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Remote work is here to stay and the need for remote employee engagement activities is even more. Even as organizations chart their return-to-work strategies, most continue to opt for hybrid work models.
"According to Gartner research, 48% of employees will work remotely at least some of the time in the post-pandemic world."
Most enterprises realized exceptional cost savings and productivity growth during the pandemic with the rise of remote workplaces. Also, employees now consider location and time flexibility as a universal basic rather than a benefit.
However, one challenge continues to confound HR professionals across industries - How do you continue to ensure high employee recognition and engagement levels in a virtual environment?
What is Remote Employee Engagement?
Remote employee engagement refers to the intellectual and emotional commitment of remote employees to their organization. It indicates how aligned they are to your vision, and how willing they are to put in efforts beyond their basic job descriptions to achieve it.
Employee engagement is a direct consequence of the kind of employee experience (EX) your organization offers. It depends on factors like the company culture, workplace design, growth opportunities, and compensation and benefits.
The working model of your organization - in-office, remote, or hybrid - also impacts employee engagement levels.
Improving employee engagement by designing world-class experiences is one of the chief responsibilities of HR functions. While its a challenge to measure engagement objectively, its positive impact on employee productivity and retention is indisputable.
"Per the 2021 Global Employee Engagement Benchmark Study by Great Place To Work®, organizations with highly engaged employees enjoy, 52% higher levels of intent to stay and 65% more employees willing to recommend their employer to others."
Employee Engagement Challenges in Remote Workplaces
#1. Demonstrating Company Culture to New-Hires
Remote hiring and onboarding processes signal a modern and flexible environment for recruits. However, it also poses unique challenges in building coworker connections and providing a first-hand experience of the company-wide culture to new employees.
"Per a 2021 survey by Principles, 94% of HR professionals said they have onboarded new hires during the pandemic who have only interacted with their colleagues virtually. Of these, 31% admitted that new hires struggled to connect satisfactorily with their coworkers."
Orientation programs for recruits, in-office or virtual, must provide ample opportunities to interact with teammates and the leadership to help them understand the values that drive your organization.
#2. Preventing Digital Overload in Remote Environments
Ironically, zoom-based remote team building activities are themselves increasing virtual fatigue, which, in turn, is leading to lesser employee engagement. In a remote environment, continuous multi-tasking, and a barrage of digital distractions add to the stress. Employees struggle to switch off from work post-work hours. Forced video conversations, even though informal, can cause employee burnout.
"According to the 2022 Microsoft Work Trends report, weekly online meetings have increased by 153%. Also, 42% of participants multi-task actively during these meetings."
#3. Building a Sense of Belonging in a Diverse Workforce
Enterprises realize the importance of creating a diverse and inclusive workforce to foster innovation and enrich the company culture. However, building connections between employees from distinct backgrounds, geographies, and time zones in a remote environment is quite challenging. Also, work from home impacts different workforce groups differently.
"Per recent research by Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 23% of women think they will not have the opportunity to form strong work relationships, compared to just 18% of men. Similarly, 39% of Asian respondents felt they would have fewer networking opportunities compared to only 25% of caucasian respondents who felt the same."
12 Engagement Activities for Remote Employees
Icebreakers are quick, simple activities you do at the start of virtual meetups. They help teammates connect instantly at a personal level and set a lively tone for the conversation. For example, you can spend a minute per person with icebreaker questions about their favorite foods, movies, or holiday destinations.
#2. Scavenger Hunts
Create a quirky list of things. Let your teammates race against the clock to collect each of them from around their homes or workspace. These hunts make way for great laughs when employees make judgment calls if the items fit the bill and amazing conversations around personal items such as family photos.
#3. Healthy Habit Challenges
Start ongoing challenges wherein teammates decide on a healthy habit, say walking 20 minutes daily. A shared spreadsheet or app tracks which employees complete the activity, and the one with the best performance wins at the end of the month. These make for fun conversations during online meetings, foster healthy competition and promote well-being.
#4. Virtual Whodunnits and Escape Rooms
These are 60-minute group engagement activities for remote teams involving clues to solve murder mysteries or escape room challenges. Timed games create an atmosphere of excitement and improve collaboration and problem-solving skills. Teammates bond great over 'aha' moments when clues fall into place and crack open the mystery. Specialized hosted-gaming applications can help you conduct such games.
#5. Trivia Quizzes
Classic multiplayer trivia quizzes can be great fun activities for team-building. You can customize the topics, team sizes, and quiz durations per your team preferences. Opting for specialized virtual quizzing tools helps as they handle the creation of questions and keep the scores and time.
#6. Slack Board Games
From tic-tac-toe to hangman to chess, most board games are available as Slack apps today. Unlike video calls, employees need not be available in the same place to engage in these activities.
Managers do not need to coordinate. Team members can launch and play these games at the click of a button. These are great for inter-team collaboration, as members from different teams may not meet regularly over calls.
#7. Virtual City Tours
These are unique virtual experiences. Your team follows a biker live streaming a ride around the streets in some of the world's most attractive destinations. You can celebrate employee milestones through virtual tours of their favorite places. You can book such experiences on Airbnb or other service providers.
#8. Online Water Cooler Conversations
The quintessential water cooler discussions that create social bonds in the workplace can shift online. Interactive Slack bots can introduce teammates to each other via direct messages and post conversation prompts to encourage sharing. These are effective in onboarding new hires and introducing them to the team.
#9. Pin-the-Map for Diverse Teams
If your team is large and geographically spread out, a shared virtual map is a great way to introduce employees to each other. Employees can pin their current locations or their native places. It sparks conversations about their background and upbringing. It helps build a sense of belonging and trust among employees.
#10. Online Recognition Rituals
Slack channels dedicated to peer recognition programs boost employee satisfaction. Each team member gets a monthly allocation of shoutouts or badges. They can distribute these among their colleagues as tokens of appreciation. You can also map these to physical rewards such as brand vouchers or other supplies.
#11. Fantasy Leagues
Your employees can create their dream teams and score big in monthly fantasy football leagues. While spreadsheets can handle these activities, a custom Slack app can make them very engaging. Game-related back-and-forths and leaderboard tracking prove great stressbusters.
#12. Standup Shows or TED-style talks
Employees can select from a line-up of their favorite standup comics for live 60-minute watch parties. Professional comedians delivering interactive sets can provide a much-needed break from work stress and create cherishable inside jokes. If some of your employees have extraordinary skills to teach or experiences to share, you can hold virtual TED-style talks too.
How to Streamline Virtual Engagement with Technology
Zoom sessions cannot break the monotony of work. On the contrary, fun sessions sound like more work if done with plain vanilla video chat solutions. Because these conventional tools have limited capabilities and leave the logistical maneuvering to end users. One can hardly differentiate these engagement activities from formal meetings and calls except, maybe, for a change in the background.
Engagement activities need to be interactive, lively, and uninterrupted. There should be a change in the setting for a break from work. Game design must be personalized to the participating employees and aligned with your HR goals. A continuous change in virtual team engagement activities can sustain the interest of your employees.
It makes sense to choose hi-tech-hosted games instead of Zoom calls. Luna Park's virtual engagement platform can handle live-hosted games as well as asynchronous engagement activities so you and your team can get a truly immersive experience. We offer a library of hundreds of work-friendly games ranging from Trivia, Ice-breakers to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) content.
Luna Park's combination of live-hosted games along with Slack integration is perfect for creating sustainable engagement activities for remote teams of any size. Book a free demo here: Contact Luna Park.