Even post-pandemic, remote work is here to stay. That’s why managers are looking for employee engagement ideas to keep everyone focused. 

Managers must also watch out for remoteliness and other mental health struggles plaguing remote teams.

Managers and HR teams should also take steps to help others overcome remote work fatigue. One great way to improve team morale and engagement is to involve your team in group activities and establish healthy communication channels. 

At Hubstaff, we’ve been operating with a 100% remote team for over a decade. In that time frame, it’s safe to say we’ve learned a few things. Check out our tips for helping your remote team remain engaged, healthy, and productive.

Power up your workday

Reach your goals faster with time tracking and work management.

Try Hubstaff

How to engage a remote workforce

According to Gallup, only 36% of U.S. employees are engaged in their work. There are many reasons why team members may feel disengaged, including mental health issues, overwhelming workloads, or monotonous and repetitive work.

As a manager, it’s your responsibility to keep your employees engaged. Unengaged team members hamper productivity, lack creativity, and hurt your bottom line. 

Before focusing on virtual team-building activities, make sure you’re using the right tools to connect and manage your remote team. We’ll touch on this more later. 

Of course, great engagement starts with strong company culture and a solid work-from-home policy. Once you have a strong foundation, it’s time for the fun stuff.

11 employee engagement ideas for remote employees

Remote employee engagement activities can improve your team’s well-being, increase profitability, and connect your entire team.

"Working at Hubstaff has allowed me to take full advantage of remote work. Being an expat is never easy: I find myself missing my family, friends, and even the Poruguese cuisine more than I expected. Thanks to remote work, I'm able to travel back home every few months to spend quality time with my family. Even back home, I can continue working without missing a beat."

- Tiago Santos, Software Engineer, Hubstaff

1. Use remote work tools 

To help your team engage and connect, you must be sure you are using the right tools. Collaboration tools, remote work software, and communication apps can help encourage and track employee engagement. 

Some tools we use to keep our team engaged at Hubstaff are:

  • Slack for written communication and easy audio/visual huddles
  • Discord and Gather for informal meetings and team-building
  • Zoom for group video calls
  • Miro and Notion for collaboration and process documentation
  • Hubstaff and Hubstaff Tasks  for time tracking, activity levels, and project management 

With these tools, your team can communicate, collaborate, and keep projects on track. 

2. Organize virtual team games 

Team-building activities can help your team bond and create connections outside of work. When you remove the pressure of deadlines and project constraints, your team is more likely to open up and learn about one another.

Studies have found that employees show a 48% increase in engagement with gamification in the workplace. That is to say, playing games with your team truly does improve their engagement levels. 

Collaborating on team-building exercises can also help them better understand how they work together. 

Here are some unique game ideas for virtual team-building activities:

  • Karaoke
  • Two truths and a lie 
  • Virtual scavenger hunt 
  • Trivia or quizzes 
  • Video charades 
  • Pictionary 
  • Bingo 

Consider offering prizes and incentives to play. You might consider awarding the winners with company swag, gift cards, or even additional PTO.  You’ll notice better energy when you encourage your team to attend instead of making events mandatory.

3. Slack channels that spark conversation

Slack is the go-to messaging platform of most businesses, especially remote teams. Over 100,000 organizations use Slack, including 77% of Fortune 100 companies.

Screenshot of the Slack channels page, explaining how channels work

Once you’ve set up channels for work-related communication, it’s time to get creative. Consider setting up channels for fun.

Start by creating specific channels focused on helping team members talk amongst themselves. Use Slack channels as a virtual water cooler, where people can gather and talk about things that interest them. 

For example, we have channels for #adventures, #hobbies, or #what-to-listen-to. 

Setting up an easy-to-find channel for remote team engagement can help your team connect organically and overcome time zone differences.

4. Organize hackathons

A hackathon is an event where individuals work together to solve problems. Often, people are split into teams to solve a problem they’ve identified as a group.

Hackathons are a multi-use activity for businesses. First, they allow teams to practice problem-solving communication as a group. While there are some time constraints to plan for, these events are relatively low stakes.

Second, the problem the team solves should be one that will benefit the company overall. Allowing teams to select an issue that directly affects them or has been in their backlog is a great way to encourage participation.

Third, hackathons encourage innovation. Team members can empathize with one another by stepping outside of their typical job responsibilities to solve problems. The time constraint forces teams to get creative and solve the issue on time. 

Hackathons are an exciting way to get your team thinking about problems creatively. Devoting an entire day or even just specifying a brief hackathon period can help teams improve their problem-solving skills and learn about the interworkings of the company. 

We held a hackathon at our annual retreat in Lisbon, Portugal. Here are the requirements we set:

  • Must be accomplished in 1 day (4-6 hours, specifically).
  • Must require interdisciplinary teams (developers, designers, and marketers).

It’s that simple. Don’t overcomplicate creating a hackathon for your team. 

Remote team members can participate in hackathons using your team’s communication tools: Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or any other communication platforms you use.

5. Hold virtual meet-ups

If your team is fully remote, it’s crucial to set up times for them to meet face-to-face (or face-to-screen) and get to know each other. 

Team members can join these virtual meetings from the comfort of their home office and get to know their team on a personal level. Remember, improving your employee experience is always worth the time and effort.

Companies in the top quartile for employee experience are usually 25% more profitable than their competitors in the bottom quartile - Deloitte research

Here are some ways to encourage your team to socialize:

  • Social hour: Host a coffee, cocktail, or happy hour. The drink of choice for these meetings may vary depending on time zones and your team’s interests. 
  • Meals: Eat lunch or dinner together. Try cooking a meal together, sharing recipes, or just ordering in. 
  • Movie night: Watch a movie or tv show as a team and chat about it during or after.
  • Show and tell: Have your team show off their neighborhood, home, hobbies, or pets.

Get creative with the meet-ups you organize and learn more about what your team likes to do. You can then customize the theme of future meet-ups around their interests. 

For example, what might be a fun meet-up for a team of engineers may bore your marketing team. Try and find a middle ground if both teams are attending. Or customize your meet-ups to fit different interests and teams.


Subscribe to the Hubstaff blog for more posts like this

Try Hubstaff now

6. Create a consistent feedback loop

Adopt a virtual open door policy and let your team know. They can always come to you with questions and feedback via Slack, email, or whatever communication platform you prefer. 

Team members need to be able to voice their concerns and opinions. This includes things as simple as which game you should play in a virtual meet-up and more complex things like restructuring your product based on customer feedback and insights. 

Your employee’s comfort level can even impact your bottom line. If team members don’t feel comfortable sharing their feedback, they might feel less engaged in their work. 

Managers should also give feedback regularly to keep employees on track. Employees can only grow and develop when given progress updates and areas where they need to improve. 

To ensure that your team feels heard and valued, make it a requirement that managers hold regular 1:1 meetings with their team. 

7. Recognize and award top performers

One key to engaging your workforce is rewarding high performers. Those who are engaged and excelling in their roles must feel appreciated if you wish to retain them. 

Acknowledging hard work when your team does an excellent job encourages them to maintain this level of effort.

Here at Hubstaff, we recognize high performers via Slack on a channel we call #hubstars. Anyone can nominate a fellow employee and highlight their hard work. When someone is acknowledged,  they receive a bonus. 

Of course, this method does require some fact-checking. Employee productivity software from Hubstaff helps teams track and reward those with stellar activity levels. 

They’ll also receive achievement badges for hours worked, hot streaks, and more. These emails are sent to your team with messages like “you’re an efficiency pro.”

Hubstaff achievement badge for productivity

Managers can use employee performance software to make sure top performers are working as hard as their peers claim they are. You can also use it to celebrate milestones like work anniversaries to show your team that you appreciate their time and effort.

8. Offer flexible schedules company-wide

Flexible work schedules are perhaps the most transformative suggestion on this list. If you manage a fully remote team, you’re already on your way to trusting your team to be flexible with their work hours. 

Flexible scheduling doesn’t mean that your team works less or that they don’t work as hard. Instead, team members work when they are most productive and in a way that is conducive to their daily routine.

One team member might be more productive in the early mornings, while another works best after 10 AM when they’ve had three cups of coffee.

You wouldn’t get the best out of either employee if you held them to a traditional 9-5 schedule. One team member will be wasting valuable productive time in the early morning hours while the other will be working at half capacity until later in the day.

When employees can schedule their workday around their personal productivity and needs, they are more likely to start their workday energized and ready to work.

76% of team members state they would be more loyal to their company if they offered flexible work options

9. Create a collaborative calendar

As a remote team, tracking who is working and who is off can be tricky. With a shared calendar, you know when your team is taking PTO, has an appointment, or if they’re online. 

Create a shared calendar on whichever platform you prefer. Make sure everyone can edit it whenever they need to.

This is a great way to help set boundaries for your remote team. If you notice someone is on vacation, you can go to someone else on their team to get your problem solved.

It’s also helpful for dispersed teams to add their working hours or time zones to a shared calendar (you can also do this in Slack). Scheduling meetings and planning project schedules is much easier when you know everyone’s availability. 

10. Break the ice with new team members

Creating an inviting onboarding program is crucial for prioritizing employee engagement from the start. Your existing company culture should welcome new hires and treat them with the same respect as current employees.

Onboarding a remote team requires creativity. Use icebreaker activities to help them meet their co-workers and get accustomed to check-ins and communication with their team.

Encourage new hires to set up times for video conferencing with people from each department. If possible, ask new team members to record an intro video and send it within their first two weeks to help the rest of the team get to know them. 

You can also assign a mentor to help new team members navigate the onboarding process. When you’re new to a company, it’s nice to have someone you can go to with quick, casual questions about the culture and expectations. 

11. Hold a virtual retreat

One way to foster virtual employee engagement as a remote company is to host a virtual retreat. Gathering your team together in one (virtual) place is an excellent way to help them connect.

Virtual retreats are also perfect for teaching your team more about your company vision, identifying goals, and highlighting recent achievements. 

At Hubstaff, we hold a quarterly virtual retreat. The goal is to assemble our team and bring employees from over 35 countries together for one day of community building.

We try to hold various activities, including games, cooking classes, workshops, and street streams of our team members’ cities. Here is a sample itinerary from our 2022 remote retreat: 

  • 9:00 AM – Keynote with our CEO
  • 10:00 AM – Ergonomic workspace session with a specialist
  • 11:15 AM – Team building game: Espionage 
  • 12:45 PM – Activity: Pub Trivia
  • 1:30 PM – Employee Street Streaming: Italy
  • 2:15 PM – Cooking Class: Vegetarian chili
  • 3:00 PM – Challenge of the Day: We stand with Ukraine (run/walk for charity)
  • 3:00 PM – Activity: Poker game

Try to cater events and games to the interests of your team and work hard to get everyone involved. 

Conclusion

Engaged employees are productive employees. By creating a friendly, open company culture, you will notice improved morale, employee retention, and productivity. 

With these activities and tips in place, you can improve employee engagement while also helping your bottom line. It’s a win-win for everyone.  Check out our remote team management ebook to learn more about managing your remote team.


Save time and money in one click

Hubstaff streamlines time tracking, productivity, team management, invoicing, and more.

Try Hubstaff now