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Surveys & Engagement

The 11 best ways to engage remote employees (& why they work)

Leapsome Team
The 11 best ways to engage remote employees (& why they work)
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Despite the global discussion (1) — and even lively debate (2) — around whether or not it’s time to bring employees back to the office, remote work is here to stay. While it has brought about a huge cultural shift, the positive impact it has had on employee productivity and well-being is too compelling to overlook (3). In light of this, it’s as important as ever for companies to think about new and better ways to engage remote employees.

Over two years into the pandemic, new challenges have arisen around remote work, including the burgeoning phenomenon of “quiet quitting” (4) and greater concerns about employee mental health (5). This suggests that people-first companies must urgently listen to (and act upon) remote workers’ concerns and invest in their engagement.

There’s no denying that the corporate landscape looks different now — and this comes with challenges. But if they’re willing to put in the work, executives, management, and HR professionals can create a rewarding and comfortable work environment for remote employees. And investing in employee engagement brings positive business results, too. To that end, this article will discuss:

  • What employee engagement is and why it matters 
  • How remote work impacts employee engagement
  • Eleven employee engagement ideas you can put into practice

🚀 Build a data-driven engagement plan with Leapsome

Track and analyze engagement data with Leapsome’s engagement surveys tool!

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Learn more

1. Fortune, 2022

2. Business Insider, 2022

3. Forbes, 2022

4. Time, 2022

5. Forbes, 2022

11 tips for engaging remote employees

  1. Overcommunicate
  2. Set clear expectations
  3. Assign accountability partners
  4. Celebrate wins (big & small)
  5. Encourage catching up with colleagues via video
  6. Make teamwork as seamless as possible
  7. Educate employees on remote work-life balance
  8. Update your employee rewards program
  9. Offer development opportunities
  10. Check in with employee surveys
  11. Encourage in-person meetups
  12. Offer training opportunities
Photo of three remote employees sitting together and looking at a laptop
Companies with engaged employees see increases in profitability and productivity

What is employee engagement & why does it matter?


Employee engagement relates to the level of emotional, mental, and even physical commitment and energy employees have for their role within their organization; motivation and a sense of belonging play a crucial part in this. In other words: Employee engagement is how much and why your people care.

But what does that look like in reality? When employees care about company growth beyond paychecks and promotions — and feel their effort and ideas matter to their team — they’re likely to experience high levels of engagement.

Engagement should also matter to managers and C-level leadership. Why? Because, amid The Great Resignation, it’s one of the most critical investments to avoid attrition and increase employee retention. According to Gallup, companies with engaged employees benefit from lower absenteeism and employee churn, and enjoy increased profitability, productivity, and even customer engagement.

An illustrative table demonstrating how companies with the highest level of employee engagement enjoy increased productivity, profitability, and customer engagement. It reads as follows: Top row, Companies with the Highest Level of Employee Engagement. Second row, 18%, 23%, 10%. Third row, Productivity, Profitability, Customer Loyalty. Fourth row, Leapsome, with logo
Source: What Is Employee Engagement and How Do You Improve It?, Gallup study

How does remote work impact employee engagement?


In a remote work model, it can be hard to recreate the connections we build in traditional, face-to-face workplace environments. But it doesn’t mean it’s impossible — and that’s one of the things companies that are new to remote work are finding out.

The moments that make us feel most valued at work are associated with personal interactions and feedback; we’re motivated by the “great job” praise from our managers after a presentation or the spontaneous check-ins after bumping into colleagues. And while the remote work life can help us avoid distractions, it also makes opportunities for interpersonal connections less organic.

Typing out praise or arranging a time to talk hasn’t quite become an integral part of traditional office culture — yet. As a result, staying connected with other remote workers doesn’t come naturally for many, and we’re less likely to engage with our direct reports and peers when working from home. Without proper care, this can create a loop of disengagement, isolation, and increased churn, but you can avoid these negative consequences by investing in the right strategies.

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Photo of a remote employee sitting at a table doing work with her son on her lap
Remote work can result in disengagement and isolation, but the right strategies can help employers overcome that — while improving your people’s work-life balance

11 ways to engage remote employees


Creating an engaging remote work environment that’s set up for employee success and well-being demands effort and planning, but we’ve put together a list of creative and practical ideas to help you get there.

1. Overcommunicate


A little more communication effort can go a long way for the remote workforce, especially when it comes to work-related feedback.

When using email or other messaging and collaboration tools to communicate (especially for teams across different time zones), asking “small” questions may seem bothersome or unnecessary. What’s more, we might think it’s inappropriate to give praise or feedback through these channels. But in the absence of watercooler conversations, these brief interactions make a huge difference in productivity and morale!

As a manager or a people ops/HR professional, you can help your people overcome this hurdle by establishing a culture of giving and requesting feedback and celebrating success at work. Start with a simple request from your colleagues via email, instant messaging, or Leapsome’s Instant Feedback feature.

You’ll soon find that people become more comfortable giving and receiving praise and constructive feedback when you set the standard. If you feel this could take too much extra effort, don’t worry — it’ll only support your communication culture. Just don’t fall into the trap of conflating active communication with micromanaging.

2. Set clear expectations


Speaking of micromanaging: instead of monitoring remote employee productivity, focus on clearly communicating where you want to go as a team and how you expect each individual to contribute. This starts with knowing how to onboard remote employees

As an employee, being aware of what you should be doing — and how your tasks and responsibilities align with team goals — makes it much easier to stay focused and productive. And when management lets team members contribute to developing a set of expectations, this strategy becomes even more effective for team performance and engagement. 

If you don’t already use goals and objectives, consider holding a team meeting to establish some. Leapsome’s goals and OKRs software can help you prioritize what steps to take to achieve your objectives and keep an eye on progress. Make sure to ask people for input on deadlines as well. E.g., “Here’s what’s required — how long would this take you?” or “Is this a realistic deadline?”

😬 Not sure what to do when a remote employee is about to leave your organization? Check out our People Ops Playbook on how to offboard remote employees.

3. Assign accountability partners


No matter how focused and motivated someone is, they may still get off track. But that’s unlikely to happen if a colleague is around to encourage them and help them stick to their priorities. 

That’s what an accountability partner in the workplace can do. Accountability partners cheer colleagues on in their growth and celebrate their success. Whether by messaging, email, or 1:1 meetings, keeping in touch with a peer who’s aware of what someone is working on and discussing progress, hurdles, and roadblocks can help your people move forward.

4. Celebrate wins (big & small)


The flexibility to work from anywhere is here to stay, and many companies have already transitioned to a remote-first model. But even the most introverted among us need some human interaction. That’s why companies must adapt their cultures accordingly, promoting ways to celebrate victories and support a positive attitude.

As a manager, you can encourage, motivate, and engage people by highlighting their triumphs — no matter how small. And while private encouragement is important, public shoutouts on a virtual Praise Wall or in a dedicated Slack or Microsoft Teams channel (both of which you can do with Leapsome’s tools for employee feedback and praise) will empower your employees to do the same for each other. A little recognition goes a long way to make people feel valued, proud of their work, and eager to improve.

5. Encourage catching up with colleagues via video

Photo of smiling woman having a video conference call from her kitchen
Build in time for your team to interact via video during the workweek


Instant messaging, async videos, email, and voice calls are great for professional discussions — but they don’t always give us that much insight into how individuals are really doing.

Engagement stems from relationships, and nurturing compassionate workplace relationships takes effort. But there’s a lot you can do! Add fun icebreakers to your video meetings to spark fun, not-work-related conversation — like show-and-tell activities or multiplayer games that everyone can join in on. You can also invest in a tool like Donut, a Slack integration for connecting coworkers through informal video chats. Ultimately, the idea is to build in time for your team members to connect authentically and casually while working remotely.

💡 Setting up regular check-ins with employees is the best way to ensure they’re on track. An efficient way to do this is to schedule regular 1:1s and team meetings — which is quick and intuitive with Leapsome.

 

6. Make teamwork as seamless as possible


Rather than asking, “If employees are working remotely, how will they work as a team?” ask, “How can we make teamwork easier for our remote employees?” Because teamwork and collaboration should be the last thing standing in the way of remote employee engagement.

Working asynchronously has its challenges: It can be hard to ensure everyone’s on the same page when your teams are working across different time zones and with different schedules, so it takes a collaborative effort from managers and employees to facilitate asynchronous work.

The ongoing innovation of task management tools, team communication apps, and video chat platforms have made remote teams more efficient and capable of staying engaged — even from home. This makes it an ideal time to learn more about remote work rather than transition away from it, as long as you’re implementing the right tool stack to make teamwork simple and intuitive.

So, use team communication apps for group chatting and task management tools for collaboration as much as possible, rather than relying solely on CC’d emails. And don’t forget to ask employees if they have any thoughts about what you can do to make team collaboration more frictionless and convenient.   

7. Educate employees on remote work-life balance


Remote work has plenty of benefits; still, challenges arise when the boundaries between work and home are blurred.

Companies that want to avoid higher burnout rates should consider offering employees resources about how to set boundaries and leave work at work — even if that’s no longer a physical location. This could include providing your people with strategies for focusing more while they’re “on the clock” and offering mental health and mindfulness training as well. Offering flexible working hours to remote employees also helps people build more work-life harmony.

8. Update your employee recognition & rewards program


Employers use rewards and recognition programs (R&R) to celebrate employee successes in an open forum and reward them, with monetary and non-monetary incentives, for meeting goals or embodying company values. R&R programs are crucial for employee engagement; if your company is struggling with motivating remote workers, it may be time to take a second look at your rewards and recognition program.

What could that look like for your remote workforce? Here are some employee recognition ideas, which can all be done virtually:

  • Virtual birthday celebrations, which could include things as simple as ecards and encouraging team members to send colleagues birthday messages and greetings.
  • Peer-to-peer appreciation, where employees recognize their colleagues’ accomplishments in team meetings or via asynchronous communication.
  • Employee shoutouts on social media, spotlighting one employee every week, month, or quarter.

Employee rewards for remote employees can also be location-independent, including:

  • Monetary rewards, like bonuses, equity, and raises
  • Non-monetary rewards, like flexible hours, extra days off, fringe benefits, and perks
  • Special experiences like trips or tickets to local events
  • A virtual awards ceremony with creative awards for employees that perform well, embody company values, or overcome challenges

9. Offer development opportunities


If your company has a hybrid work model, your remote-only employees may worry they’ll be overlooked for development opportunities. And even if your company is remote-first, workers may have difficulty envisioning what development can look like.

But development is possible for remote employees, and a platform like Leapsome that provides customized learning paths and personalized features for development can streamline the process. Not only can employees work on their continuous improvement in a remote setting, but managers can track progress for better oversight.

And with Leapsome’s development framework, you’ll be able to create a visual, step-by-step process for employee growth, defining the specific skills employees need to develop to reach the next level.

10. Check in with employee engagement surveys


Your other engagement efforts won’t go far without feedback from your people. That’s where employee engagement surveys come in: they allow you to gather the quantitative and qualitative data you need to create a better remote employee engagement action plan.

Here are a few ideas if you need inspiration for your remote working survey questions:

Questions with scored answers between one and ten 

  1. The management at [company] effectively communicates with everyone working remotely.
  2. [Company] offers the right tool stack to enable remote collaboration.
  3. My manager checks in with me regularly (both professionally and personally) while working remotely.​​
  4. I feel productive while working remotely.
  5. Working remotely doesn’t affect my mental health negatively.

Open-ended questions

  1. What further support do you need while working remotely? 
  2. What are three challenges you’re currently facing while working remotely? 
  3. Considering your role and responsibilities, how often would you prefer to work from home?

11. Provide opportunities for in-person gatherings


While this depends on where your employees are located, the option for in-person meetups and gatherings allows employees to connect, network, and chat in person.

In some remote-first companies, employees choose to organize coworking time to enjoy the benefits of flexibility while still having impromptu meetings and conversations with colleagues. And some organizations arrange regular get-togethers for employees, making space for both high-level organizational planning and informal team building and bonding.

The key here is to make these in-person meetups inclusive and engaging. And if you can make them accessible via video conferencing for those unable to join in person, all the better!

Photo of a remote employee working from home with his laptop, smiling during a video conference
Make everyone feel included by making in-person gatherings accessible to remote workers

How we engage remote employees at Leapsome


At Leapsome, we not only help our clients create engaging, future-oriented, remote-friendly environments, but we do the same for ourselves. We strive to model the values and best practices we endorse because we believe in their importance — and see the benefits they have for customers.

Besides showing our colleagues that we appreciate and support their work and celebrate wins via our Instant Feedback & Praise features, we schedule regular coffee dates with people across different Leapsome teams. We also organize offsite trips for the entire team and host several online and in-person events — including game nights, a book club, and sports events!

These interactions help us get to know one another, and it’s great to see friendly faces even when we’re not at the office!

🚀 Create a step-by-step engagement plan with Leapsome

Use Leapsome’s engagement surveys and insights to build a high-impact engagement plan for your remote team.

👉
Book a demo

Photo of an employee at her home desk, thinking in front of her computer

More resources to support your remote team


You shouldn’t have to start from scratch to set your remote employees up for effective performance, successful collaboration, and better engagement. Here’s a list of resources we’ve put together to help you get started:

⭐ To learn more about how you can boost engagement at your workplace, talk to one of our product specialists.

 

FAQs about engaging remote employees

What is employee engagement?


Employee engagement is the extent to which employees commit their mental, emotional, and physical energy to achieving organizational and team goals. Engaged employees tend to feel more enthusiastic and invested in their work. Unfortunately, as many companies are still not invested in employee engagement, only about 20% of employees report feeling engaged at work worldwide.

Why is employee engagement important?


Employee engagement matters because, as research has shown, there’s a powerful link between engagement and productivity, increased profits, and work quality. Engaged employees are also less likely to leave their jobs, which makes a company’s engagement strategy vital to retention.

What are the best ways to engage remote employees?


Here are some of the best ways to engage remote employees, according to our research and experience:

  • Overcommunicate
  • Set clear expectations
  • Assign accountability partners
  • Celebrate wins (big & small)
  • Encourage catching up with colleagues via video
  • Make teamwork as seamless as possible
  • Educate employees on remote work-life balance
  • Update your employee rewards program
  • Offer development opportunities
  • Check in with employee surveys
  • Encourage in-person meetups

Written By

Leapsome Team

Written by the team at Leapsome — the all-in-one people enablement platform for driving employee engagement, performance, and learning.
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