Employee engagement should already feature highly on your list of a priorities. However, in the unprecedented time we find ourselves in currently it is more important than ever. As well as adjusting to a new way of working, your employees may also be struggling with feelings of anxiety or feeling apprehensive about the future. So how can you keep up team morale while working remotely?

Firstly, it’s good to remember that a better term for ‘social distancing’ is ‘physical distancing’. We can still maintain our social relationships with our employees and colleagues, and so we should, even when physically separated. Secondly, try out some of these ideas for size – you may even want to keep them up when normal working patterns resume!

Start a ‘Mind and Body’ daily challenge thread

A lot of workplaces offer well-being programmes that may include discounted gym membership or access to fitness classes. Maintaining good physical – and mental – wellbeing is important for physical reasons, as well as for raising productivity levels. Of course, physical distancing means that such activities are not possible anymore. At least, not in the traditional sense.

One way that you can maintain employee engagement is by setting a daily ‘Mind and Body’ challenge that incorporates both physical and mental exercise. You could set up an online group using Slack, Skype or even as spreadsheet on Google Drive, and post a challenge up there every day for your employees to complete. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a fitness or mindfulness coach! Try posting a link to a High Intensity workout from YouTube, as well as a link to a guided meditation. Joe Wicks (The Body Coach) has some amazing workouts, and the Headspace and Calm apps both have a ton of free, guided mindfulness exercises.

Our top tip? Keep the challenges short and sweet. A 15 min exercise followed by a 15 min mindfulness exercise every day is perfect. You could even assign a colleague to post a new challenge for each week – another great way of keeping them engaged!

You could also encourage your employees to attend any of the free, live workout sessions that are taking place online. Kilkenny School of Yoga is currently doing a free live stream using Zoom at 10am each day. Andy Murphy from Urban Gym in Waterford is also doing live workouts most days, and you won’t have to look far to find other trainers and coaches doing the same thing. Joining a live session will do a lot for promoting feelings of connection and collaboration for your team.

Set up Accountability sessions

Remote work can be amazingly productive when done right. Having no office distractions and increased flexibility means that you spend less time chatting and stressing about all the billion other daily tasks you must complete, and more time actually being efficient. Except some people have a bit of a harder time adjusting to the new level of responsibility. Without colleagues or a manager around, they may find it less easy to focus on their tasks. Collaboration tools such as Slack or Skype can be great, but it can require willpower to not get too sucked into a back and forth IM chat. So, how can you encourage your employees who may need a little more team support?

Accountability sessions are one way that your employees can lean on each other and utilise online connections without being constantly distracted by IM notifications. It works on the idea that each employee is plugged in via their computer (or phone) camera to an online conferencing system for a limited period. You can use Zoom or any other system which allows video calling. With the sound off (so you don’t have the constant sound of keyboard tapping!) each colleague types the purpose of the task they are about to start and where they would like to be with it at the end of the session. Making sure their camera is on, they then start the session, which can be however long you want (we recommend around 40 minutes). The idea is not that everyone stares at each other for 40 minutes. Rather, the camera is turned on to give the employee some level of accountability – ie they can’t decide to go and fold their laundry or clean the kitchen. At the end of the session, the colleagues share how they got on with their task. The motivation for each employee to plan ahead which particular task to work on, as well as where they want to be at the end of the session, will help them to remain focused and productive. There’s just one rule though – no instant messaging allowed except for at the start and end of the session.

Our top tip? Don’t over-burden your employees with these sessions. If you choose to make them mandatory, then opt for 2-3 per week max. Otherwise you run the risk of demotivating your employees, who may see the direction as a lack of trust. If your employees don’t like the idea of joining a group session then they can either set up their own one on one sessions or join Focusmate, which offers virtual coworking accountability sessions with a stranger of 50 minutes duration. The free plan allows three sessions per week.

Send out weekly round-up surveys…

You can easily create employee surveys using any of the free survey tools available online, such as Survey Monkey or Google Sheets. They are a great way of capturing vital feedback from your employees about some of the struggles and challenges they are facing. Set 5-10 minutes aside in your employees’ calendars each Friday afternoon to complete the survey, sharing their biggest achievement of the week, or the work they are most proud of, as well as their biggest challenge and how they overcame it.

Our top tip? Keep the survey short and sweet. A few well-structured open questions is much better than a bunch of general ones. Your weekly questions could ask your employees the best and worst things they have found about remote working from that particular week, for example. Any novel ideas or tips could be shared with the group the following Monday for Monday Motivation. Any common complaints can be dealt with and addressed.

…or do a virtual Friday round-up!

We love the idea of scheduling half an hour in your employees’ calendars for a Friday afternoon round-up – complete with kids and/or a glass of beer to celebrate a hard week of remote working being over! If you are used to having Friday round-ups in the office then this is even more important.

Our top tip? Keep this particular session as simply a social session. If you need to have a project round up then you could do it via email or on an earlier call. Encourage your colleagues to include their kids if they wish! It is a great way of getting to meet the little ones – and for them to meet each other! It also serves the purpose of reassuring your colleagues that they are not alone in the working-from-home-with-kids boat.

These are just some of the many creative ways in which you can help your employees stay motivated and engaged. We would love to hear of any effective steps you have taken to encourage your employees through these difficult times. Feel free to let us know by contacting us via email!