There are many benefits to working from home—both for employers and their employees. Most notably, working from home reduces overhead costs, eliminates commute times, promotes better work-life balance, and even results in better productivity compared to traditional office setups. And if there is anything that the pandemic has taught us, it is the fact that most on-site jobs can be done just as effectively from home.
However, the work-from-home setup is missing one big thing: employee socialization. When there is little to no face-to-face interactions between employees, it is more difficult for their employers to engage them, and this can result in poor motivation, lower retention, and lacking relationships between co-workers.
But contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of ways to engage employees even with a remote work set-up in place. Here are some of the best ones:
1. Gift boxes
Everyone likes receiving gifts, especially during this time when people have limited personal interactions with others. Sending out gift boxes to employees is not only an excellent form of engagement, but it is also a great way to show care and appreciation for their work. Plus, there are many reputable curated gift box companies that can cater to every employer’s need, especially if they have a very diversified workplace where only one type of gift won’t fit well with everyone.
2. Weekly team meetings (non-work related)
Meetings are the bane of almost every employee, especially now that they are being done virtually where there isn’t even free coffee to alleviate the boredom. Although meetings are and will likely always be a staple of corporate life, that doesn’t mean that they can’t be fun.
The word “meeting” often has a negative connotation because employees associate it with boredom, tediousness, and seemingly endless presentation slides. Employers can turn this around by making a weekly, non-work-related meeting a tradition, where employees can gather virtually to talk about anything that doesn’t involve work (as well as play games, announce personal wins, etc.). It’s a great way to foster deeper relationships between employees, improve communication, and simply relieve stress.
3. Online games
Online games provide an easy avenue for employees to come together and enjoy downtime while de-stressing from work. Although not every employee will enjoy playing games online (or even know how to), employers can organize a small event for employees that can and do want to play.
To make the event easy to join for everyone, employers should choose relatively simple games such as quizzes that do not require much technical skill. Platforms like Kahoot!, Quizizz, and QuizWhizzer are great examples.
4. Movie nights
Nothing beats watching a movie in the conference room during downtime at work, but watching movies virtually can be the next best thing. Platforms like Zoom, Houseparty, Gaze, and Netflix allow multiple users to watch the same movie simultaneously—as if employees are really together in one place. And just like any video conferencing session, people can unmute and talk to each other while watching.
5. One-on-one coaching
One-on-one coaching is an effective way to check up on employees’ job performance, satisfaction, and overall well-being. It is especially important to check in with employees during this pandemic, where most people are suffering from anxiety, depression, loneliness, and high-stress levels brought about by the isolation and the general lowly state of the world.
Having one-on-one conversations with each employee can help managers ensure the safety and well-being of everyone on the team. Furthermore, it can help managers nip potential problems in the bud when it comes to work-related issues. For example, if an employee is having trouble balancing their work and home life, the manager can help them find solutions during coaching sessions before it starts to affect their work and personal lives.
6. Sponsored dinners
The pandemic is far from over, but with vaccinations rolling out, restrictions have already eased in many parts of the country. This means that going out to eat is now easier than ever since the pandemic started, which employers the opportunity to sponsor dinners for their employees with gift cards. Aside from being a nice gesture of appreciation, sponsoring meals is also an effective way to encourage people to enjoy time out of the house, which can help promote work-life balance.
Work-from-home set-ups can be just as effective, productive, and efficient as traditional work set-ups. But, of course, there are certain downsides, one of them being the lack of employee engagement. That said, it is all the more important for managers to think outside the box when trying to engage their teams, starting with the ideas mentioned above.