiest Slack channels we have, and that’s largely due to the addictive nature of giving and receiving points.

4. Create guidelines for remote work etiquette

Not everyone knows how to be productive remotely. One of the advantages of remote work is being able to have long periods of focused effort, which is essential for being a productive knowledge worker. 

However, if you’re not careful, your entire day can be consumed by Zoom meetings and Slack pings. Having company guidelines around Slack etiquette (for example, never tagging an entire channel), as well as no-meeting days, can help employees feel more engaged and productive.

5. Create remote employee events

During the past two years, companies have learned to re-create many of the attributes of in-person work. Slack has become the de-facto water-cooler, Zoom has become the de-facto conference room, and Miro has become the de-facto whiteboard. 

But what about the company auditorium? Large, culture-building events like town halls, sales kickoffs, and DEI events are a key part of making employees feel engaged. These types of large scale meetings require a more intentional touch than the typical Zoom meeting. Though an infrequent occurrence, these events are crucial for keeping your employees informed and excited about the direction of the company. 

One challenge of using a platform like Zoom for these events is that employees are fatigued from being in back-to-back Zoom meetings. Using a virtual event platform and video production tools like VMix or OBS can really level up the production value of your employee events. If you don’t have the expertise or time to learn A/V production, then a video engagement platform with built in production capabilities like Welcome can help here as well.

Final Thoughts

As remote work becomes more prevalent, engaging your remote workers and making sure they have an equitable experience is more  important than ever. From virtual water coolers to employee recognition, digital engagement of your remote workers is easy and inexpensive to implement—as long as you roll out new programs with intention. With higher retention rates and increased employee satisfaction, your efforts to engage remote and hybrid employees will make it all worthwhile.

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