Remote work put a dent in employee morale and camaraderie.
In fact, 56% of employees look forward to returning to work because they miss the things that motivated them and made them feel connected. According to a recent Office Depot study employees miss:
- seeing co-workers (55%)
- personal workspace (43%)
- work/life balance (37%)
- a regular work schedule (36%)
- in-person meetings (32%)
- collaboration (31%)
- office supplies (27%), and
- favorite lunch spots (18%)!
But they won’t likely get any of that soon. Many companies plan to let employees work remotely indefinitely.
While HR leaders can’t replicate the things remote employees miss, here are seven ways you can help remote employees feel connected to work and colleagues again:
Help them be happy
Nearly everyone in a recent Snappy survey admitted social distancing has significantly or somewhat altered their happiness. HR pros, front-line managers and companies will want to inject joy back into remote workers because 85% say happiness is very important to their productivity.
How can you do it? A Snappy survey respondent shared her company’s “Coffee Talk.”
A leader invites four or five employees to a video chat over coffee. Employees don’t know who else will be in the meeting until they join. And they’re not supposed to talk about work! So they get to know (and hopefully enjoy the company of) colleagues they may have never spent time with when they were on-site.
Share the burn
Many employees connected through health and wellness when they worked on-site. Perhaps they walked on their lunch breaks, enjoyed Yoga before work or trained for road races after work.
Now some companies help remote workers continue to bond through virtual fitness. For instance, Marygrace Sexton, CEO at Natalie’s Orchid Island Juices, got subscriptions to Bonded by the Burn for employees who were interested. Employees participate in training sessions on a Zoom call, essentially working out together. They can also stay active with a library of recorded fitness sessions.
Sexton says it has helped her implement a wellness program company wide and given them endless opportunities for remote teambuilding.
Play a game
When employees were on-site, they likely engaged in different kinds of games. One of our favorites at Successfuel (that’s our HRMorning parent) is a summer-long corn hole tournament. Lots of companies host similar bracket-type games that bring employees together for fun, laughs and friendly competition.
Because that’s not possible with so many employees working remotely, managers try different games. One sends three baby photos to her group and they guess “who’s that baby?”
Many organizations have signed on with virtual game and teambuilding platforms such as QuizBreaker. One HR pro has remote workers answer icebreaker questions twice a week, followed by a quiz that lets colleagues guess who gave specific responses. It helps remote workers build new and stronger relationships.
Learn from each other
When employees were on-site, they learned from each other formally and informally. From peer-to-peer training to break room chats that started with, “Explain how you baked these cookies,” they bonded over learning.
One company played off those informal learning experiences to help remote workers reconnect. It stared a weekly event when employees or their spouses shared a talent, recipe, unique skill, etc., in an optional video conference.
For instance, they’ve had baking lessons, sing-a-longs and Mexican food nights. The bonus is employees and their families have had opportunities to get to know each other better.
Connect at all levels
In the office, employees have meetings with or run into team members, their bosses and executives every day. They chat about work and life. It keeps them connected personally and professionally.
At home, remote workers don’t get the opportunities to connect every day. And that’s why some organizations like Loomly and its CEO Thibaud Clement make efforts to connect with workers every day. They do:
- Daily group rendezvous on Slack to check status and discuss concerns
- Weekly one-on-one video chats between employees and their direct boss to go over projects, check on resources and just stay in touch, and
- Monthly all-hands-on video meetings. Leaders share up-to-date company performance metrics, department highlights and a “show and tell” on something unique they’re working on.
Similarly, another company in the Snappy study said its owner calls each employee regularly just to touch base and remind them they’re thought of.
Connect through wellness
Employee wellbeing is often positively affected by the relationships and experiences they have at work. So without working together, they’re missing out on some mental wellness.
Because of that, an HR leader in the Snappy study shared their 15-minute Wellbeing Breaks – sessions employees can tap into through Zoom, which are done three times a day to accommodate different regions.
They focus on a different theme each day: Mindfulness Mondays, Movement Break Tuesdays, Social Wellbeing Wednesdays, Thankfulness Thursdays and Foodie Fridays.
The goal and achievement: They’ve successfully created a virtual water cooler where thousands of remote employees log in to interact and work toward better wellbeing.
Create a buddy system
In the office, colleagues turned to each other for clarification, if they felt they missed something and – much to management’s chagrin – gossip. That helped the communication flow.
At home, remote workers don’t have the “Hey, what did the boss say?” easy access. So researchers in a study out of the Harvard Business School suggest you create a buddy system to keep employees connected to information and the organization.
Assign each remote worker a “COVID buddy,” who can share key information when one needs to miss a meeting. You might even pair employees in similar situations – say two who are parents also overseeing children in virtual classrooms – because they can relate.