Do you remember the first year (or two) of the pandemic, when so many of us made the drastic switch to working from home? Companies went out of their way to plan remote activities, send snack boxes, and schedule Zoom happy hours. Keeping teams connected while we couldn’t see each other in the office was a top priority. 

Over the last few years, some workers have returned to offices, some have started hybrid working, and some have remained working remotely for the long haul. As workers have shifted their ways of working, that emphasis on connectivity has waned, in part due to the recent wave of budget cuts and layoffs. But many companies still have employees working remotely, and ensuring they remain connected has direct impacts on employee satisfaction, productivity, and turnover. 

According to a 2023 Gallup survey on employee engagement, remote employee engagement is on the decline. “The most worrying finding in the latest survey — especially in a workplace that is increasingly hybrid and remote — is that employees who can do their work remotely have an eroding connection to the mission or purpose of the organization.” In fact, only 28% of exclusively remote employees feel connected to their organization’s mission and purpose — tying a record low from 2011. 

Unfortunately, the road from employee disengagement to low productivity and turnover is pretty direct. According to an article by ProtoStaff, a staffing solutions company, “low employee engagement can hurt your workplace in many ways, including lower productivity, higher turnover rates, decreased customer satisfaction and revenue, and a negative workplace culture and morale.” Those elements can be very costly for organizations, making remote employee engagement even more important. 

If your organization has remote employees, the following tips and ideas are for you. Now is the time to start boosting employee engagement by keeping your remote teams connected! 

Best practices for remote connection

When you’re planning your remote connection strategy, or even trying to launch a few activities for remote employees to connect, you need to keep a few things in mind: 

  • Offer a variety of activities: Not every activity will appeal to every employee, so you’ll want to offer a range of activities to pull in different groups of folks. Personally, I can’t stand online escape rooms or arcade-type games. But lots of my teammates like them! Offering a variety of activities means you’ll be able to cast a wide net and include more employees. 
  • Keep activities consistent: Whatever activities you plan, try to keep them consistent so employees know what to expect and can look forward to getting together virtually. You can plan a few activities that happen each month, along with weekly coffee chats (more on this idea below) so employees can plan their schedule. 
  • Communicate regularly: While employees would likely feel overwhelmed if they had an invitation to an activity every day, you do want to offer frequent opportunities for employees to communicate with each other. If you only hold an activity once each month, employees aren’t likely to feel very comfortable with each other. Opportunities for communication weekly or a few times each week will encourage more authentic relationships. 
  • Celebrate together: Take opportunities to celebrate wins together with teams large or small. If you’ve hit a target, make sure you get on a Zoom call and shout out the players who made it happen. Companies often move on to the next target before celebrating current success properly. Recognition from leadership can go a long way toward making sure employees feel valued. 

product screenshot of wrike mobile on aqua background

Ideas for activities that keep remote employees connected

Once you’ve got those basic guidelines for remote engagement activities, it’s time to plan activities that will connect your remote employees! Here are a few ideas you can try at your organization: 

  • Team coffee chats or cocktail hours: Our team loves our weekly virtual coffee chat. Every Friday, we take a break for an hour and have coffee together on Zoom and talk about whatever catches our attention, from entertainment news to life updates. 
  • Niche Slack channels: You’re probably part of a dozen or more Slack channels for your teams and projects, but consider creating niche Slack channels where employees can chat about their pets, kids, hobbies, or even their favorite TV show. 
  • Company-wide challenges: You can get creative about putting together a company-wide challenge, but the idea is that teams or departments compete against each other to win a predetermined prize. We’ve done fitness challenges, but you could easily do a reading challenge or even a ‘Who has the lowest screen time average?’ challenge. 
  • Lunch and learns: While lunch hour is admittedly a moving target for remote teams spread around the globe, taking a break to have a snack and listen to a speaker for a little while is a welcome break from the workday. This could be an opportunity for team members to share about their own hobbies or engage an outside speaker to share. 
  • Language swaps: If you have team members who are practicing a second language, pair them with a team member for whom that is their native language. For example, if you’re hoping to learn French, you might pair up with a colleague from Paris to practice for 30 minutes each week. 
  • Peer recognition options: Keeping peer recognition options prevalent and simple is a great way to help raise the encouragement level at your organization. We’ve used Bonusly in the past, which has a public Slack feed where you can view all the Bonusly points awarded, but a simple Google form to capture compliments to be shared at your monthly all-hands is an easy idea. 
  • CEO town halls: You might not think about virtual CEO town halls as an option to keep remote employees connected, but it’s a great way to make employees feel included, heard, and valued when they might otherwise not run into members of leadership in person. It’s also a powerful way to receive feedback from employees that can help your business improve and grow. 
  • In-person meetups: Where possible, encourage in-person meetups! Outside-the-computer events, happy hours, or activities can really help team members build relationships that can transfer to the screen for better collaboration in the future. 

Invest in tools that enhance collaboration

Activities and Slack channels aren’t the only way to improve connections for remote employees. Technology makes a world of difference as well, and organizations should invest in tools and platforms that encourage communication and collaboration — and really make employees’ jobs easier and smoother. 

We know from our “Dark Matter of Work” research report that when employees feel frustrated by having to use too many apps to do their daily work, they can become disengaged. The remote work era has increased the amount of apps, info, and unstructured work we all deal with daily, and the resulting complexities are what we call the “dark matter of work.” 

What’s the best way to combat that costly dark matter of work? Investing in tools that consolidate apps, streamline processes for employees, and encourage effective collaboration across time zones and geographies rather than stymie it. 

product screenshot of wrike mobile on aqua background

Wrike does just that, bringing employees around the globe into a single virtual location to manage all aspects of their daily work and projects — and eliminating the frustrating dark matter of work at the same time. 

If you’re ready to improve connectivity for your remote employees, consider trying a two-week free Wrike trial to see how our platform can improve communication and collaboration within and between your teams. Pair Wrike with a weekly coffee chat, a quarterly reading challenge, and a few new niche Slack channels and you’ll be well on your way to a more connected remote workforce.