Recruit, Retain WFH Employees.

Jaycen Thorgeirson
Founder & Chief Storyteller
Photo by:

Tina Witherspoon on Unsplash

Struggling to build company culture with remote employees? Start here:

Many companies are encouraging their employees to get together virtually… but simply moving your usual get-together to a Zoom version just doesn’t compare to the real thing.

When you get down to it, a virtual happy hour feels pretty much like I’m having a beverage alone in my living room. While this can be relaxing, it doesn’t make me feel particularly social.

Companies are trying to transfer their culture online, but without face-to-face interaction… morale-building activities are harder to put together, and the results often feel impersonal.

It doesn’t have to be this way!

There are fun, engaging ways to keep your remote employees’ morale high.

But first, let’s understand exactly WHY connecting with work-from-home workers is so hard.

The Challenge of Engaging WFH Employees

If you have work-from-home (WFH) employees or your company transitioned to remote work during quarantine, you may notice the following…

  • Harder to manage everyone and keep them focused as a team
  • Lower creativity, fewer fresh ideas reaching your desk
  • A feeling of isolation with a dip in morale

There are a few reasons why it can be challenging to build company culture for your WFH employees. But assuming the problem will go away when you get back to the office isn’t an option.

With 6/10 companies offering remote work, it’s becoming a necessary part of your offer when recruiting top talent.

Thinking everyone will go back to their offices after the quarantine? According to Gallup, half of people who are working remote during the pandemic want to stay remote after restrictions are lifted.

This is, as the phrase goes, “the new normal”, and it’s here to stay. Let’s explore the unique challenges of remote work, and then we’ll discuss the equally unique opportunities.

Team Bonding in the Time of Quarantine

We know remote work can be a great advantage for our teams. Research shows that remote employees feel more valued and are happier in their job than the average worker…

…but they have a lower relationship with their coworkers (Check out this awesome report from TINYpulse on remote work).

Why the difference? Remote workers are more in control of their schedule and environment, raising their personal satisfaction with their job and improving their work-life balance.

The flexibility and convenience (not to mention the lack of a lengthy commute) leads to higher satisfaction.

But communication is more challenging when you’re remote.

One email could damage a relationship, when the same words in person might have been fine, thanks to the added levels of body language and vocal tone.

So team bonding and a collaborative culture are even more important when your team is remote. But physical distance makes it difficult, and many companies don’t have the tools they need to effectively build team chemistry.

Companies are trying their best to put together activities to bond their team, but if you go at the problem with the same mindset you have when putting together in-person events, it won’t translate well to virtual gatherings.

How Netflix Made This Harder

What do we usually do when we look at a screen?

We veg out. Our brains shut off, and we passively absorb information.

Humans have been conditioned to respond this way to screens since televisions first made their way into our living rooms. The television never asked for our ideas! It never requested input on company plans! At the most, it asked us to buy something, but we could always do that later…

When you ask during your virtual meeting, “Any thoughts?” and get silent stares, that’s because you’ve been struck with The Curse of the Screen.

The same problem keeps your teammates from connecting to each other. When everyone’s a talking head on a screen, or a name at the bottom of an email, it’s harder to grow a relationship.

If you want engagement and ideas from your team, you need something beyond a webcam and a computer screen. You need a catalyst  that leads to real interactions.

Un-Ready Player One

Technology has opened up our world more than ever before. 

Hundreds of thousands can play a game together simultaneously. Augmented and virtual reality are adding incredible layers to our world. Drones can deliver McDonald’s to your doorstep. 

We are in the future. 

So why are so many companies stuck in the past? Just because events have gone virtual, doesn’t mean video chats and meetups are our only options.

There are simple-to-implement ways to bring remarkable virtual experiences to your employees, even if you aren’t particularly tech-savvy, while humanizing the experience.

You can create remarkable experiences for your work-from-home employees.

Your workplace culture can continue to be awesome, even online. 

Read on to find out how.

How to Keep Work-From-Home Employees Happy

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Now that we’ve been grumpy about remote work…

Having a work-from-home option can be a HUGE perk for your employees.

It’s been shown to improve retention for parents and younger workers. These groups are often looking for flexibility in their lifestyle, and you can provide that with remote work. Here at UviaUs, we’ve committed to a distributed workforce for the long-term for better work-life-balance.

But once you’ve promised the Golden Land of Sweatpants to your employees, you still have to fulfill the emotional needs that human beings look for in the workplace.

Research shows communication and shared identity can remediate the effects of physical distance. So how do we build that identity? Read on to find out.

The Care and Keeping of Work From Home Employees…

That’s right! The workplace fulfills emotional needs. Not something you hear a lot, but of course people are emotional… your employees aren’t robots (they’re not even cyborgs… yet). 

As an employer, there are three primary emotional needs you need to fulfill. 

  • Feeling appreciated
  • Intellectual stimulation (and respect) 
  • Community and togetherness

How do you do this when we’re all trapped behind our screens? It’s not as hard as you might think. Dare I say, you’ll even have more fun in your own job once you start.

Here’s three areas where you can improve your employee experience right now.

1. Give for the Sake of Giving

How do you make employees feel appreciated when you can’t use the workplace environment? No more bringing donuts for the whole office when they land a big sale (ah, the golden days of Krispy Kreme).

Some companies are gifting to bridge the gap with their remote workers. 

Make sure when giving gifts, you put thought into it. Otherwise, the gifting will seem thoughtless and could backfire.

Think about these questions to make sure the gift is an awesome experience for your valued employee:

  • What do you know about the employee? Select items that appeal to their individual likes.
  • What are you thanking them for? Let that inspire what kind of gift you give.
  • Are they the type of employee who enjoys public praise? If so, make sure to include that as part of the gifting. If you aren’t sure whether they’d prefer to receive it privately, ask them!

One study showed that gift-giving is even more beneficial to employee morale than cash bonuses.

Employees who were awarded a monetary bonus had a 5% increase in productivity, while employees who received a simple gift (a water bottle) had a 25% increase!

In fact, the positive effect on employee morale increased with the amount of time and thought their employer or supervisor put into the gift. It truly is “the thought that counts.”

We’re Basically Kindergarteners with Expense Accounts

Tired of hearing crickets when you ask for input?

Let’s think about screens again… When are we staring at a screen and taking action?

When we’re playing games. 

“Gamifying,” or adding game design elements or game principles in non-game contexts, improves engagement in many situations. 

If you want your team to pay attention and feel connected (yes, like a TEAM), gamify your meetings. 

One easy way to start: 

This fun deck of cards to help you with branding.

Get your key teammates together (or the whole office if you can) to play with these cards. Together, you’ll come up with your perfect branding keywords. Or apply the principles of this game (or any other game) to stimulate creative discussions around culture, marketing, sales, you name it.

Everyone will feel more active and involved once you add games to brainstorming or problem solving meetings. 

Use the addictive principles of Animal Crossing in your company’s favor. 

Play more, and you’ll see happier, more engaged employees who bump up your company’s revenue with their incredible ideas.

Photo by Karthik Balakrishnan on Unsplash

Virtual Events Made for Actual Humans

Simply sitting down in front of the screen with a cup of coffee and expecting everyone to magically bond over the internet is… not going to go well. Awkward.

Even during time set aside for socializing, sitting at the computer and staring at your coworkers feels like work.

People get distracted by other screens and wander into other activities during remote socialization. It’s just too hard to focus…

So how do you make your team’s bonding more engaging than the rest of the world wide web at their fingertips?

Not by making things mandatory or scolding people for getting distracted.

Harness the power of the internet to build your team’s culture and morale!

Again, we’re going to talk about gamification. This practice works with in-person bonding exercises, as well, but there’s a huge principle for team bonding that many overlook:

The quickest way to bond a group is to give them a task to accomplish together. 

There are many options online for fun, interactive gatherings that have a gaming element…

  • Play a video game or online card game, like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, a (playful) bomb defusal game. Your team will have to use the communication skills they listed on their resume to save the day!
  • Explore “immersive experiences” together, like those that appear in this article
  • Solve online mysteries as a group! Something like 5-minute Mysteries will give your group a quick brain boost as they solve it together, or you can attempt something more complicated, like SolveHQ

All of these are fun ways to bring the team together. If you gamify even a few elements of the remote workday, you’ll find the team gets more creative and engaged every day.

Plus, you’ll have more fun, too.

If all else fails…

Set up Star Wars-style holograms for your meetings.

Set up Star Wars-style holograms for your meetings.

Is it gimmicky? Yes.

Is it cool as heck to appear in each other’s home offices like you’re Obi-Wan Kenobi? Oh yeah.

What should I do next?

Want to improve your employees’ experience?

We can help with…

  • Heartfelt gifting
  • Energizing meetings
  • Social, remarkable morale-building events

30 minutes, and our out-of-the-box Employee Retention ideas will have you EXCITED to bring these new ideas to your team.

Retain your best employees. Turn even remote workers into your biggest fans.

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