Nurturing Employee Engagement in a Remote Workplace

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Amid the global pandemic, we’ve all faced significant adjustments to our personal and work lives. Changing up a workplace — going from the office to the kitchen table, for example — to accommodate remote work can be challenging for both employees and employers, but it’s been shown to be doable. And, from a leadership perspective, embracing the fact that employees will continue to work from home, whether temporarily or permanently, requires a mindset shift and some creativity.

From a leader’s point of view, keeping employees engaged and productive is top-of-mind. I see it in my specialized staffing company, which has been 100% virtual for 23 years, and in clients’ companies. After taking the helm as president of TrainingPros in January 2020, I have continued to manage our employees remotely the way it was done in the past, but with a new twist. The goal: to ensure we are connected to each other more than ever.

Here are five ideas we’ve implemented at our company that you might want to consider doing in yours:

  • Companywide happy hours on the clock, on Zoom, every few Fridays. One of our employees, Chenier Mershon, a relationship manager, says these calls have provided a great opportunity to feel connected to everyone in the organization. “The happy hour environment is fun, comfortable and trusting, making it easy to get to know each other better both professionally and personally,” said Chenier. “That time together creates a sense of camaraderie and allows for vulnerability. I believe we’re all in this together, and the happy hours help solidify that philosophy throughout the organization.”
  •  A virtual mindfulness guide to help team members get centered. We had a mindfulness coach conduct two one-hour webinars, and all employees were encouraged to attend on-the-clock because it’s important to keep stress under control. We found that the need for this was particularly strong at our company early on during the pandemic, but it seems to have lessened with time. It’s important to stay tuned in to what your employees need and provide the support that’s beneficial to them as circumstances change.
  • Shoutouts to individuals and departments going above and beyond on weekly, virtual town hall meetings. According to another employee, Michelle Estrada, manager of customer success, “I find our weekly town hall calls inspiring and informative. Not only do they keep us informed of recent successes, new initiatives and the state of the company, but they also offer training options to help with our development (for relationship managers) and knowledge of the industry (for support staff). I especially like the fact that we’re using Zoom so we can see each other during meetings.”
  • Virtual celebrations to share wins. For example, we have employee Zoom calls to celebrate getting through the month. During a recent call — a celebration of launching our new website — team members opened the gifts that had been sent to them. We offered incentives so everyone would wait to open their gifts together. We created a festive atmosphere online with confetti and by giving prizes for the most festive employees.
  • A mix of online and on-the-phone communications. We use the phone or a web meeting tool over email whenever possible. Speaking directly with coworkers, rather than just writing an email or a report, makes such a difference. We also spend a few minutes at each meeting to build personal rapport across the team and stay connected.

Remote work provides numerous benefits for employees and employers alike. By doing a few things to help nurture relationships and foster communication among remote employees now, your company can reap the rewards over time. One benefit we’ve seen is extremely low turnover. And when we do get together for an in-person meeting, we find that our team members do a lot of hugging and know about each other’s lives. It’s a win-win for us, and we wish that for you and your company as well.

Leigh Anne Lankford
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