How to Keep Employees Engaged While Working Remotely

By: Cassandra Steele, online fundraising and digital marketing communications professional.

One of the biggest changes to come from COVID-19 is the transition to working from home for all employees who are able. Even if your employees regularly work from home one or two days a week, working from home full time during COVID-19 is an adjustment.

Here are six tips for engaging with your nonprofit employees while they’re working remotely.

#1 Check-in

When you’re all working together in one space, conversation probably flows pretty naturally, especially if you have an open door policy with your team and they can drop in whenever they need to.

While working remotely keep your employees engaged by making sure they have the opportunity to connect with you and with each other.

  • Book a weekly 30 minutes 1:1 with your team to update on projects and go over any questions
  • Make sure you also have a weekly meeting for your whole team so they are talking to each other as well as to you
  • Don’t lose out on the water cooler talk! Make sure you leave some time in each of these meetings for non-work talk. It’s more important than ever that you ask your nonprofit employees how they’re doing

#2 Talk about mental health

The mental health of your employees matters all the time, but the uncertainty around COVID-19 will likely take more of a toll on your staff’s mental health than the typical day-to-day stress.

  • Create a thread in your instant message communication software, like Microsoft Teams or Slack, to share tips and coping mechanisms for dealing with COVID-19
  • Even the most obvious tips like take deep breaths will be good reminders for your employees while they are working remotely
  • Make sure your employees know that it’s a safe space where they can share their experiences navigating COVID-19

Here are 6 tips to respond to employee anxiety about COVID-19  from the Canadian Mental Health Association to help you support your staff’s mental health during this time.

#3 Encourage video calls

Awkward angles and bad lighting…video calls can strike fear into the hearts of many remote workers. But during COVID-19, video meetings offer the opportunity to engage remote employees and meet “face-to-face”.

Tips for successful video meetings:

  • Set an example as a nonprofit leader and encourage your remote employees by joining all calls with your video on
  • Keep it casual! People probably aren’t getting all dressed up to work from home, make sure your co-workers know that their hoodies and athleisure wear are more than welcome on screen
  • No pressure! Some of your employees may feel self-conscious about showing their homes or it’s not convenient for them to use their webcam, make sure they know it’s okay to not use video

#4 Keep employees updated

In a situation where things are changing rapidly, your employees may be feeling out of the loop and not sure about what’s coming next. Keep your remote employees engaged by keeping them informed.

Consider hosting an all-staff town all regularly to:

  • Give updates from leadership – include an overview of your nonprofit’s financial status as well as the next steps in the plan for getting through COVID-19
  • Allow employees time to ask questions
  • Leave time for sharing exciting personal news and announcements

You may not be able to share everything and you probably don’t have all of the answers. But allowing this vehicle for regular communication is going to make sure your remote employees are engaged and feeling more informed.

#5 Knowledge sharing

Keep your remote employees engaged by encouraging knowledge and skill sharing. These can be professional development opportunities or just for fun!

Set up a series of virtual Lunch & Learn sessions led by your employees.

  • Do you have an Excel wizard on your team? Ask them to give a presentation with useful spreadsheet hacks
  • Start a virtual book club, here’s a list of 14 Book Club Ideas for Personal and Professional Development  from Classy
  • People need hobbies now more than ever, are they any crafty folks on your staff? Ask them to lead a Lunch & Learn series on scrapbooking, knitting, drawing, etc

#6 Office socials

Your colleagues probably have some traditions for celebrating birthdays and other events in the lives of their co-workers. As well as regular habits like going for coffee breaks or hanging out after work. Those celebrations and gatherings don’t have to stop because your team is working remotely!

  • Use Group Greeting to sign and send cards from everyone on the team
  • Hold your celebrations over video conference! It’s not the same as gathering in person, but getting all of your remote employees together to share stories and chat with the honouree for a few minutes is still a great way to celebrate
  • Schedule a 15-minute “coffee-break” where your team can join with a cup of coffee or tea they made at home and catch up
  • Virtual Happy Hour! On Friday afternoons book a short video conference for employees to join to celebrate the week being over and chat about their weekend plans

Physical distance doesn’t mean you can’t socialize and stay connected. Keep your remote employees engaged and connected during this time to come out of COVID-19 with a stronger team than before!

See Complete List of COVID-19 Resources for Nonprofit Here.

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