Before the emergence of COVID-19, many companies have already implemented work-from-home policies as a way to help employees strike a balance between work and life.
However, the pandemic has led to the largest work-from-home experiment. In an effort to minimise the spread of COVID-19, companies are compelled to have either the entire or a majority of their workforce working from home. However, with everyone holed up in their homes behind their screens, it can be difficult to maintain a culture or build synergies.
When you don’t see your colleagues or team members, impromptu work discussions and casual conversations along the hallways disappear. Managers would also find it difficult to guide those who need help, delegate work and manage time.
With lower engagement and the lack of social and professional support, employees may not be as motivated and could potentially experience higher levels of stress.
So how can you continue to keep your people engaged, motivated and productive when working from home?
4 tips for keeping your remote employees engaged
1. create a digital social community
Use digital social platforms such as Google+ community or Workplace by Facebook as a common space for employees to engage with each other.
Such platforms are great for non-important internal announcements such as a newly renovated pantry or to introduce new joiners to the wider organisation. It also creates a comfortable environment for newcomers to explore how people interact with one another and get to know their colleagues even without having to meet them in person. Team leaders can also recognise high-performing employees on these platforms.
Identify some advocates within the organisation who can help drive this initiative. Ideally, they should be a people’s person and have some influence in the organisation. They can start by posting some videos and pictures of their food, pets and family to spark conversations. Those who are more creative and courageous can even share their reenactment of a TikTok dance.
With everyone rallying around the platform, it will be up and running in a matter of weeks. You should expect to see more people participate once they get the idea of it. Some companies that experienced increased employee engagement levels have even replaced their intranet with these social platforms.
2. host weekly virtual workouts
We tend to exercise less when we’re working from home. Instead of the usual commute to the office, your daily travel only consists of you walking from your bed to your desk.
It’s important to stay fit and healthy even when working from home. Employers can organise a weekly virtual workout session and encourage everyone to participate. You could either engage a fitness coach to lead the weekly workout, or broadcast an ad-free YouTube video to your employees to follow. To encourage more people to join, keep these workouts to just 20 minutes and with exercises that require no equipment.
Make sure that your employees who are in the office can also benefit from these workouts too. Designate a meeting room or a common space with teleconferencing equipment for them to participate along with their colleagues who are doing it from home.
Encourage your employees to turn on their webcams while they exercise, as they will be more likely to put in the effort when they can see each other. They can also use this opportunity to have a chat and share some updates of their lives with each other.
3. host friendly virtual contests
If you manage a big team, initiate fun activities for remote employees. Try hosting a game that can be played remotely so that your team can take a break from work.
You could assume the role of a quizmaster and get your employees to form teams over a video conference, or play a game of online pictionary from your own screens. These activities help improve collaboration and creativity within the team.
Just try to keep them to just under 15 minutes so they don’t lose their work momentum, and make sure that you’ve prepared a reward to incentivise your team!
4. invite them for a virtual lunch or drinks
Working from home doesn’t mean that you can’t have a meal or a couple of drinks together. When we live in a world filled with negative news, it is important to have a bit of positivity in our own outlook on life.
Keep in mind that this is not a work meeting. Enforce a rule that no work talk is allowed during the virtual lunch hour. Instead, suggest conversation topics such as the latest television series to watch on Netflix or a new album that was dropped on Spotify. If you found a good deal in a restaurant or retail, the virtual lunch would be a good time to share it.
Send a calendar invite at least a day before to invite your colleagues to a virtual lunch or drinks session. Your employees will also feel encouraged to show off their culinary skills and even share the background of their cultural foods. These sessions should also be optional, as some employees may have tighter deadlines to rush.
stay connected even when you’re not together
Remote working will become a reality one day and there is no better time to start trying out what works and what doesn’t.
When team managers implement these activities, you’ll also be able to build better rapport with your employees and understand them a little better beyond their work emails and messages. It is also a good time to check in with your team about how they are dealing with their physical and mental health during these unprecedented times.
You can take the opportunity to remind them that they are not alone, and encourage them to participate in these online employee activities to surround themselves with positive energy.