While many employees and managers have adapted to remote work in the last year, not every aspect of former work culture has caught up. Many workers are managing to be productive without the distractions of the office but are missing out on the social elements that were the norm. And, without the regular socializing, employers must find creative ways to keep employees engaged.

After all, aside from meaningful, energizing work and a paycheck, why do your employees choose to work for you? Often, it’s because they are part of a team they enjoy working with, they’re receiving the mentoring or career development they need to grow, and they feel appreciated as an integral part of the organization.

With all the effort businesses are putting into just continuing their operations, many of the tactics they used to nurture employees have fallen by the wayside in the remote work environment. But it doesn’t have to remain that way. Here are some ways to reengage employees, stimulate them and bring back the team atmosphere that may have evaporated into the ether:

1. Rethink Employee Recognition

Some employees are on chat all day long, while others plug away with little interaction with their colleagues. Either way, an email or phone call to offer thanks, encouragement or praise goes a long way in the remote environment, where it’s easy for workers to feel like they’re in a bubble.

At the same time, don’t forget about your previous methods of recognizing employees for outstanding work or to mark employee milestones. In fact, try increasing the frequency of the meetings where you call out great work. It will help your employees know that you haven’t forgotten about them and that you still notice the quality of the work they’re producing, even if you don’t regularly see them.

2. Create New Ways for Employees to Contribute and Participate

Without a stimulating work environment, employees may need new ways to be inspired and energized. You can help them and the organization at the same time by involving them in brainstorming sessions that they might not normally have been involved in. Hearing fresh perspectives from team members outside of your department may spark new ideas and create solutions while giving teams that don’t normally interact the opportunity to learn from each other and build relationships. It can also increase employees’ sense of value to the organization, building morale.

Looking for other ways to involve employees? Build a simple survey to discover their interests and skills outside of work, and use what you find out to identify creative methods of team building. Perhaps a department could take an online live cooking, painting or meditation class. There are even online escape rooms that employees can attend together to practice problem-solving and teamwork.

At Intoo, our monthly all-staff meetings include breakout sessions with specific non-work-related topics so we can interact with colleagues we wouldn’t normally work with. The meetings also include fun quizzes to encourage employees to participate in a lighthearted competition.

3. Don’t Forget About Career Mobility

When every day feels the same, it can be easy to forget that employees’ lives outside of work go on. They have their own goals, aspirations and ambitions, which is why it is important to consider career mobility. Enabling employees to develop a career path, build their skills and grow with your company creates a fulfilling experience for them and a rewarding one for your organization.

A career mobility platform can help you advance your efforts in this area by providing a single resource where employees can view opportunities within the organization, access career coaches to help them reach their individual goals and take classes. Such a platform can also support hiring managers in surfacing talent within the organization to match open positions. Lateral and promotional hires can reduce attrition, save money on onboarding, and build leadership from within. When you use this type of system, you show your employees that you care about their future and value the work they do with you.

Eventually, the pandemic will be in our rearview mirror, but remote work will likely remain common. More than half of newly remote U.S. workers want to continue to work remotely, according to a study by Pew Research Center. But if you don’t keep your employees engaged, they may choose to work remotely for another employer.

In the last year, “opportunity” wasn’t a common word, but there are many opportunities for your organization to keep employees engaged, build your teams and move forward enthusiastically. They just require a little outside-the-box — or office — thinking.

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