In a Post-Pandemic World: Best Practices on Improving Virtual Employee Engagement

Looking to better understand how HR and leaders/managers are engaging their teams and keeping morale positive with the COVID-19 pandemic upon us all?
I have outlined some of the best practices for maintaining virtual employee engagement while we are all working from home.

Virtual team building activities are a wonderful engagement tool – such as leading an interesting ice breaker, which can help improve the lack of communication that some colleagues/team members may have, especially since working from home now can be isolating and depressing for many of us. This really helps colleagues spend time together to enjoy and reduce stress.
This is a good tactic for team members, leaders and managers to organize – to drive employee motivation and engagement, and an effective way to get everyone to know each other personally and professionally – and even learn from each other’s innovative ideas.
To ensure its success, during the team meetings (smaller groups), leaders and managers should have each team member take turns to come up with an ice breaker before the next meeting. That way, everyone has a chance to participate and can contribute to something.
In staff meetings (larger groups), leaders and managers should come up with a different kind of virtual activity that will boost everyone’s productivity. It is a great warm up for the brain before getting into serious discussions – such as guessing games like Trivia and Taboo.
The only uncertainty to this approach is settling with the right activity for everyone in the meeting because not every employee will enjoy the game.

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  • Creating an online leeway is also another way of engaging and motivating employees during this time. There should be leisure time for employees where they can discuss freely on non-work related stuff. Remember, we are humans and not robots. We need leisure activities to help us maintain a great work-life balance that will positively impact our mindsets, in such a way where we can invest in our physical and mental health. This also helps employees create a sense of community by reducing the sensation of social distancing.
  • Below are some ideas of virtual leisure activities where employees can network and connect with their teammates on both a personal and professional level. The most popular platforms to host these events would be Zoom or Google Meet.
    ☻ Virtual Lunch Meetings
    ☻ Virtual Wellness Programs (Workout Sessions, Dance Lessons, Yoga/Meditation Classes, Ergonomics, Talent Shows, Karaoke)
    ☻ Virtual Hackathons
    ☻ Virtual Happy Hour
    ☻ Virtual Community Engagement Events
    ☻ Virtual Team Retreats
    ☻ Virtual Zoom Workshops/Organized Discussions
    > Show and Tell: Employees sharing a favorite object/memory and explaining the importance of it to others
    > Interactive training to increase employee development
    > Guess The Person: Employees can quiz their colleagues and figure out who’s who

    Of course, every organization has a different perspective and their own ways of proposing their team building communication tools. For more inspiration and creative ideas that you may want to engage your team members in, check out this article on SnackNation which provides 52 Virtual Team Building Activities To Boost Remote Employee Morale In 2020.

    Virtual office hours can bring employees closer together and connect in real time. You want to first establish a communication tool that works best with your team. The COVID-19 outbreak has forced employees to work from home. This gives them the freedom to work flexibly and stay connected to their work regardless of time and location.
    Clear your schedule and give 3-5 hours a week of your availability to catch up with colleagues to answer any urgent questions/issues that they may have regarding a task/project, OR to just even chat.
    The best team communication tools at the moment that I’ve been hearing are: Slack, Zoom, Cisco Webex, Skype, Trello and Google Meet / Google Hangouts. They are completely free of cost to use and especially beneficial for non-profits. However, there are more resources below that you are not limited to:

    The 15 Best Internal Communication Tools (via ContactMonkey)
    Best online collaboration software of 2020: paid and free tools for work sharing and communication (via TechRadar)
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Maintain visibility with your supervisors, team, collaborators and upper management. It is crucial to keep them up to date with what you are working on since there is no micromanagement when working from home. It isn’t as easy as those days where your supervisor was just a cubicle away from you and can come to check in on you whenever convenient. This is a good way to maintain effective communication (face-to-face via Zoom) – not only in staying up to date with team projects, tasks and meeting deadlines, but this also gives supervisors a chance to track your progress and be there to guide you on whatever challenges you may have. The key to a robust workforce and effective employee engagement is to ensure that their contributions and industriousness are being acknowledged. Recognizing their hard work and achievements, propels and motivates employees in delivering the best results.

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Watch your tone (especially when you are not communicating face-to-face).
One of the biggest drawbacks of written communication is miscommunication. This can trigger misunderstandings and misinterpretations between the sender (you) and the recipient (them). Normally, many of us use visual and verbal cues when communicating face-to-face, which adds meaning to the things we say – and that includes our body languages, hand gestures and facial expressions. However, since everything has shifted to remote work, the lack of these signals can cause our messages to come across as rude or something that we did not intend it to be. We should be mindful that as we are emailing others, it can be helpful to humanize and illuminate the tone of these messages through our clarifications. I suggest that adding a smiley face emoji and starting off the email with a warm tone such as, “I hope this email finds you, your coworkers and your loved ones safe and well during these uncertain times” can really lighten up the mood of a message.

Start a blog and create weekly posts. RECOGNITION. Highlight employee achievements. Include employee and client testimonials and stories. This does not only promote employer branding and visibility, but this is also the main strategy in maintaining employee retention as it makes them feel more connected to their organization. According to Impraise, when a manager takes time to regularly demonstrate gratitude and appreciation for an employee’s accomplishments it can motivate, engage, and reinforce positive behaviors and outcomes. Similarly, with the rise of project teams and more collaborative workplaces, it’s also important to create a culture where positive peer feedback is exchanged amongst the people you work most closely with.

Last but not least, please don’t forget to take mini breaks, short walks and practice on self-care. It is super important for all of us to catch up on self-care during times like this. It is okay to give yourself permission to pause and clear up your mind. Remember, it is not selfish to take the time for yourself.

… If you feel “burnout” setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself.

Dalai Lama