The Virtual Connection: Engaging Remote and Hybrid Employees

Last week, a colleague shared why he loves his company: “Aside from enjoying my work, the culture is extraordinary—it’s built on genuine relationships and team support.” That same week, a colleague from a different company said, “My leaders don’t understand how internal communications work. They’re not interested in discussing a communications plan. They’d rather just have me send out emails and newsletters.” I’ll leave it to you to decide which company has the happiest and most productive employees.

Building employee engagement is about more than emails and intranets.

As humans, we crave a sense of belonging—yes, even the introverts among us. To elevate employee engagement, we must treat individuals as human beings, not human “capital.” This involves fostering a sense of community and camaraderie, which naturally leads to a more engaged and productive workforce.

This challenge intensifies for organizations that have transitioned to remote and hybrid employees.

So, internal communicators, in collaboration with leadership and all departments, should craft a well-planned, measurable communication strategy that supports employee engagement.

While each strategy will have different goals using various communication platforms, a few things remain the same for each:

  • Be curious – Step away from your desk to engage with team members genuinely.
  • Listen to their feedback to gain insight into their perspectives.
  • Ensure employees understand their role’s importance to the team and company.
  • Communicate clearly and honestly, including why and how it impacts them.
  • Ensure brand consistency in all messages and on all platforms.
  • Show dependable support.
  • Incorporate elements of fun!

Now for a bit of said fun – Here are a few ideas you may try weaving into your overall strategy to generate connection among your remote and hybrid teams:

  • Require camera use during online meetings.
  • Host regular virtual lunches, coffees, happy hours 🍹, or holidays.
  • Organize themed meetings (i.e., wear gear from your favorite sports team or alma mater).
  • Celebrate birthdays with shout-outs and, if budget permits, a small gift card.
  • Implement mentoring programs.
  • Conduct virtual town halls to coincide with onsite meetings, ensuring remote participants are visible on screen.
  • Promote volunteer opportunities and encourage the sharing of experiences and photos.
  • Invite pets to make a cameo during calls (you might be surprised how much this can build a bond with people).
  • Suggest occasionally working from a new location, like a library, coffee shop, or shared workspace. A change in scenery now and then makes a difference.
  • Offer virtual workshops on various topics (i.e. mindfulness, goal setting, personal branding, work-life balance, and professional development).
  • Keep everyone updated on company news and developments, even outside of emails or newsletters.
  • As a leader, send random personal cards occasionally to show appreciation.
  • Solicit team members’ ideas and feedback.
  • Introduce a bit of friendly competition to spark engagement.
  • Show consistent support. Yes, I know this one is a repeat. It’s important.

While some ideas may seem simple or even trivial at first glance, you’ll often find that these small gestures are surprisingly effective in the grand scheme of engagement strategies. It’s the little things that can make a big difference.

Without a doubt, creating a truly engaged workforce forms the heartbeat of any thriving organization, with well-planned internal communication strategies at the helm.

What other strategies or ideas have worked for your teams? I’d love to hear about them over Zoom, coffee, or email.