Remote Employee Engagement: Challenges, Activities & Ideas

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During this global pandemic, remote work is the new normal for many. Stanford research estimates that 42% of employees now work from home. And while first intended as a temporary shift, companies now realize the benefits of a remote workforce. Employees do too.

Whether your workforce has been remote for years or has recently gone remote, figuring out how to improve employee engagement is vital to retention, motivation, and productivity. In this article, we look at the challenges of managing remote employees. We’ll also explore remote employee engagement strategies to ensure your employees stay connected and engaged.

Challenges of Managing Remote Employees

Despite its perks, remote work can be isolating. One of the many challenges of managing a remote team is that the typical day-to-day interactions can’t be replicated virtually. A recent study by Slack revealed that connecting remote employees is essential to team satisfaction. And 91 percent of workers said they wanted to feel connected to their work colleagues.

Top-down, one-way communication isn’t enough, especially in the current environment. To truly be connected, employees need a safe and secure channel to communicate and share their feedback. Employee surveys and easy-to-use communication platforms encourage the flow of open and consistent conversations.

When your people don’t feel connected, employee engagement is at risk. This impacts everything from employee retention and referrals to productivity, motivation, and even business outcomes.

Remote Employee Engagement Ideas

There are remote employee engagement activities and strategies that can help you maintain an engaged workforce. The good news is that what makes a great workplace is the same, whether your employees are onsite or work remotely.

Facilitate Open Communication

Communication is the glue that keeps your employees connected and invested in the work they do. Organizations that make communication a priority unlock the enormous potential to build trust, leading to loyal employees who want to stick around.

Effective communication is a two-way street. And in a remote working environment, this can be a challenge. Collaborative tools such as Slack, Zoom, and Google Meet can facilitate this and strengthen the sense of connection.

Remote Employee Engagement Activities and Small Talk

Remote employees don’t benefit from the connections made during lunch breaks, birthday celebrations, and other day-to-day interactions that create a sense of belonging and workplace culture. According to a study carried out by ITA Group and Slack, the loss goes both ways. That research cites that 85% of employees who work onsite want to feel closer to remote employees.

Consider employee engagement activities to promote remote employee engagement. Try scheduling activities such as virtual coffee breaks, online games, show and tell, and happy hours to bring employees closer and create a sense of “we are in this together.”

Asking employees to be present for video conferences and allowing small talk is another way to build remote employee engagement and cultivate a sense of community.

Celebrating Successes & Milestones

Sometimes, it can be easy to forget about how far you’ve come. Celebrating milestones and success along the way is often overlooked, yet a necessary step to improve company culture.

Even though remote employees aren’t present in the shared workspace, remember to celebrate personal milestones such as birthdays, anniversaries, and other life events to help them feel valued and appreciated.

Define Remote Work Goals

While working from home inspires visions of comfort and freedom, research shows remote workers actually give 73 percent more effort when working from home. This may be good news for many organizations, but remember, it’s not a reason to loosen the reins on work performance.

Establishing clear and measurable goals for remote employees sets clear expectations so miscommunications can be avoided. Managers should define and share troubleshooting processes with remote employees, much like they would when onboarding new employees. Remote employee guidance might include:

  • Goals for the day/week/month
  • How to contact their manager
  • Who to notify for sick days and other emergencies
  • Schedules and working hours


Consider providing the meeting agenda and any additional materials a day or so before the meeting.

Ask for Employee Feedback

The most effective remote workforce engagement strategies utilize employee feedback to gauge the success of their engagement efforts. Survey statements such as “I feel well-informed about important decisions at this company” and “My manager cares about my concerns” are especially vital during a shift to remote work.

Employee engagement surveys do more than provide valuable business intelligence. This feedback is also how to improve employee engagement and ensure the company moves in the right direction.

And that’s not all. Employee engagement surveys also qualify companies for employer recognition awards such as Top Workplaces. It’s an effective way to leverage brand visibility and attract the right talent. Becoming an employer of choice also provides remote employees and onsite employees with a much-needed morale boost and a sense of pride.

Find out more about how your organization can participate in the Top Workplaces program.