Engaging Remote Employees: 5 Creative Strategies That Work

Engaging Remote Employees: 5 Creative Strategies That Work
Joe Martin

Written by:
Joe Martin

Feb 03, 2021
An illustration of a boss telling a team member good job.

Remote work is on the rise, and not just because of the COVID-19 pandemic that plagued the world in 2020. Statistics show that distributed teams enjoy a ton of benefits that office-bound ones don't — but only if said teams are properly engaged.

In this article we'll uncover why engaging remote employees is so important and how to keep your team engaged using five creative strategies. Let's get to it!


Why is Employee Engagement Important?

Before we teach you how to engage remote employees, let's talk more about why you should. You have a lot on your plate. Do you really need to focus on employee engagement, too? Of course, you don't have to. But engaging remote employees has many benefits.

Infographic showcasing three benefits to engaging remote employees.

These benefits are related to:

  • Productivity: Studies show that engaged employees are 21% more productive than their unengaged counterparts. That's a huge lift, wouldn't you agree?
  • Retention: Engaged employees are less likely to change jobs. Since turnover can cost 33% of an employee's salary, keeping your workers on your team is important.
  • Culture: Because engaged employees enjoy their jobs more, they're naturally more pleasant to be around. Improved company culture can boost revenue by up to 400%.

Learn how to engage remote employees and team productivity, staff retention, and company culture will all improve, guaranteed!


How to Engage Remote Employees

Can we all agree that engagement is important? Great, now let's talk about how to engage remote employees. Here are five creative strategies that have been proven to work.

1. Prioritize Communication

A strong communication strategy is important for every business, whether its staff works in a company office or from the comfort of their kitchen tables.

But it's absolutely essential for remote teams. After all, you can't walk down the hall and talk to an associate in person if you don't understand their latest email or Slack message.

To make sure you and your team communicate clearly, keep the following tips in mind:

Use a Video Conferencing Tool

Face-to-face conversations are the most effective way to communicate because over half of human communication is non-verbal. Capitalize with a video conferencing tool like Zoom.

If your remote employees are located in different time zones, it may be difficult to schedule video conferences that everyone can attend. Instead, use a tool like the CloudApp screen recorder to record your screen and yourself (via your computer's webcam). 

That way your team can still see your face while communicating asynchronously, which will boost engagement.

You can even encourage use of fun Zoom backgrounds like this one below.

A fruity Zoom background template available in Visme.
Customize this template and make it your own!Edit and Download

Communicate Visually

The written word, while powerful, is easily misunderstood — especially in a business context. That's why we suggest using visuals whenever possible to communicate with your team.

For example, instead of typing out a long email to describe the design changes you want to see, use a screenshot tool to capture the image and annotate it with arrows and text boxes. This will make the revision process so much simpler for remote employees.

Invest in a Messaging Platform

We love email and use it every day for a variety of different purposes. But if we're being perfectly honest, it's not a great way for remote teams to communicate.

Messaging platforms like Slack and Twist allow for faster communication, are more conducive to group conversations, and are, frankly, much more enjoyable to use throughout the day. The best part? Many of these kinds of employee engagement tools won't cost an arm and a leg to use!

Make Time For Water Cooler Talks

The ability to work remotely is important to modern professionals. In fact, 44% of people would take a 10% pay cut to work from home for the rest of their careers. Even so, remote work can easily lead to feelings of loneliness.

To combat this for your distributed team, allow your employees to socialize with each other during work. Doing so will help them feel engaged and happy in their roles.

You can also use this time to host virtual team building activities for your remote employees. Here are a few examples of what this could look like.

An infographic showcasing remote team-building activities.
Customize this infographic template and make it your own!Edit and Download

Set Goals and Expectations

Once again, clarity is crucial to remote employee success. Make sure your team always knows exactly what's expected of them. Do they need to check in at specific times of day? Do you have certain requirements that need to be met on each project?

It's also important to clarify the goals you expect your remote team members to achieve on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis so that you're all on the same page.

Utilize the basic SMART structure for setting goals.

An infographic on creating smart goals.
Customize this infographic template and make it your own!Edit and Download

2. Recognize Your Employees

Want to learn how to engage remote employees? Simple: recognize them for their hard work.

Unfortunately, few businesses take the time to appreciate their teams. According to Bonusly, 65% of employees haven't been recognized for their efforts in the last year. Ask yourself, "how engaged would I feel if I worked hard and my boss never told me 'good job'?"

Here's the reality: your employees want more than a paycheck. They want to feel appreciated for the things they do on behalf of your company. Luckily, recognition is easy!

Make time to tell your remote employees "thank you" during your next video conference. Or shoutout a team member on social media after they complete an important project. Or remember to wish your staff "happy birthday" when their day of the year rolls back around.

And while it may seem silly, consider customizing certificates of appreciation whenever team members go above and beyond, like this one below.

A certificate template available in Visme.
Customize this template and make it your own!Edit and Download

If you really want to up your recognition game, invest in an employee recognition tool. 

Software programs like Kudos will allow you to recognize your employees in a public forum via points. Points can then be redeemed for real-world rewards like gift cards. Kudos also enables employees to appreciate each other, which can boost employee engagement.

However you decide to go about it, commit to recognizing your employees for their contributions to your company and your engagement levels will rise.


3. Offer Professional Growth Opportunities

The good folks at Gallup tell us that 87% of millennials list professional growth opportunities as a top priority when choosing where to work. Since millennials represent 35% of the global workforce in 2020, they're a powerful voice that should be listened to.

If you don't offer your remote workers a way to level up within your company, it will be extremely difficult to engage them in their jobs.

Now, we're not suggesting you promote each of your team members for no reason. That would be ridiculous. But, if at all possible, provide growth opportunities that your team can work towards if they feel so inclined. That way they don't feel trapped in a dead-end career.

To test the waters in this regard, consider giving a remote employee extra responsibilities before promoting them. For example, you could ask them to lead an important project.

Doing so will automatically strengthen engagement because they'll feel valued and appreciated for the trust you've put in them. It will also enable you to see them in a leadership role and whether or not they're worthy of the promotion they seek.


4. Host Extracurricular Activities

Earlier we mentioned the need for water cooler talks, i.e. opportunities for your remote employees to interact socially and shoot the breeze about non-work related things. Why not take this a step further and plan extracurricular activities to boost engagement?

Here are a few ideas that can work for distributed teams.

An infographic showcasing extracurricular activities for remote teams.
  • Fantasy Football League: Are your remote employees obsessed with the gridiron? Use that to your advantage and start a fantasy football league — team members only. This is an easy way for staffers to connect outside of work and have fun, which will empower them to engage more fully during work hours.
  • Company Book Club: Maybe classic literature is more your team's speed. Or the latest Stephen King novel. Or some weird SciFi author nobody else has ever heard of. Great, start a book club and discuss stories every other week or so. You'll have the opportunity to learn more about your staff this way and develop deeper bonds.
  • Online Gaming Events: Video gamers have been playing with each other online for decades. Host a tournament for your team and award a prize to the winner. Board games have exploded in popularity in recent years, too. Apps like Tabletopia will allow you and your team to play together without convening to the same location.

These and other extracurricular activities are fun and will help you engage your team. As an added bonus, they'll act as team building exercises that propel your department forward.


5. Ask For Employee Feedback

You're here because you want to learn how to engage remote employees. We've given you a bunch of tips so far, but we've saved the best (and easiest to implement) tip for last.

Here it is: engage your employees by asking for their opinions and listening to their answers.

It's such a simple thing, but a completely underused strategy, which is a shame. Employee feedback has so many benefits, chief among them being engagement levels.

But you'll also have the chance to learn about customer preferences, the effectiveness of team building activities, and a whole lot more from the people who are "in the trenches" every day.

Employee feedback is easy to get. For instance, you could simply ask your team their thoughts on a certain topic at your next virtual meeting. Or you could create a feedback thread in Slack. Or you could send a quick pulse survey from time to time.

It almost always pays to ask your team about internal company processes. Especially for remote teams because processes help keep distributed workers on the same page.

If one of your staff develops a way to improve an internal process, encourage them to download a free screen recorder and demonstrate it to the rest of your team. This is usually the easiest way to get everyone up to speed on process changes.


Bonus Tip: Trust Your Remote Team

Your employees opted for a remote work scenario because they wanted more freedom. If you constantly micromanage them, they won't be able to enjoy this benefit. When learning how to engage remote employees, you have to develop trust.

Any remote work guide out there will tell you to trust that your team will get the job done well and on time. Trust them to make decisions about the projects they work on. Trust that they're doing their best to help your company.

By putting your trust in your remote staff, you'll empower them, which is crucial because studies show that unempowered employees are typically unengaged. It makes sense. Why would any worker engage with a company that doesn't trust them?


Build an Engaged Team

Congratulations, you now know all about engaging remote employees, which will help your organization boost its productivity and retention metrics, while creating a company culture that your team is totally excited to be a part of. Win!

Once you do, you'll see your remote employees become more engaged in their work and produce better results for your company.

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    About the Author

    Currently the VP of marketing at CloudApp with over 15 years of digital marketing experience. He has an M.B.A. from the University of Utah, and executive education in Entrepreneurship from Stanford.

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