6 Ways to Engage and Connect with Remote Employees
Maintaining a positive and fun office culture is one key to the success of your business and the productivity of your team. When your remote employees are separated by time zones and physical distance it is important to foster and maintain your office culture even more so than in a traditional office setting. Here are a handful of ways to strengthen your remote work office culture, engage with your team, and increase productivity.
1. Write engaging emails
Rather than popping into your employees’ respective offices for a quick chat, emails are bound to become the most common form of internal communication between yourself and your remote workers. With that in mind, it’s important for you to create emails that capture your employees’ attention as well as get your point across.
Engaging emails are appreciated by your employees and will ensure that you receive a quick response. After all, no one wants to read a litany of boring communiques all day. Keep your emails casual, lighthearted, and conversational when appropriate. If you send out a weekly email briefing, consider putting the key takeaways in bullet format to make the email easy to digest. An email is only effective if your employees actually want to open it and read it.
2. Hold A Weekly Virtual Happy Hour
Schedule a weekly happy-hour video call during one of your slow days of the week to increase employee engagement. Many video chat services offer game packages. Playing a couple of games with your remote team can strengthen your office culture, be a time for you to connect with your employees, and generally allow everyone to let off some steam.
Schedule these types of hangouts towards the end of the day, and try not to take up more than an hour or so to complete them; even though it is a fun activity, your employees are still considered on the clock and you want to respect their time. This should be a chill time off work but at work. Avoid talk of assignments, deadlines, or clients.
3. Encourage Friendly Competition
If you are able, split up your remote team into a couple of different groups and have some friendly, work-related competition. For example, you can award a group weekly or monthly bragging rights if they complete the largest number of cold calls, bring in a certain number of additional clients, and so forth. Friendly competitions such as these encourage teamwork and communication between your employees.
If you want to sweeten the pot, you can offer a small gift card, a “get out of Zoom meeting free” card, or similar perk to encourage your teams to work towards their goals. This not only benefits them but you as well as the manager and business owner.
With this method, it’s important to remember to keep things friendly. You don’t want to pit one team against the other too much. Make sure the language around the competition stays friendly and doesn’t become bullying or trash talk.
Engaging your team in this way works for the benefit of all. You can switch up the teams on a monthly basis to keep it interesting and to encourage communication between groups who would otherwise never speak. For instance, you can pair IT with your copywriters and graphic designers could pair with the sales team. Collaboration with employees outside of their specific job duties might lead to some interesting conversations and potential problem-solving of company projects.
4. Maintain a Group Chat
Services such as Slack, Google Hangouts, and others allow for a group chat feature. Team leaders can create a group chat that includes all company employees to promote remote collaboration. Make it clear that the group chat is a place for employees to ask general questions, share interesting findings, and make announcements.
Communication between employees and their departments is important since they are no longer meeting together in the same building. Make sure that your employees do not abuse the group chat with too many irrelevant subjects: you want your employees to feel connected and engaged but you also want them to remain on-task.
5. Celebrate Milestones
Just because you are not physically with your team does not mean you should not celebrate milestones in their lives and the accomplishments they achieve while working for your business. Celebrate sales goals that are met in weekly check-ins, make note of birthdays and work anniversaries in emails and on zoom calls with the entire group, and publicly thank your team for their hard work.
Now more than ever your team will need encouragement and acknowledgement for their hard work. Make sure that these team members are recognized both publicly via group video calls and privately in emails or even handwritten letters. Your team will be more willing to work hard for you if they know that their achievements will be recognized.
You can also recognize your team’s personal life achievements as well. Birthdays, engagements, and other social announcements should not fall to the wayside just because you no longer see your team in person. Acknowledging what’s going on in your employees’ lives will let them know that you appreciate what’s going on in their lives as individuals and help them feel like a part of the team.
6. Replace Office Perks With Individual Perks
In lieu of conference room birthday cakes, bagel breakfasts, and other such perks, consider individual gifts delivered to your employees’ homes when warranted. This is crucial especially if your office culture relied on these types of perks before you transitioned to full-time remote work.
For birthdays, you can mail gift cards for online shopping, or even send small bonuses via PayPal if your budget allows. Small flower arrangement deliveries, cookie deliveries, or crowd-funded gifts and cards are all great to send to each remote worker. Get creative with your incentives and perks for your employees to keep their morale up when participating in remote working.
Even though you are no longer meeting with your team in person, there are a number of ways that you can connect with your team members. It might take some out-of-the-box thinking and planning, but if you work to increase employee engagement, encourage teamwork and camaraderie, and keep things positive, your team will work harder for you and be more productive overall.