Employee engagement ideas for remote workers

Employee engagement is a hard thing to work on in person, let alone in a virtual world where the barrier to engaging with your organization and team is higher. By barrier, we mean the difficulty of reading the room from behind the screen, knowing when to jump in and say something, whether it is OK to drop a meeting on someone’s calendar for a coffee chat, etc. It truly is, in the full sense of the word, harder to engage in the remote work environment. It has lots of benefits, but it also comes with drawbacks, and this is one of them. 

What is Employee Engagement?

When we speak to our customers, many focus on the team engagement aspect of employee engagement. That makes sense in our context because HeyTaco helps address exactly that aspect of one’s engagement with the company. But, there is so much more to employee engagement than meets our eye. Employee engagement is, as defined by Quantum Workplace, is “the strength of the mental and emotional connection employees feel toward the organization that they work for, their team, and their work.

According to the same source, there are three different types of engagement: 

  • Work engagement: being connected to one’s work
  • Team engagement: being connected to one’s colleagues
  • Organizational engagement: being connected to the organization in its entirety

Today’s organizational leaders are tasked with juggling these three types of employee engagement simultaneously as if they are juggling oranges, ensuring they are all in balance. Because if one orange drops, problems ensue. Employee engagement is even harder because it is a cross-functional, collaborative result that is not accomplished by one person alone. The organization’s leaders, systems, and processes must be aligned for the oranges to stay in the air and keep the organization in balance. 

There are lots of resources on ideas for work and organizational engagement, but in this article, we will focus on employee engagement ideas when it comes to team engagement, specifically applied to remote workers. At HeyTaco, that is what we do best, so we will leave the rest for other experts in the field. 

What is Team Engagement?

Team engagement is part of the wider term of Employee Engagement pointed specifically at one’s engagement with their colleagues and team. People who are engaged with their teams, communicate more effectively, collaborate better, and are willing to go above and beyond to help out their colleagues. 

Team engagement might be hard to measure quantitatively, but it is easy to see qualitatively. You know your team is engaged with each other when they are willing to spend time getting to know each other when they say thank you to each other, and when they are engaging in synchronous and asynchronous conversations around things beyond their work, amongst other things. Employees who are engaged with their teams are also more likely to help their colleagues in work situations and share/ask for feedback when they know their colleagues personally. This is why lots of HR professionals come to HeyTaco seeking a way to boost employee engagement within Slack and Microsoft Teams. They know that when team engagement is high, communications channels are flowing with work and non-work related topics. In a remote world where people can easily stay behind their screens and not say anything, leaders know that a quiet team that doesn’t have regular conversations with each other is a team that is at risk of becoming merely a group of people working together. 

An analogous example of disengagement in the in-person office world would be people never having lunch together in the office, never going out for happy hour together, or enjoying a break with a cup of coffee. If those things weren’t happening in a physical office, any leader would be worried about their team’s engagement level. The same holds true for the remote world, we are just using a different environment to notice (dis)engagement. 

Questions to ask yourself

One thing we know for sure is that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to employee engagement ideas for your remote team. Your team comprises different people who find different things worthwhile engaging in and things change as fast as the tacos get cold. As a leader, you always need to stay on your toes, observing people’s behavior and switching things up as team dynamics change. 

To come up with a list of employee engagement ideas for your remote team, first consider the following questions: 

  • Do you know how people in your organization like to engage with each other? 

For example, some might prefer 1-1 conversations or small groups, some might prefer bigger group events where they get to play a game together, and some might prefer asynchronous communication on non-work related topics that are more comfortable behind a computer screen. None of these things are bad, we are all different, and understanding the different personalities you have on the team will help you set employee engagement expectations that are right for your team. If you expect everyone to enjoy a virtual happy hour, you are evaluating someone’s engagement with the team on a dimension that is not relevant to them. As Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” The same holds when it comes to setting expectations for employee engagement.

  • Do you have a baseline of the team engagement level you are trying to improve?
  • Do you know what good looks like? Ie how will you know that your engagement efforts are working? And on the opposite, when will you know to switch things up?

Team employee engagement ideas for remote workers

Once you have had a chance to think about how your team likes to engage, here are some employee engagement ideas for remote workers we have seen work well for different types of team engagement. 

One-on-one or small group chats: For people who would like to engage with their teammates in a small group way, consider an app that helps you randomly schedule conversations amongst people. Donut or S'Up app are all applications that integrate with your Slack or Microsoft Teams and can help you make those conversations happen. 

Peer-to-peer recognition: For people who prefer to engage asynchronously and who would like to know more about all the work that is happening in the company, peer-to-peer recognition is a great way to put the power to engage in everyone’s hands. With a tool like HeyTaco, every employee has 5 tacos, or 5 messages of appreciation, to give out to their teammates every day to recognize the work they are doing. This practice helps recognition become an active habit everyone on the team is building in their way and the comfort of their own remote offices. Plus, it helps people know the awesome work their teammates are doing, which in turn becomes a great conversation starter for the coffee chats described above. With HeyTaco, you have a tool that lives on its own and that provides a type of team engagement that your remote team can enjoy every day, regardless of time zones and countries. 

Interest-based group meetups: In the process of understanding how your teammates like to engage, try and learn more about their interests. We all have something that interests us in our free time and that we like spending time on. Knowing this will help you create interest-based meetups that bring people together to spend time practicing their guitar skills, playing games online, or comparing their workouts on Strava. An employee doesn't have to engage with the whole company; helping them find a group of people they can relate to and connect with beyond work is a powerful form of engagement as well.  

Team building activities: Team building activities that bring the whole team together are a great way to connect your whole organization for a fun event. Virtual escape rooms, trivia nights, or virtual happy hours are a fun way for the whole company to come together. This is great for situations where you want to celebrate the company spirit and create a sense of belonging to the community as a whole. Here is a list of 7 team-building activities that foster collaboration and camaraderie that can be applied to remote teams as well.

Finding the right balance of employee engagement ideas for your remote team is an art as well as a science. There is no right size that fits all approach, so it is essential to take these ideas as ingredients and put them together in a recipe that suits your team. 

If you are interested in spicing up your team engagement with HeyTaco, you can get started here in as little as one minute ;) 

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