26 Jul 21, By Zebra People

5 top tips to keeping your remote team engaged

6 mins read

Remote working used to be an option offered only by a minority of workplaces. However, ever since the pandemic changed the way businesses must operate, pivoting to a remote working model has become a necessary adaption for companies across industries to attract and retain talent.

In changing to a hybrid or completely remote working model, there are plenty of benefits (besides working in your pjs) . However, one key drawback that is often overlooked is the challenge it poses to maintaining your organisation’s team culture.

Below are 5 top tips to keeping your remote team engaged in your company’s culture, despite remote working challenges.

1. Organise regular company events

Creating company-led events that bring employees together either digitally or increasingly in real life can re-establish connections that may have drifted thanks to the digital dissonance many have experienced.
Meeting under the pretence of social integration rather than business is a powerful way of making your team feel part of a collective culture rather than just cogs in a machine. For example:

  • With a remote team of over 80 employees, Buffer, the social media app, hosts “Impromptu Hour” every Friday. This is an open Zoom call set up by the company with no real agenda other than letting their team have a relaxed chat. This regular event promotes workplace chemistry between employees in a low-pressure environment.
  • Zapier, the American web application company, hosts smaller social events using the Donut feature on Slack (the business communication app). This feature connects three or more random people in the business over web conferencing. These digital meetups encourage relationships between employees that may have never happened in real life.
  • Zebra People, for its part, hosted a Covid-safe weekend getaway. Zebra invited its entire team to the South of England to participate in a range of activities, such as a team bicycle ride and BBQ.

2. Encourage healthy lifestyle choices

From a remote team engagement perspective, facilitating healthy living shows that your business cares about its employees. Plus, it can provide multiple platforms for teams to socialise and connect with your organisation outside the workplace. For example:

  • Accenture has built a bespoke app for all its employees that supports them in reaching specific, independently set health and wellbeing goals. By using the app, each employee can interact with and encourage other team members, making them feel part of the company through the prism of health and fitness.
  • On the other hand, Bupa uses a global wellbeing programme called ‘Smile’, which supports the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of their staff. This programme (amongst myriad services), for instance, offers online resources on managing performance energy levels to help employees feel more ‘in control’ of their day-to-day functioning from home or the office.

3. Share an internal newsletter

If you have the time and resources, sending a newsletter to all your employees with the latest developments within your company will keep remote workers clued up and engaged in the business and its movements.

The newsletter does not need to be anything elaborate, just a few key stories relevant to the goings-on within your organisation and the industry as a whole. For example:

  • Get Response, an online marketing platform company, sends around a newsletter every time that a new employee is onboarded to the business. The newsletter lets everyone know who this person is, what their role is, as well as a few non-work-related details about them as a person.
  • Printing and marketing materials company Moo create internal “Moosletters” that use their printing expertise to engage their remote employees by using stop motion animation. Company announcements are accompanied by dynamic printed animations unique to their style and representative of their company value of creativity.

 4. Send care packages

One of the more innovative ways of keeping your employees in the loop and feeling valued is to send them creative care packages. Not only is this quite a novel approach, but it is another gesture that implies that your company cares about the wellbeing of your employees and their contribution to the team.

Sending congratulatory emails amongst other positive digital communications is great. However, they are ephemeral and quickly forgotten. On the other hand, physical tokens of appreciation are tangible evidence of your appreciation and reaffirm your employee’s connection with the ‘mothership’. For example:

  • In a recent article by Forbes, Tenin Terell, the founder of The Parkside Creative Group, explained that a variety of care packages with various themes sent to remote employees help boost “happiness and engagement”. Some ideas include cocktail making kits, a range of high-quality coffees, face care kits, and wine selections.
  • Zebra sent each team member pizza-making ingredients in a box and then had a Zoom call to watch everyone make their pizzas together. This provided a concrete gesture of care and encouraged the socialisation of team members through a shared experience.

5. Ask members of staff to run classes or events

Team members both in-office and remote look to each other to set the working tone in their company and solidify the cultural values of their businesses. However, workmates can sometimes feel inaccessible to remote employees, not only because they are very busy but because they are difficult to run into if you are not in the office.

Encouraging staff to put on classes or small events that they can share using web conferencing software is an excellent way of reconnecting the whole team at various seniority levels, preventing team member isolation. For example:

  • TextNow, the free texting app service, hosts regular Zoom classes bases on the interests of each member of their team. These could include cooking classes, yoga demos and DJ evenings.
  • The online collaboration tool interact recommends that team members host events or classes on a subject in which they are specialists in their industry, such as UX design. This means the sharing of deep knowledge with team members from across the business.

Wrapping up

Having a resilient team that feels motivated by and connected to your goals as a company can prove tricky when the majority of your employees are distributed across the country or indeed the globe.

However, implementing just a couple of these techniques (especially the pizza nights) could help your business attract and retain top talent.
If you have any other great ideas about how to engage your remote team, we would like to hear from you.

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