Engage like it’s 2022 — employee engagement ideas for hybrid, remote, and on-site teams  

by
Chelsea Milojkovic
February 23, 2022
3 MIN READ
Engage like it’s 2022 — employee engagement ideas for hybrid, remote, and on-site teams  

The pandemic re-shuffled workplaces across the globe. Which camp does your organisation now fall in — fully remote, always on-site, or hybrid?  

The question now becomes: how can you evolve your engagement strategy to make the very most out of your current set-up? Where do you need to place extra focus to help people work effectively?

Here is a list of employee engagement ideas you can implement to help your whole workforce do their very best work, together.

Fully remote — everyone connects online to do their work

Place extra focus on: information-sharing (both tactical and random)  

Engagement idea #1: (Re)organise your digital office

You have made sure everyone’s physical home office is ergonomically up to scratch and appropriately equipped. Great! Now... how about your company’s digital office that they visit every day? Does everyone know where all the filing “cabinets” are and how to use them? How about new hires?  

It may seem simple, but file storage is often byzantine and this very fact can lead to feelings of isolation and frustration. And it’s an incredibly common problem. According to a study by CSO Insights, 83 percent of respondents stated they had problems accessing the data they needed to do their jobs.  

If you haven’t put focus on this already, it is of high tactical importance to create standardised systems for how your company and each department creates, stores, and shares files.  

Bonus task: In your beautifully reorganised digital office, upload a continually updated organisation chart, which explains the roles and responsibilities of every member of the organisation. In a physical office, it used to be easier to figure this out by wandering around the floor. In a remote setting, documentation is needed.

Why is all this important? Because employees want to engage with their work and engage with their colleagues. Eliminate the hurdles that get in the way of both!  

“Until recently, work happened in the office. We’ve always had some people remote, but they used the internet as a bridge to the office. This will reverse now. The future of the office is to act as an on-ramp to the same digital workplace that you can access from your #WFH setup.” - CEO and Founder Tobi Lutke, Shopify    

Engagement idea #2: Open up conversations on your digital messaging platform

A 100% silent office would be a disturbing encounter, wouldn’t it?  

The same goes for a digital office.  

You want to make sure that there’s a good amount of information constantly flowing through (outside of meetings), plus side tributaries of random information.  

For new hires brought into a fully remote setting, this is critical. How do people speak with one another? What are people outside their team working on? Your culture is taking place online. To create an inclusive atmosphere, it’s a wise idea to have forums for conversations where all can listen in and to provide a map to where these conversations are happening.  

If you’re using Slack at your organisation, here are some suggestions:  

  • Streamline your channels. Archive old ones and make sure existing channels have good descriptions. If you do this, you might avoid the need to create a map of what conversations are happening where. If it continues to be a jungle, then yes, write up a map! A starter kit, if you will, for new hires to understand where conversations are happening.  
  • Encourage open channels over closed ones/direct messages. Not only does this create greater inclusivity, it helps on a tactical level when departments need to collaborate.  

Engagement idea #3: Institute “Welcome” videos for new hires  

Let people show you what they love! Encourage new hires to share a video when they come into the company where they share all about their hobbies, passions, family, pets, etc.  

We do this at Winningtemp and it is AWESOME. We see time and time again that it creates a jumping off point into more organic discussions with new colleagues. Rather than asking banal questions, you can ask them about their pet rabbit, compliment them on their DJ skills, and so on and so forth.  

Welcome videos also create that big company-wide “Welcome!” effect that is otherwise missing in a remote context.  

Why does this matter? Feeling a sense of belonging in a company from Day 1 does wonders for the onboarding process, which translates directly into greater engagement. A study by BambooHR found that employees who experienced effective onboarding are 18 times more likely to feel highly committed to their organisation.

Engagement idea #4: Play more games together

You’ve probably heard this one a thousand times now, but we’ll say it again here — play games together! Bonus points if you can find games where people break out into random groups where individuals then need to work together. A virtual escape room challenge is a good example.  

Why are games effective? It creates a “liminal space” that in office terms would be the equivalent of the water cooler or the space you hang your coats in the hallway.  

In these liminal spaces, hierarchies are flattened and we can have casual exchanges that can sometimes lead to big ideas. Roles are stripped, and that’s when unexpected connections can emerge.  

Explore HR trends  The Transformation of Employee Engagement — The Future is Now Download the eBook

Hybrid — a flexible combination of remote and on-site work  

Place extra focus on: creating equal opportunity  

Engagement idea #1: Embrace the on-site screens

Until holograms become standard, we will be having meetings with our colleagues over video calls. In a hybrid context, meetings are often hybrid in nature. For example, two people in the office would connect with a third working remotely. In the case of company-wide meetings, their hybrid nature creates extra complexities.  

How do you ensure everyone feels equally heard — and is literally heard through the computer speakers and in person?  

Think through the office environment taking regular video calls into account.  

Make it easy to connect laptops to screens (a standard A/V nightmare) and in-room speakers. Get all the right toggles or all the right Bluetooth set-ups in place. Have documentation about how to make the connection work in each meeting room. Keep working on this until it’s foolproof for everyone.  

Engagement idea #2: Respect the raised hand

It’s critical in large meetings to follow a hand-raising system. If you don’t, only the loudest and most confident voices have a chance of being heard.  

If multiple people in the same physical meeting room are joining an online call, think of a clever solution (something that a person can hold up, for instance) that signals they would like to speak.  

This is particularly important from a gender equality perspective. A survey by the non-profit group Catalyst found that “45% of women business leaders say it’s difficult for women to speak up in virtual meetings.” And furthermore, that “1 in 5 women has recently felt ignored and overlooked by coworkers during video calls.”

Engagement idea #3: Create equal access to power through equal access to conversations

A lot of social capital is built when we meet face-to-face, and especially in “liminal spaces” like around the office coffee machine. Particularly when it comes to having face time with senior management, the opportunities can be next to zero for employees 1) working at an operational level and 2) working remotely.  

How do you ensure that everyone, regardless of where they are physically, has an equal opportunity to influence decisions, build trust, and voice their perspectives? Make no mistake, the power imbalances that can result from hybrid working are very real. Here are some effective counter-measures to what is known as “proximity bias”:  

  • Establish standardised times and opportunities for feedback, praise, and career conversations that apply to everyone. This way, things like promotions are not influenced by face-time with managers or senior leadership, but rather by set appraisal processes.  

  • When organising more casual in-person gatherings, make an effort to send an invite in advance so those working remotely both know what is happening and can make arrangements to come if they’d like.  

  • All-company events and games need to be participated in by everyone — which includes the entire C-suite — to create liminal spaces that everyone has equal access to.  

  • Enable employees to speak up about proximity bias or exclusion they’re feeling. Constantly collect feedback using an anonymous platform where everyone can share their unfiltered opinions with the right people, anonymously. This constant stream of feedback can help managers and HR pick up any power imbalances amongst hybrid teams and make moves to course-correct.  

 

Always on-site — everyone convenes at the physical place of work on a daily basis  

Place extra focus on: comfort and safety

Engagement idea #1: Bump up the comfort level in the office.

As a result of the pandemic, it was proven that computer-based work can be done at home. And surprisingly, many found it was preferable. This means that in a number of industries, if you’re running a 100% on-site operation, you’re competing with places of work that offer people the comfort of their own homes.  

The solution? Make the office a bit more comfortable and homey! While a full renovation might not be feasible, consider smaller measures instead. Upgrade the couches in the breakroom. Hang a corkboard and let everyone put up silly photos from the last office party. Buy higher-quality hand soap for the bathrooms and stock sanitary items for the ladies. And so on and so forth — the little touches can make a big difference.  

Tip: ask for feedback about what everyone would like in the way of comfort. You’ll be surprised at how concrete and do-able many of the asks will be.  

Engagement idea #2: Show you care about health & hygiene.

What used to be commonplace — a seasonal bug going around an office — isn’t tolerated to nearly the same extent.  

Everyone has new tools and new strategies for avoiding illness, which includes sanitiser, mask-wearing, and working from home. To help your fully on-site crew feel safe, keep as many of the pandemic policies in place as make sense for your organisation, such as hand sanitiser and antibacterial wipes placed around the office.  

The CIPD recommends considering three questions to help guide workplace safety:
  1. Is your workplace sufficiently safe and supportive?
  2. Are you being flexible in your approach?
  3. What is best for people’s wellbeing and performance?

Engagement idea #3: Create very clear policies around sick days.

Sniffly? As a global culture, we are not very attuned to even minor symptoms. As a fully on-site operation, this means you need to get very specific about when your employees should stay at home. And if they are expected to work from home if their role allows.  

This policy should also clarify what your employees should do if someone they care for, such as their child or a parent, is sick.  

Clarity will create a lot of comfort and safety here.  

***

While there is plenty of science behind how to drive employee engagement, it's also an art in its own right. Keep experimenting with creative ideas and collecting employee feedback as you go. For more guidance and inspiration on this front, read our free eBook The transformation of employee engagement — The future is now.

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