HR Management & Compliance

Corporate Culture Week Exclusive: Engaging Off-Site Employees

Editor’s note: Throughout the week, we’ll be featuring exclusive insights into the world of corporate culture. Employee engagement plays a vital role in your organization’s culture as it helps retain top talent. Earlier this week we shared tips for helping you improve engagement for all workers, but here, we’ll be focusing specifically on remote worker engagement.

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How many virtual happy hours can an organization have and still achieve critical mass among employees who may be working from both traditional and home settings?

While virtual happy hours via tools like Zoom have become common these days, they’re potentially problematic not only due to potential fatigue; amid the crisis, employers and others are increasingly concerned about employee mental and emotional health—a focus on weekly happy hours may not be the right approach to support mental health.

Fortunately, there are other options, and a wide range of creative companies—and employees—are taking steps to stay engaged even while physically separated.

Examples of Creative Engagement

Handshake, a job search company based in San Francisco, held a virtual talent show and trivia night, along with “ask me anything” video sessions on Fridays, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Other companies, recognizing that remote employees aren’t able to take advantage of fabulous on-site perks, have taken to shipping goodies to them at home. Some are offering reimbursement for virtual health club memberships or products like Peloton.

Employees are also getting into the act—many taking advantage of Slack capabilities, for instance, to set up their own chat groups around a wide range of topics of not only professional but also personal interests.

Building Momentum

How can you start this kind of engagement and channel it in productive ways? A good first step is asking employees for feedback:

  • To what extent are they feeling engaged?
  • Would they like to be more engaged/have more opportunities for interaction with colleagues?
  • Do they have ideas for these interactions?

Then find one or more champions willing to take on the responsibility for scheduling and leading events. Some companies already had employee groups responsible for planning events, which can be a great starting point. But if not, turn to departments like HR and marketing, for instance, for ideas and volunteers.

Don’t Force It

While being engaged in both professional and personal ways is important for many, not all employees value these interactions as much as others, so they shouldn’t be forced.

It’s a good idea to have options, monitor participation and engagement, seek input, and be continually open to ideas for ensuring that connections are being made virtually, even—and especially—when they can’t be made physically.

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