Working remotely has become common in many industries. While it may have its fair share of benefits, such as eliminating the stress of commuting, saving money, and more, it also has its disadvantages. Some remote workers may experience feelings of isolation and loneliness due in part to lower levels of human interactivity.

While you may talk with colleagues in virtual meetings, there can still be a lack of organic conversations that take place in the break room, cafeteria, or by someone’s desk. This lack of engagement can potentially lead to more than just feelings of isolation and loneliness; it can create a lack of passion, productivity, and motivation.

This raises the question amongst many managers and company leaders: How can I keep my virtual team engaged?

Below are five tips to help you prioritize employee engagement, so your organization can thrive in a virtual environment.

1. Introduce a health & wellness program.

Encouraging health and wellness can increase productivity. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Comprehensive health promotion programs are considered a best practice for worksite health promotion and have demonstrated effectiveness in improving employee health, morale, and productivity.”

If you do not already have one in place, you may want to consider implementing a health and wellness program that provides the resources and tools needed for your employees to succeed in achieving their health goals. Perhaps you can offer incentives and rewards for employees engaged in the wellness program. Being committed to your employees’ overall well-being, and motivating them toward creating a healthier way of living, will not only support your employees’ health, but will also illustrate that you view their well-being as a top priority.

By focusing on nutrition, exercise, weight management, stress, sleep, and more, you are contributing to your employee’s environmental, emotional, physical and occupational well-being. At the end of the day, having healthy and happy employees will allow them to perform at their highest potential.

2. Make sure your employees feel appreciated.

Ensuring that your employees are aware that their work contributes to the success of your organization can improve employee engagement.

Below are a few simple ways to show you care:

A thank you note.

We all love when others express appreciation and gratitude for our contributions and acknowledge our accomplishments. Every month, encourage your employees to write a few sentences for their co-workers. This can be done as easily as through an email. This can strengthen employee morale and the relationships that your teams have formed.

Provide motivation.

Send an inspirational message or quote each week through direct messaging or email to motivate your employees to do their best that week. While this may take less than a minute, the positive effects will last. In return, ask employees to share their favorite motivational quote to keep the positivity flowing.

Make time for celebrations.

Whether it’s an employee’s birthday, an engagement, good news, an accomplishment, or a goal achieved, make time to celebrate. This can be done through a virtual lunch, sending a card, or an E-Card. Make an effort to ensure your employees know you care about their lives, inside and outside of the workplace.

Have an open “virtual door” policy.

It may be a challenge for employees to understand your availability in a remote work setting. Communicating ways your employees can reach you when they need you can ensure they feel comfortable coming to you with questions or concerns. Keeping that “virtual door” open can provide clarity and show that you are willing to listen and take action when an employee comes to you.

3. Host casual lunches or hangouts.

Virtual meetings typically only take care of business. It’s important to incorporate a healthy mix of business meetings and team-building activities to add in some excitement and give employees something to look forward to.

Below are a few ideas for team-building activities:

Virtual lunch trivia.

Find a schedule that works for you to have virtual lunches with your team. Incorporate a trivia game where employees can interact with each other and have non-work-related fun. There are plenty of platforms out there that make it easy to create an interactive way to play trivia. You can create your own quizzes for everyone to get to know each other better. The options are endless.

Virtual game night.

Most people like games, right? Consider setting aside an hour after work to play team-building games with your employees. There are plenty of options to think about, like virtual escape rooms, virtual family feud, and more. These are a great way to destress from a day's work, while also strengthening collaboration within teams.

Virtual networking events.

You may have had new employees come on board while working remotely who haven’t had a chance to connect with many individuals in your organization. Networking events are a great way for employees to expand their connections within your organization and get to know individuals they may not have had a chance to meet. Designate a schedule for these events and perhaps encourage employees to submit an interesting fact about themselves when registering to foster exciting conversations. This is a great way for employees to relate to others in your organization, and maybe make some connections along the way.

4. Be transparent.

Working remotely can oftentimes leave individuals out of the loop on important information and updates. It’s critical in these situations to maintain transparency with your team. Transparency builds trust, and there’s no better way to build and maintain a powerful team than to have trust. Additionally, employees want to understand where they stand with your organization, and how their role plays into the big picture. Transparency will enhance how your employees view you and the organization’s goals. Employees will have the ability to solve problems more efficiently and be truly invested in the greater good of the company if they understand the company’s purpose and their roles within the company.

Being transparent with your employees will lead them to trust you. In turn, you will be able to instill trust in them. Thus, you will organically maintain strong employee engagement.

5. Check-in.

It’s important to understand that you are human, and your workers are too. While it’s important to be professional with your team, keep in mind that your employees may be dealing with personal issues outside of the workplace. Don’t be afraid to check-in with your employees from time to time to determine if there are factors outside of the workplace that may be affecting their productivity or performance. Having this open conversation can ensure the employee feels comfortable knowing you are understanding, which can keep them engaged.

Connecting with your employees in a personalized, relevant way about their unique experiences can really resonate with them, and foster engagement.

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Disclaimer: Please note that this is not all-inclusive. Our guidance is designed only to give general information on the issues actually covered. It is not intended to be a comprehensive summary of all laws which may be applicable to your situation, treat exhaustively the subjects covered, provide legal advice, or render a legal opinion. Consult your own legal advisor regarding the specific application of the information to your own plan.