We are years out from the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, and the workplace as we’ve always known it has drastically changed. Employers across the nation have weathered a lightning-fast shift to remote and hybrid work; as a result, they’ve had to reevaluate their strategies for managing and engaging their teams. As more companies delay their return-to-office plans—or even scrap them entirely—it’s clear that remote work isn’t going anywhere, making it even more important for business leaders to prioritize effective engagement for their remote teams.
Alongside remote work, rates of burnout and turnover have also increased over the past two years. In a 2021 report from the American Psychological Association, 79% of the 1,500 U.S. adult workers surveyed had experienced work-related stress in the previous month. Large fractions of these workers also reported cognitive weariness, lack of motivation and interest at work, and physical exhaustion as a result of this stress.
While the risks of burnout and increased turnover are certainly concerning for companies, many of them also understand how important it is to provide the flexibility of remote work—to retain current team members and attract top talent during hiring.
Virtual events can be a great solution for companies who want to offer remote flexibility without sacrificing employee engagement, team-building or collaboration. Even if the virtual workplace is a new frontier for your team, you can still utilize multiple digital platforms and experiences to engage and connect with your remote staff.
Frances Harpole, Event Specialist at Vaco in Nashville, has navigated the virtual event space since well before the pandemic.
Below, Harpole gives her top tips for engaging remote team members through unique virtual events.
Choose the right time
If you want to host a virtual event with your company or team, it’s best to schedule it for the afternoon. After working at their computers all day, the last thing most employees want is to stay signed on for a virtual “cheers” when the workday is already over.
When you’re scheduling your event, preparation is key. Be sure to add your event to everyone’s calendars as soon as possible—this will give invitees a chance to block off their calendars and plan meetings and calls accordingly. Finally, remember to be cognizant of everyone’s time. Try to limit your virtual event to one hour or less.
Pick an interesting activity/theme
By now, we’ve probably all attended a virtual work event that didn’t have an established agenda. While free-flowing meetings have their place, it’s a general best practice to choose an activity for your virtual event that will keep everyone involved.
If employee engagement is your goal, avoid choosing activities that are overdone, like virtual happy hours or coffee breaks. Instead, choose an activity that will excite or intrigue your team members.
Here are just a few of the virtual events Vaco in Nashville has hosted in the past:
- Trivia Night
- Virtual Horse Racing Simulator
- Escape Room
After you’ve chosen your activity, incorporate a theme to get attendees more involved.
You can do this by encouraging team members to dress up or by sending a curated kit of snacks for everyone to eat together.
Oh, and don’t forget: have fun with it!
Read more: How to Create Engaging Virtual Events
Select an event ambassador
If your virtual events are typically planned by the same team or leader in your company, you may start to see employee participation wane over time. However, additional word of mouth can work wonders in getting more RSVPs and higher employee attendance.
One way to get more buzz around your virtual event is to elect a host. The host can take ownership of championing and promoting your event to their department or close colleagues.
Anyone within your company can be a host—it doesn’t need to be a member of management. Having unique hosts to emcee your events can help increase participation across your organization, since most employees want to support their coworkers.
Add elements of surprise
Employees are more likely to continue participating in your virtual events if you add fun, surprising elements to the agenda. This is important because continued participation creates more opportunities for engagement and connectivity.
So what are some ways you can flip the script on your internal virtual event? One way is to incorporate prizes. After all, people love free stuff and/or incentives to participate in activities.
Maybe you have an exciting company announcement to make and don’t want to share it in an email. If planned accordingly, you can time the virtual event around the big news and announce it live with your internal employees on the call. To get maximum participation, offer door prizes for employees who submit questions, dress up according to the theme or contribute to the discussion during the event.
It’s human nature to desire connection with others. As we continue to navigate our “new normal” in the workplace, maintaining connectivity within your organization is crucial. As you plan your internal virtual events throughout the year, these tips can help you engage and connect with your remote teams in a meaningful way.