Forget Zoom Happy Hour: Four Employee Engagement Ideas To Try Instead

1 July 2021

Suffering from Zoom fatigue? I’m right there with you. No matter how great the technology, video calls can’t replace the magic of in-person connections. It’s a challenge every HR team is facing: How can we keep employee engagement fresh and meaningful in the virtual world?

Recently, my company Lucas Group held a completely virtual annual meeting. And yes, while we did make space for casual connections at a virtual happy hour, our approach to engagement didn’t end there. We’re taking a fresh look at the three drivers of workforce productivity — time, talent and energy — and considering how virtual engagement initiatives can either bolster (or hinder) these productivity drivers.

1. Start with people-centric solutions.

Effective employee engagement is people-centric, which means considering what your employees need right now. Maybe that’s space for a casual chat about a challenging project or client, like a Zoom happy hour. But sometimes, the last thing employees need is another video call on their calendar. That’s why I encourage you to consider how permission for disengagement may be the most powerful people-centric solution available to your team.

One study has found that two in three employees are struggling with remote burnout and the rapid compression of our personal and professional lives. We’re working longer hours, taking fewer breaks and trying to build normalcy in a world with major social, political and economic changes. Giving employees a day off to unplug and recharge won’t solve all burnout issues, but it will give the team time to recalibrate and come back fresh.

2. Connect back to your company’s mission and values.

Feelings of isolation and disconnection are common with long-term remote work. It’s not just disconnection from our colleagues; it’s also disconnection from our company’s bigger purpose. Remote work makes it harder to see how day-to-day tasks connect back to big-picture priorities. It’s easy for work to feel unimportant or even meaningless, further exacerbating feelings of isolation and disengagement.

Tying back to a purpose helps alleviate these feelings and strengthen engagement. Consider virtual opportunities to support a local nonprofit or charitable cause that aligns with your company’s mission and values. For example, our Houston office volunteers at the Houston Food Bank each holiday season. While the team couldn’t be in person this year, they still collected donations through a virtual fundraising challenge.

3. Get the team moving.

In a typical office environment, movement is naturally integrated into the workday. We’re grabbing coffee from the break room, stopping by a co-worker’s desk for a quick chat or on our way to the conference room for a team meeting. At home, away from these natural workday rhythms, employees are spending long stretches in front of the computer.

While exercise is beneficial from a physical standpoint, it’s also essential for peak mental performance. Regular exercise can improve mood, reduce stress and help you sleep better at night. We encourage a midday movement break with virtual yoga classes. Some branches have organized virtual fitness challenges, such as tracking how many steps everyone walks in a month. When it’s safe to do so, you could also invite employees for an outdoor, physically distanced trail walk or hike.

4. Magnify the impact of top talent.

Engaged employees are productivity multipliers; they’re 45% more productive than employees who are simply “satisfied” with their jobs. But an inspired employee is even more impactful — up to 55% more productive than an engaged employee. Your top performers have the potential to inspire your entire organization, and remote work is removing one of the barriers that hindered their potential impact.

In a traditional office setting, we’re often confined to a set schedule of team meetings, client work and calls, and we spend much of our time with the same limited group of teammates. Remote work is a chance to rewrite these norms, allowing your company’s most skilled employees to engage with a much broader range of colleagues and initiatives than they could in the physical workplace. This is especially true if your company has multiple branches or office locations across the country. Consider how virtual tools can improve the connection between high performers across teams and locations, accelerating the flow of ideas and innovation.

As you consider ways to improve employee engagement at your company, remember that effective engagement is more than a few one-off events. It’s a holistic approach to the entire employee life cycle that respects employees’ time, helps them renew their energy and positions them to inspire others, creating a ripple effect throughout your entire organization.

Article Published By: Forbes,  “Forget Zoom Happy Hour: Four Employee Engagement Ideas To Try Instead