7 creative ways to keep employees engaged remotely

Thu, Jun 25, '20 •

7 creative ways to keep employees engaged remotely

Remote work may be new to the majority, but for some of us it’s business as usual. Don’t confuse it with a System, because it’s just a Feature. A Feature of an ever-changing world that demands people to adapt and change on the fly. That’s why we’re throwing the traditional work mentality out the window – of your dining room, in all likeliness. The new normal can’t be the same ideas repackaged into empty promises. It’s time to adapt your schedule to your employees’ needs, understand asynchronous communications, minimize the number of meetings, and reinvent your Internal Communications process. Here are some tips on making your remote-work experience nicer all-round.

1. Rethinking remote culture

The first, and repeatedly mentioned problem during remote work – onboarding. Good onboarding is difficult. Good remote onboarding takes things up a notch, and a quick welcome message doesn’t cut it. Creating an onboarding experience that not only informs but aligns new talent is essential. Try to make it as complete of an experience as possible, from scheduled meetings with key people in your organization to an internal academy. Go all cards on the table, so you give your new employee an understanding of your inner machinery, the culture, and the people in your organization. The end destination is alignment, and for this to happen, your newcomer needs to feel welcome throughout the process, and ultimately at home at their new job. If you’re keen on learning more about reinventing your onboarding experience, we suggest you go through this quick read.

Everyone’s needs are different while working remotely. Some have kids to parent, others have pets to pet, and for the younger ones among us – a plant or two to water inconsistently. Schedules change at the last minute, and communications are not as simple as they used to be in ye olden days. You know, where you could just look over and go “hey, you free right now?” Meetings need to be reduced, not every detail needs be talked over; micromanaging needs to be eliminated, and trust reinforced. Messages won’t be answered as quickly as you want them to, and some of them might just be forgotten. Increased flexibility in remote work has proven time and again to help boost productivity. Everyone works at their own pace to deliver results.

2. The (shorter than expected) road to well-being

All of us know this by now - working from home comes at a price. It can get hard to get the motivation, creativity, and spirits up and running. The well-being industry is booming, and rightly so, but not always under the right conditions. Guru-like figures are now the gatekeepers of well-being, while simple practices are seemingly made inaccessible to the everyday person, and end up being stigmatized. Meditation, yoga, nutrition, and related practices can have a significant impact not only on the well-being of your employees but also, surprise, surprise - on their output. New players have also taken a seat at the table, like the Wim Hof Method, a practice focused primarily on deep breathing and cold exposure with overwhelmingly positive anecdotal and scientifically proven results. Imparting a course about these methods and practices should not take longer than an hour or two out of your working hours, and the practices themselves can swiftly be incorporated into the tightest of agendas. A meditation practice can be carried out in ten minutes a day.

Enable education in the workplace for long-term results. Providing your employees with memberships for audiobook platforms, e-book devices, online courses, and workshops will give them not only the freedom to choose what to learn, but also get them interested in new things that are beneficial for an organization striving to be broad-minded. You can also encourage learning about work-life balance, and if you’re on a budget, Coursera and EDX are great platforms to get free courses from the best Universities in the world.

Simple measures work, but not everyone will be keen to join. A nutrition class might seem tempting at first glance but can easily get buried down the priority list in your agenda if you see the announcement once. It’s important to market your activities accordingly and to create excitement around them with the help of your Internal Comms leaders. We will be getting into this later on.

3. Engaging with management and facilitating comms

Oftentimes, management doesn’t participate in team-building activities. Good Internal Comms is based on one primordial thing: relationship management. If your management, or anyone for that matter, is not joining or is not enthusiastic about team activities and remote calls, the logical step to take is to ask yourself why.

One of the main reasons that Jason Anthoine highlighted was that, when it came to senior management, some people were nervous to use new, tech-oriented solutions. What he realized was that they simply didn’t know how to use the tech. He understood that something as simple as talking to someone close to the person in question, and checking if they know how to use the technology usually did the trick. No one wants to feel like they’re falling behind, so a quick check-up on how people feel about new ideas is a good idea..

Once you’ve made sure everyone is on the same page technologically speaking, take a look at your communication channels. A constant flow of information is often unnecessary and tiresome for all parties involved. Keep it simple, and market your internal activities appropriately - a message on a boring-looking intranet is not enough. Create custom approaches to your communications. A newsletter might work for one department, but a four-second video might be better to approach another. It doesn’t necessarily translate into creating lots of content to promote internal messages, but it’s good to know what people react to, and why. Personalization enables action.

4. Setting expecactions for a fruitful remote meeting

Echo-inducing internet connections, background distractions, 30+ people video calls with overlapping discussions, or plain silence - remote calls can be a nightmare. Or, if you design it to be so, a moment to connect, and enjoy the simplicity of being present with other people when we can’t enjoy their physical presence. We can’t promise you the moon, but we’re happy to offer some ideas to make your remote calls enjoyable. Let’s bullet-point our way through to avoid the fluff.

1. Know your software. A meeting can’t be fun when spending the first 5-10 minutes explaining how to enable the tiled view in Hangouts.

2. Be punctual. We don’t know what it is, but something about remote meetings makes us think that in a sense, it’s okay to be late. Not really – it kills productivity and is likely to annoy the people waiting. You wouldn’t do it in the flesh, so don’t do it here either.

3. Introduce everyone. You’re guaranteed to get awkward silences if people don’t know each other. Don’t ignore it, and take the first step to introduce people to each other. Be an Internal Comms enabler.

4. Facilitate small talk. There is a time for everything, including fun, in the right doses. Pictures of you in high school, revealing quizzes, virtual Pictionary, virtual pub quiz. Dedicate a meeting entirely to fun-related activities, start one with a 5-minute icebreaker, or sneak in some one-minute games between slides. Something as simple as asking who has a fun story to share will make people wait anxiously for a meeting where they can get a good laugh with each other.

5. Don’t confuse brevity with clarity. Asynchronous communication (communication that doesn’t occur at the same time) gives foot to misunderstandings if it lacks context, and with 30+ people calls, one can feel pressured to get the message across as fast as possible when we should actually be elaborating. Ask if people understood it, right then and there – don’t guess that they did.

6. Make everyone feel valued. Needless to say, virtual meetings can get a little awkward, and that’s okay, as long as everyone’s voice is heard and valued. There are no bad questions and inputs.

5. Get creative to boost happiness

No matter what path one has walked, how professional, how serious one might be - everyone loves a good surprise. Not an okay surprise, but a good surprise is one of the easiest ways to keep everyone’s spirits up while working remotely. What if we told you you could hire Rey Mysterio, Snoop Dogg, Frodo, or Lando Calrissian to record a custom-made message for your employees, for the price of one company-paid lunch? Maybe not lunch-priced in the case of Snoop Dogg, but if you haven’t heard of Cameo, that’s pretty much the premise. A quick message or shoutout to your team members from their favorite celebrities can make more than one person’s day. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind a shoutout from Draco Malfoy on my birthday (hint hint).

We’ve heard some crazy good ideas like organizing Fashion Fridays, or creating face-to-face discussions with the Slack extension Donut to encourage deeper conversations among employees. These are just some of the dozens of good ideas that could be used to make your employees happy. Just be mindful of the different personality types in your organization.

6. Encouraging Internal Comms leaders

Employees connecting over connecting employees. That’s a motto worthy of successful Internal Comms. Enabling connection and relationship development among employees, not forcing it down their throats. Things might start getting a little boring during remote working, and that could be indicative of some points of improvement in your approach to Internal Comms. Creating a community-centered workplace is, in general terms, what you want to be aiming for.

An Internal Comms leader can potentially be anyone, from the office manager, all the way to the intern and the c-suite. Internal Communicators are there to enable conversations to happen, to create a constant and clean flow of information across the organization. They are the ones who listen to people, see what’s getting stuck, and keep your comms channels active. For this to happen, they need channels not to be top-down, and flatten hierarchies, even if it needs to be anonymously in some cases. Everyone needs to have a voice, regardless of the position one has in an organization because Internal Comms focuses on people. Take a thorough look at what’s being said, by who, and why, to highlight what needs to be addressed. Talking about the reinvention of your entire Internal Comms strategy would take us an entire article to focus on, and actually we do have just that for you.

7. Work-life balance

Last but not least, let your employees experience a loose-work culture. Don’t underestimate the liberation that can be felt when not being restricted, micro-managed, and supervised at all times. However, too much of a good thing can have unwanted results, and in this case, flexibility can create ambiguous working conditions. Here are a few recommendations for your employees with some set-in-stone practices. 

1. Designate a workspace. The couch does have an alluring aura to it, but it’s a trap. Using a designated workspace is a good way to avoid dopamine-inducing distractions, like phone notifications, food from the nearest fridge, or the remote of the TV.

2. Clean up and organize your computer. If we can describe your workstation as a cluttered desktop or a browser with 15+ tabs open,it’s time to organize your computer. Digital minimalism, anyone?

3. Write down your to-do list for the week and separate tasks for every day. It’s truly school-like, but the basics never die. Ticking off tasks gives you a healthy dosage of dopamine too, so it’s a great way to stay productive.

4. Set working hours, and know when to call it a day.

5. Schedule your working hours in your online calendar. No more confusion between time zones, and consequent emails at ungodly hours.

6. Eat well. Not to parent you on this one, but healthy food makes a full difference between a fuzzy and a clear mind.

Change is the only constant

All and any activities, projects, or ideas to implement are reliant on two things: creativity and culture alignment. Real changes are an inside-out process and need organization-wide adaptability. It’s easy to underestimate how much reinventing your Internal Comms strategy can cause organization-wide development, especially in times of change. One thing is certain – change is the only constant.

Author:

Kevin Barrera

Date:

Thu, Jun 25, '20

Read more from this author

Subscribe to the blog and receive monthly updates to your email.