‘Work from home’ has been a buzzword for a couple of years. But then 2020 completely changed the way we think about it. The pandemic has made us take unprecedented steps to create a semblance of normalcy while staying safe. Hence, the importance of virtual employee engagement is now greater than ever.
We have more remote workers right now than at any point in our lives. Remote work isn’t a luxury anymore but simply a new way of working in the current situation. Hence businesses need to come up with ways to ensure that the new work modes don’t affect productivity.
— Margo McCabe🎃💀 (@margo_hdb) October 28, 2020
The way business associates interact with one another has changed. Interpersonal communication has changed. The fact that there are very few industries where people go to their offices is the reason behind this tectonic change.
On top of all this, businesses need to understand that its employees are in the midst of a crisis too. Managing family and work from the same place can take a toll on even the strongest of people. Employees need to show high levels of empathy to ensure that they are able to give their best. If your business is yet to come to terms with these hurdles, then we have a few pointers as to how you can implement virtual employee engagement.
Best Practices To Implement Virtual Employee Engagement
- Provide shared goals
- Equip them with the right tools
- Communicate regularly
- Be flexible
- Create a supportive company culture
- Take regular feedbacks
- Onboarding process
- Reward employees
- Encourage learning
- Offer perks
- Encourage them to stay healthy
- Engage in after-work activities
- Start challenges
- Use the Agile approach
- Think customer-first
- Single point of communication
- Keep measuring productivity
- Create a code of conduct
- Take virtual coffee breaks
- Unplug from work
1. Provide shared goals
Your team needs to have a feeling of togetherness. When they get up every day, there should be an understanding and a goal that keeps them motivated. If you want your remote team to feel engaged, then you need to set action plans for them, keep them accountable and see them through any difficulties. For every single initiative that a business starts, ensure that the average employee also has a say in it or is at least responsible for a small part of it.
2. Equip them with the right tools
With a lot of communication and project management tools available, make it a point to implement virtual employee engagement with the right tools so that there is no issue of communication or efficiency. When there are remote employees, communication is one of the biggest impediments for working properly if there are no steps taken to tackle it. By giving your remote employees access to tools for video conferencing, project management, document sharing, etc, you’re taking your virtual employee engagement to the next level.
SurveySparrow’s 360 degree employee feedback software lets you conduct appraisals, boost productivity and drive growth of your remote workers. Combine this 360 degree feedback with a recurring employee engagement survey to iron out issues at every level.
3. Communicate regularly
Businesses need to understand that working out of a traditional office setup is completely different from doing the same remotely. There needs to be more engagement, and the communication lines should be more open. There are a lot of functions to businesses, and everyone should be on the same page to make sure that things are going smoothly. Conduct weekly staff meetings where everyone is allowed to talk freely. Solve the problems of your peers.
If there are new staff in the office, assign them seniors who can act as mentors. It will help the new employees tide through this period of uncertainty without fear and confusion. Such a step will also bolster the confidence of everyone in your team. It shows that you truly care about the welfare of your employees. Once in a while, roll out an employee engagement survey among your employees to check in on them. You can easily do this with a free account.
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4. Be flexible
If there is one thing that businesses need to understand, it is the fact that while a business needs to be disciplined and strict in following certain things, there is no reason to be rigid always. After all, you are dealing with humans on the other side, and there will come instances, when, despite their best efforts, they will fail at something terrible.
Given the uncertainty of the pandemic situation and how stressful it is for employees who have to manage their homes and job, businesses need to be more empathetic towards their patients. When you can expect your employees to adjust to your schedules when there are pressing matters, you should also return the favor to them.
5. Create a supportive company culture
The culture that you follow in your company will be directly responsible for how your employees will feel when working with you. Since remote working style has gained a more permanent status, for the time being, employees might not have had specific rules to adhere to. As it is going to be a mainstay for quite some time in the future, it is pivotal that you come up with policies where each employee feels included.
One more aspect of having a fantastic company culture is that your employees would be more than happy to change according to your style. When they are treated properly, they will always be ready to work in such a manner that they get the best results for the company. Find out the best practices followed by other companies when it comes to their office culture and if it something that you can adopt, then please do it as well.
6. Take regular feedbacks
Being ready to take feedback from one’s employees is one of the best things that businesses can do to keep their employees happy. Most of your employees are going through different kinds of struggles right now because of the pandemic. Ask your employees how they feel about their work, the quality of tasks that are coming their way, the process followed in handling work and asking them if they feel a sense of belonging even if they don’t get to meet their colleagues.
Managers can take meetings for each of their teams at least once every two weeks. Ensure that the working relationship is always healthy, and there is no sort of negativity being harbored by anyone. When there is an interpersonal relationship among the team members, it becomes easier to create a nice atmosphere for everyone.
The extension of work hours without any extra pay is another aspect that businesses need to take care of. Work from home is the new reality these days, and there have been a lot of complaints from different industries that the line between personal and professional time is not respected.
7. Onboarding process
While working remotely has its own disadvantages, it is even more difficult for new employees. They need to feel as if they are a part of the organization, which becomes complex as they might not have gotten a chance to meet their colleagues. Create a well-documented onboarding process for new employees.
Ensure that the onboarding process you create makes the new employee as comfortable as possible. It should also be easy to follow, especially since there would be no one to physically ensure that someone takes care of it. Please make it a point to introduce all the new employees to their respective teams over a video call.
8. Reward employees
With remote working, the concept of getting recognized for one’s work-related achievements seems bleak. It is not a habit that most companies do since they were working out of their offices until now. With remote working becoming the new reality, it is imperative that businesses come up with ideas to reward their remote employees to boost their virtual employee engagement.
Use peer-recognition tools to encourage employees who make a significant contribution to your business. Thanks to project management and communication tools, you can praise the employee and tell them about their contribution to your entire workforce too.
— Custom Concrete (@IndyFoundations) October 30, 2020
9. Encourage learning
Now is the best time for employers to encourage employees to learn new tools and technologies. Businesses can invest in learning platforms and find appropriate study resources to create a highly-skilled set of employees. It is the duty of the business to chart a roadmap for the future of each employee. By doing this, they will feel invested in the company and would even be eager to learn newer technologies and processes to create better results.
Employees want to be part of an organization where there will be personal as well as professional development. When businesses encourage their employees to increase their knowledge by providing them access to courses, the latter will be more than happy to do so. It will also keep them motivated and energetic to face every day.
10. Offer perks
Who doesn’t love perks? Every employee, no matter how top in the organization they are, would love to be the recipient of a perk, however small they may be. The only extra effort that the business needs to do is to ensure that the employees who receive the perk are able to enjoy it even during the time when they are working remotely.
Here are some of the employee perks that you can offer: cashback offers, free insurance plans or subsidized ones, tie-ups with medical centres, gift cards, subscription to entertainment platforms, coupons to order online food, and so on. You can even use online tools that can be used to give employees.
11. Encourage them to stay healthy
Making sure that your employees keep themselves in the best of health is not only a requirement for you but also an obligation. As an employer, you need to provide them with things that will keep them healthy. Since the pandemic has forced remote working and with the fear of contracting the virus still looming large amongst many of us, it is pivotal that you take care of the mental health of employees as well.
To create a virtual team engagement activity, first create a wellness program specifically catered to your employees. Thanks to the power of technology, it is easy for us to get professional wellness classes like yoga, meditation, etc., which can be done from home. Maybe even go a step ahead and create a wellness application program specifically for your employees that encourages them to create healthy habits every day.
12. Engage in after-work activities
There are a lot of businesses which have the culture of getting their employees together after work where they cook or watch movies together. But isn’t it a completely different ball game when you have to do it remotely? Thankfully, technology comes to the rescue again. You can host gaming nights, quizzes, and even watch movies together virtually. Create a non-work-related Whatsapp group where you can have all the fun discussions. Ensure that it is a critical part of your employee’s life and at no point will it be dismissed as a luxury
13. Start challenges
The pandemic started with a lot of them following the Dalgona coffee challenge. While it wasn’t a task that was extremely challenging, it certainly was a medium for making people to calm their nerves. Start an in-house challenge; it could be a fitness streak which people adhere to or even a completely fun task like asking people to send one picture a day of something funny that happened in their house or even enact from a popular movie scene. All of these are opportunities for your employees to engage with each other without feeling forced to do so.
14. Use the Agile approach
When you are working remotely, there are high chances of poor communication happening. Complex projects require even better communication so that at no point, the project becomes difficult to continue with. Mutual accountability, adaptability, continuous improvement, frequent communication, and empowerment of each team members are the principles behind the agile approach.
With agile, there are more avenues for each member to talk freely and discuss if there is any confusion at any point. The respective teams can share their shortcomings and doubts without any fear of reprisals. The agile methodology also includes a framework where managing cross-functional teams becomes easy.
15. Think customer-first
You might think how would keeping customer-first as a policy help with engaging your remote employees. True, that is a reasonable question given the circumstances. Remember what we said in the beginning about having shared values? Keeping your customer-first is one of those values that will keep you ahead of your peers.
When employees are trained to think about their customers first, there is a shift in mindset which contributes to their work positively. Even if there are seemingly big issues, the employee will think about the customer and how it would affect them. This shift in mindset will give them a meaningful purpose. More often than not, human beings are motivated by purpose. By creating a mindset change between your employees, you are giving them the right dose of motivation to keep focusing on their work.
Keep instilling the customer-first mindset everywhere, right from virtual meetings to calls, chats, and other forms of discussion. Make them think from the side of a customer and how they would feel at each customer interaction touchpoint. Create a culture where the customer is the main point of everything in your organization. Each decision that you make, every technology that you adopt should be made by keeping the customer in mind.
16. Single point of communication
While you can have as many tools as you want to ensure that the communication between your remote team is smooth, it is a must that you don’t create unnecessary hassle by making them use various tools to do each task. A simple confusion can result in a lot of chaos in your virtual employee engagement program which can completely derail all the efforts taken so far in a project. Pass instructions on how to use different communication tools so that there is no confusion for any of the team members.
17. Keep measuring productivity
Businesses need to be looking at metrics like a hawk. Productivity is one of the metrics that they need to be extremely careful about. If you see a dip in productivity, then it signifies that a lot of functions in the business are not working properly. Productivity gaps are a huge challenge, with most employees working remotely because of the pandemic. Businesses need to be even more careful if they are looking to conquer issues.
Here’s a small tip though, while measuring your productivity is important, at no point should it go beyond what is necessary. An increase in your business productivity should not have any consequences in the level of freedom that your employees get.
18. Create a code of conduct
Working completely remotely is a new thing for most of us. There are bound to be misunderstandings because everything is new. With cultural differences and a lot of diversity in the average office, things are bound to happen. To stay away from unnecessary conflicts in your virtual employee engagement program, you should create a code of conduct based on which the employees should work together.
19. Take virtual coffee breaks
The ‘conversation by the water cooler’ is how colleagues turn into friends. But with a remote-style of working, that is not possible. Why not implement virtual coffee breaks? Here, you can get on video calls where colleagues interact with each other where they talk about mundane stuff. There will be no talk about work when your team members are taking a virtual coffee break; it is only to build a sense of camaraderie between all the employees.
20. Unplug from work
When an employee leaves office on the last day of the week, it signifies that there is no more work until Monday. Since everyone is working from home, creating that kind of demarcation is not possible. Allowing your employees to maintain that boundary is essential. When your employees stay plugged into their laptop, it isn’t good for their mental health. There is the anticipation of getting some task that needs to be completed or an email that needs to be sent.
Build a business that concentrates as much on the well-being and happiness of employees as it does on producing profits. Your employees are as important as your customers. Creating strategies around employee engagement should not be a one-time affair, but a regular one since remote working is becoming the new normal for most of us.
Employees are the most vulnerable during this pandemic time, especially since the job market is also volatile; they are anxious about losing their jobs. As an employer, it is your duty to communicate to your employees about the status of their job and make them feel secure. Go make that virtual employee engagement plan and boost productivity.