By Grace Lau
The business landscape has changed. Video conferencing and collaboration tools are widely accessible, and with cloud computing solutions available for most business tasks, many businesses are looking to remote options.
Remote work reduces the costs of energy, IT infrastructure, rent, and insurance. It also affords new possibilities, like 24/7 business operations across locations and time zones. But better still, employees are seeing benefits to remote work too.
In a 2020 report, respondents listed the ability to have a flexible schedule, the flexibility to work from anywhere, and not having to commute, as major benefits to working remotely.
However, that same report highlights a key problem: they struggle with loneliness, as well as collaboration and communication. So how do you fix this? Well, it’s all about keeping your virtual teams engaged, and there are plenty of fun ways to do this.
1. Virtual breaks
Why should distance affect your coffee break?
It’s easy to forget about breaks, but they’re important for well-being. But just because employees are now working remotely, they shouldn’t miss out on social time.
Virtual video breaks offer a space for remote staff to swap stories, ask questions, or even vent their frustrations. Just ten minutes should be enough, and doing this promotes a more relaxed and supportive culture.
To go a step beyond, give high-performing teams an extra break to say thanks. In a recent survey of 4000 remote employees, 95% said their productivity has been higher or the same working from home. Rewarding employees will only further boost productivity.
So get the hot drinks brewing and let the chatting commence!
(And as an extra bonus, once everyone’s dosed up on coffee, productivity should soar!)
2. Introduce your remote team to in-house employees
Due to the nature of remote work, there’s a good chance your virtual team and in-house staff have never met. But thanks to technology, now they can.
Set up a group video conference for some meetin’-n-greetin’ fun. Keep it social by recommending some ice-breaker questions or games, or perhaps ask staff members to prepare a short bio about themselves.
Whether you’re a large or small business management team, you should make the effort to participate too. Seeing friendly faces goes a long way to feeling part of the team. And if you have ex in-house staff who have now gone remote, it will also give them a chance to catch up with old faces.
3. Show and tell
Your remote workers may have some interesting and cool things to share. It could be anything from a cool gadget, a precious item, an interesting story, or hidden talents that they’re dying to show you!
Giving employees the spotlight to show and tell will boost their confidence and help form relationships with other participants.
Of course, not everyone will be interested. To start with, gauge interest levels by sending an email with your show and tell plans. Don’t be too pushy with those who don’t want to share, and allow individuals to participate as audience-only – it might encourage them to be more active next time.
For extra fun, form a TV-style judging panel with winners and prizes for those who share the most interesting item, story, or talent.
If there’s a lack of enthusiasm, try setting a business-related topic to make the activity more valuable. For example, task a team of two with ‘finding bitrix24 alternatives’ or ‘optimizing the warehouse process.’
4. Celebrate accomplishments with virtual awards ceremonies
A study of 1700 respondents found 55% wanted to change jobs due to a lack of recognition, and that 69% of these said better rewards and recognition would make them stay.
Virtual teams can begin to feel isolated and unvalued. Without recognition and feedback, employees may begin to question their skills and performance. Hosting a virtual awards ceremony could be a great way to give your virtual team that boost they need.
Choose somebody senior (and well-humored) to host the event. It will be their job to keep everyone engaged and upbeat, so pick wisely! Consider dressing up for the event or base it around a fun theme.
Be generous with your awards and remember why your team deserves them. Remember when Dave showed you those new powerful marketing tools that increased exposure? Or how about the time Sally called you with some ideas for that new product line? Now’s your chance to thank them.
Don’t forget: the costs saved on putting on a real-life awards ceremony can go towards extra prizes and competitions. Utilize polls and quizzes to keep everyone engaged and in with a chance of winning.
5. Virtual cook-along classes
They say food is the way to the heart, so why not give a virtual cooking class a go?
Schedule a break from work and invite your hungry team to a virtual cooking class. Services now exist online that can help you with this, offering either live-streamed or pre-recorded cook-along sessions. You can even arrange ingredient boxes to be sent out in advance.
Classes take around 60 minutes and are great for boosting engagement and fun. It makes sense to hold the class before the end of the day, this way employees will have time to eat their masterpieces and tidy their kitchens afterward!
6. Virtual birthday parties
Does a remote employee have a birthday coming up? Surprise them with a virtual birthday party and bring a smile to their face.
Bring everyone together in a video call before inviting the lucky birthday person. Once everyone’s in and has their mic on, add the birthday person and have everyone sing happy birthday. Keep it brief – even ten minutes is enough to spread some joy – but personal moments like these will last all day.
To make it extra personal, you could have a birthday cake, some wine, or another personalized gift delivered to the lucky person.
7. Set up a performance-based money fund
Many businesses today host awards ceremonies, present monthly accolades, and hold competitions. But just because your team is remote, it doesn’t mean they should miss out on physical rewards.
Use the money saved on in-house awards to create a bonus fund from which remote staff can buy themselves shiny new office items or experience days. Create a performance scheme to monitor employee performance and gift prizes to those who deserve it most.
Gifts could include:
- Office equipment.
- Tech devices.
- Free subscriptions for entertainment, gyms, and other leisurely pursuits.
- Grocery allowances and bill payments.
You can even make this team-based, rather than individual-focused to encourage collaboration and a healthy, helpful work environment.
8. Virtual Secret Santa
Secret Santa is a staple feature of festive office fun. But fear not, Santa has ways of getting special gifts to remote team members too, no matter where they are (…Reindeers!)
Set a budget of $20-$30 each and pick a partner for each of your remote team members. The magic of this activity is less about the cost of the gift, but more about the thought behind it. For huge teams, consider asking participants to submit a list of three likes and dislikes, in order to help their gifter out.
Hosting virtual secret Santa events is a great way to build relationships between employees and promote some festive cheer. Take it to the next level by hosting a virtual Christmas party filled with festive tunes and online quizzes.
9. Vote on ideas from remote staff
One potential issue of remote work is having talented employees slip under the radar.
Your remote team is probably full of inspired individuals with excellent business ideas and improvements to share. They’ll have a unique perspective of seeing your business from a more ‘outside-in’ view, so hearing their thoughts and ideas could offer valuable insights.
Get them heard by setting up a relaxed virtual space where employees can input their ideas to the wider business. Encourage them to create slides and images to go with their thoughts. Topics could be anything from ‘my ideas for creating a paperless law office’, to more fun ideas about incentives or Christmas plans.
Keep engagement up by letting the rest of the team vote for their favorite ideas, and commit to exploring them further.
10. Virtual exercise classes
Working from home can have negative consequences for our activity levels. There’s no walking around the office, no popping into the gym on the way home, and no bicycle ride to work. And, with many tasks now automated with business processing services, remote staff can be left bored, and more likely to make unhealthy choices.
But implementing a virtual online class is an excellent way to boost those endorphins and get those heart rates going.
Not only is keeping fit important on a personal level, but doing it as a group is a good way to increase team bonding and motivation levels. Schedule a class and, depending on your needs, you could hire a virtual personal trainer or use an existing fitness video on YouTube.
Remember, participants might be uncomfortable on video to start out with, so allow engagement on their own terms.
Hopefully, this guide has got you thinking about some of the creative ways you bring some joy and inspiration to your teams.
Remember, many of your employees will also be parents and carers, so enabling them to have some light-hearted fun is a great way to relieve the stresses of balancing remote work and home life.
And don’t forget to measure the effectiveness of your employee engagement ideas using feedback forms so you can work out what works and what doesn’t.
About the Author
Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered cloud communication platform offering powerful UCaaS features and high definition phone calls for better and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content.