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Welcome to remote employee engagement: How to get started

Laura Leavitt

Remote Expert & Writer

Employers have had a long time to develop the playbook for in-person employee engagement. Even so, they still have to switch things up every once in a while. You’ll need new techniques and tools when you need to engage remote employees. 

The benefits of fully committing to virtual employee engagement are large. Your turnover decreases, and your employees' work becomes more efficient and effective. Remote employee engagement activities can help you get there.

Why remote employee engagement matters so much

There are at least two major positive outcomes of great remote employee engagement. 

1. Higher employee efficiency and output: If you're working remotely, it can be harder to see warning signs of low productivity. Great managers will monitor output both in-office and remotely, but remote check-ins require some new structures. 

That’s why employee engagement ideas during work from home are so good for engagement; according to Gallup, highly engaged remote workers are up to 17% more productive. Effective remote management isn't just justifying time use. Instead, it’s about really identifying any roadblocks to success. Then, remote team engagement ideas can help you set measurable, achievable goals. 

2. Lower turnover: Remote work has become a desirable circumstance for a lot of people. As a result, employers can recruit globally, not just locally. However, the opposite is also true. If your remote workers feel disengaged, they can job hunt all over the world, and disengaged workers lead to teams that are 18% to 43% more likely to experience turnover

By implementing work-from-home employee engagement ideas, you’re making your workplace more appealing. Remote team engagement can help to connect employees to each other and to their work. This makes them less likely to move on to other jobs, which can be hard on your organization.

So how do you do it? We’re glad you asked.

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3 activities for improving remote employee engagement

Many of your remote workers may be focused on getting their work done. Here are some ways you can increase remote employee engagement as a manager or team lead.

1. Double your specific feedback and monitor how employees respond

Maybe you felt like a pro at giving feedback to your employees when you worked in an office setting. You organically offer insight here and there in passing. When you're focused on remote employee engagement, consider doubling your current routines for feedback. 

Offer more specific positive feedback, so your employees know what they are doing right. More coaching time can also be a highly effective form of employee engagement for remote workers.

2. Offer “chat hour” rather than just saying “reach out any time”

People hesitate to interrupt a person who is deep in thought at work. Remote work can have a chilling effect on communication since people may assume their supervisor is busy already. 

Sharing calendars can help a lot, as can having an easy way to request a meeting. Another good option is to offer “chat hour” once or twice a day. Explain to your reports that this is time when you’re actively monitoring your instant messages. You'll respond quickly, not getting deep into other work because you want to be easily available. 

3. Have teams engage in team-based mission and vision work

Many companies have a mission statement or vision statement at the top level. However, a great remote employee engagement activity to implement at the team level is creating your mission or vision. Your team needs to know they are valued for their specific contributions, not just in theory. 

Teams get the chance to discuss their roles and how they provide value to customers and the company. It’s then easier to showcase why every element of a job description is important. Employees who understand why they are doing the work they do are more motivated and have a deeper connection to their work.

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Fun ways to stay connected when working remotely

Virtual employee engagement can be work-adjacent rather than zeroed-in on work projects. Use these strategies to create a balance between focused work and connection time.

1. Take questionnaires focused on work-based strengths to start conversations

Not every team loves a personality test. However, some quizzes focus on identifying what people bring to the workplace. Taking one of these work-based strengths quizzes can start a conversation. Check out 9 options here. 

Or play Work Buddies, a trivia game that is more interactive and connected than quizzes that employees take separately. This game still focuses on work habits and needs, but in a way that promotes conversations about optimizing for your best workplace life. 

2. Offer optional non-management social spaces

Some great remote employee engagement ideas include optional spaces for coworkers to socialize. Ideally, managers won't even visit these threads or video calls. Here are a few set-ups that can give you water cooler chatter that helps people feel casual and “at home” at work:

  • Offer social call times that are never attended by management. They can have a topic, like a book club on non-work topics. Or conversation can be open, like a virtual happy hour.
  • Create chat threads that are muted by default. Themes might include silly pet pictures, great meals people have cooked lately, and other non-work sharing. 

3. Ongoing fun, like gardening or cooking, can offer a non-work conversation starter

Some workplaces have started sharing activities as a way of employee engagement for remote employees. For instance, Zappos grows herbs together. They focused on shared activities that don't cost much money or require lots of time. Employees exchange pictures and updates from their herb gardens. This way, teams gain connection over time and have something to talk about that isn’t work-related. 

Ideas you can try:

  • Get the ingredients to cook and photograph a particular meal or baking project.
  • Grow a plant, especially an herb or vegetable plant.
  • Try an arts-and-crafts technique together.
  • Try a basic guided meditation and share the results.
  • Read a book together and share insights as you reach different chapters.


3 practical tips to improve engagement with remote teams

Virtual activities for employee engagement will look a little different in each workplace. Here are three guiding tips to help you through.

1. Scale up remote employee engagement activities slowly and with feedback

Don't start five different activities at once and make them all mandatory. Consider adding one new touchpoint that is work-related and one optional team-building activity. This small change isn’t likely to hit much resistance. And, you’ll learn some valuable lessons from that first activity. 

Follow up with a short, anonymized survey to ensure you're getting feedback. To make this process hassle-free, use Gomada’s scheduling assistant, which makes incorporating the right activities painless and convenient.

2. Attune social and bonding activities to the team itself

Social and bonding projects shouldn’t just be things that a given manager thinks sound fun. It’s usually good to focus on things that don’t require a lot of time, a lot of money, or a lot of personal self-disclosure. You want to find common ground between your team members. Offer a variety of possible activities and pick the one that the most team members like. 

3. Resolving workplace tensions, challenges, and stressors is a form of remote employee engagement

Socializing effectively can feel like you’re making progress. But you’ve also got to do the engagement work related to the job itself. If tensions, challenges, or stressors impact your team, don’t assume they have to be that way. 

As a team lead or supervisor, make it part of your mission to reduce stress. Maybe that means advocating for changes in the company's policies or your team's budget. Make sure you also offer feedback and recognition when team members overcome challenges.

Need remote employee engagement tools? Get started here!

A variety of online tools help with remote employee engagement, from surveys to online platforms to recognition options for customers. Use these tools to make remote employee engagement fit into your busy workday.

  • Measure where your team needs help and schedule fitting activities with Gomada
  • Incorporate surveys and day-to-day feedback with 15Five
  • Receive leader reports and extensive analytics with Culture Amp
  • Set up pulse surveys with Energage
  • Foster peer-to-peer recognition with Kudos

Get creative but don’t reinvent the wheel for remote employee engagement activities

Our team here at Gomada knows that company life moves fast. You don’t always have time to develop the best possible employee engagement solutions yourself. You still want your remote workers to get to know each other and connect. That’s why we’re making a virtual platform that helps you make these kinds of activities painless, fun, and well-attuned to your needs. Get to know Gomada today and try out some of our best ideas:

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