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Engaging employees when working remotely

According to Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work report, 99% of respondents admitted wanting to work remotely in the future. While that may have seemed like a distant reality for some, in what felt like an overnight transition, the majority of the workforce went from seeing their colleagues every day to communicating entirely online. Managers too had to adapt to this ‘new’ normal and familiarise themselves with hiring and onboarding remotely.

In the first few weeks companies were caught up in the flurry of activity, but as things have started to settle, many employers are beginning to question what impact remote working will have on employee engagement. Most organisations have likely brought their daily stand up meetings into the virtual space but there’s much more that can be done. The following tips will help companies engage their remote employees by creating a positive working culture that not only works during the pandemic, but also in the post-coronavirus world.

Create a distinction between home and work

Buffer’s State of Remote Work report also shows that 22% of remote workers struggle with switching off from work, making it the top problem these employees face. Employers must help their team maintain good mental health by creating a separation between work and leisure time.

Take inspiration from others: Good-Loop has offered each employee £50 to spend on their home office, inspiring them to create a space that helps them to concentrate. Meanwhile, advertising agency Merkle has sent out printable artwork for their employees to bring some life to their virtual background. This is also helpful for managers who want to conduct a video interview for maximum impact.


According to O.C Tanner’s 2020 Global Culture Report, company leaders see an 83% boost in engagement when they recognise their employees. For recognition to be effective, leaders must ensure they celebrate those big achievements whilst also showing appreciation for the small wins.

A learning culture

Isaac Newton achieved some of his greatest mathematical breakthroughs whilst in quarantine and the modern-day workforce also has the opportunity to unlock their stores of creativity during times of limited social interaction. Virtual classrooms and content co-creation tools like online whiteboards are just two options for boosting workplace learning during Covid-19. Here are some other methods:

Initiate a ‘learning from home’ hour
Having employees block out a ‘learning from home’ hour in their calendar ensures they have the time to dedicate to improving their industry knowledge. This time can be spent taking a course, reading thought-leadership articles, or learning about anything that helps them feel more engaged in their work.

Internal learning sessions
Hosting internal learning sessions is a great way to encourage knowledge sharing within and across teams. Employers can either schedule fortnightly meetings where teams present insights from their ‘learning from home’ time or give employees the option to share thought-provoking ideas in the Friday wrap-up session. 

Involve external thought leaders
Invite external industry experts to bring a fresh perspective into the business, either through a presentation or by collaborating with them on a webinar. Working alongside a thought leader can spark innovative thinking, boost motivation and help employees feel more engaged in their field of work.

Use surveys and questionnaires

This is a dynamic way for organisations to engage their team because it empowers the employees to generate fresh ideas, mention pain points and state what helps them feel more involved in their work. This method receives bonus points because it saves companies the time of trialling and testing engagement practices that have worked for other organisations and skip right to applying practices that are personally suggested by their team.

It’s important to remember that what works for one employee or team may not for the next. Employee engagement organisation, Effectory, began surveying employees since the outbreak of coronavirus to gain insight into the new working pattern and what it means for productivity and wellbeing. The results show that 66% of the workforce are able to do their job effectively from home and though this is a majority it still leaves one in three people struggling with the new working culture.

Effectory have created a free Covid-19 Workforce Pulse survey which enables organisations to gain fast feedback on their employees’ engagement levels during the pandemic. The aggregated data from the survey shows that the top-performing companies all have one thing in common – they actively involve their employees.

Use values to cultivate a sense of community

Involving employees in the decision-making process through questionnaires also creates a sense of community. To nurture this environment, employers should seek more ways of helping their teams feel connected, something that’s particularly important for remote workers with limited social interaction. Emphasising the company values will ensure that employees working remotely feel as though they are marching to the beat of the same drum whilst encouraging camaraderie.

To ensure their team feel connected and engaged, GitLab is hosting virtual coffee mornings. Boasting the world’s largest remote workforce, GitLab understands the importance of bringing colleagues together and promoting a shared sense of purpose. From e-birthday cards to online quizzes, there’s a lot that organisations can do to create a positive and inclusive virtual office culture.

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