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Man Celebrating Holidays Remotely With Co Workers

How to Bring Holiday Cheer to Your Remote Teams

Keep your employees connected all season long

The internet is full of ideas to connect with remote teams during the holidays. While these frequently published top 10 lists center on celebrations, there are a few other ways to engage employees this season that might be more meaningful. This includes recognition for the work done during an especially challenging year, where we’ve been separated, masked, remote and virtual. 

Let’s dig into a few ideas that will honor and engage employees while providing you some business insight for 2022.

An opportunity for a meaningful employee experience
Most employees want to find meaning and growth in their work. December holidays mark the end of a calendar year, opening the door for new ideas for the year ahead. Take the opportunity for a little one-on-one time, highlight the best qualities in your remote employee (everyone has at least one good quality), and ask them what would bring meaning to their work in 2022. There is no decision to be made here, just listen and acknowledge. Make sure and end the conversation by expressing your appreciation for their work this year. 

In our “always on” digital culture, an informal, personal chat won’t take a lot of time, but may make an important connection and help the employee feel valued. You may gain valuable insight, not just from a single person, but in seeing patterns and trends across teams or the staff as a whole. This can be done in a team setting for larger companies, just make sure to have a key decision maker be the “listener.” You never will know what employees are thinking unless you give them a safe space to express themselves, and then ask! 

According to a study by research firm McKinsely, nearly two-thirds of U.S.-based employees said COVID-19 has caused them to reflect on their purpose in life. Most are reevaluating the kind of work they do because of the pandemic, with Millenials most likely to consider changing jobs. So, helping remote workers find some purpose in their work will greatly aid in company retention, along with healthier and more resilient employees.

Moreover, when employees feel that their purpose is aligned with the organization’s purpose, the benefits expand to include stronger employee engagement, heightened loyalty, and a greater willingness to recommend the company to others.

Being an empathetic leader is essential for building positive employee experiences. Taking the time to understand what inspires and motivates your team—as well as what discourages them—will help you understand their day-to-day work experiences.

Once you are able to see things from their perspective and have a grasp on what is and isn’t working, you can adapt and adjust to be more in line with their goals. When your employees truly feel heard, they’ll have a better all-around employee experience.

Woman Celebrating Holidays Remotely

Connecting to company culture
If you do plan on a holiday experience with your virtual team, there are a couple of important considerations. One, make sure it fits in with the nature and values of your company. There’s no doubt that the past several months have changed the landscape of the workforce. For the sake of your employees, though, it’s time to move from surviving to thriving and make building positive employee experiences a priority.

When employees feel aligned with their organization’s mission, vision, and core company values, they’ll be more productive and will feel fulfilled by their work. 

When employees feel that their purpose is aligned with the organization’s purpose, the benefits expand to include stronger employee engagement, heightened loyalty, and a greater willingness to recommend the company to others.

There is one idea I did like from reading through holiday engagement lists for remote workers—creating and sharing a holiday background. Challenge your remote team members to create a remote office background, or a virtual background that includes one of more symbols or images of what holidays mean to them. And since New Year’s is a time for making resolutions, ask them to say a sentence or two about a part of the company mission or values that resonates with them most.

Instead of taking a process-based management approach to aligning staff with your company’s purpose by having employees simply know the mission of your organization, find a way to have them connect with the mission and understand their own contributions. This gives employees’ work a purpose that ultimately increases engagement and success.

Many employers struggle to build and maintain a healthy company culture with a remote workforce, but it’s one of the most important aspects of an employee’s experience. When your team doesn’t have any in-person interactions, a culture that emphasizes virtual connection, teamwork, and collaboration can make your staff feel included and part of the bigger picture, rather than isolated and lonely.

Provide ways for your staff to stay connected outside of regular meetings that mirror how you may have connected in an office environment. Instead of birthday or anniversary celebrations in the break room, send shout-outs via Slack or another company communication tool and have flowers or a gift card sent to your employee’s home. To replace water cooler chats, organize virtual lunches or online coffee breaks that enable employees to connect with one another “outside” of work.

Seasonal work/life balance
Before COVID-19, research on work-life balance showed that only 74% of work is done during normal work hours. That means that more than a quarter of work happens “after hours,” during what would usually be family or personal time. And this was prior to the pandemic. Now that so many people are working from home, the boundaries between work and life are more blurred than ever, and workers are struggling to balance their full-time jobs with full-time caregiving, teaching, and other obligations.

According to a Salesforce survey on employee experience during the pandemic, 88% of workers in the U.S. say they need flexible work schedules from their employers to find that balance during this time. Only 38% say they’ve been offered increased flexibility, though. Showing that you understand your staff members’ unique circumstances and are willing to work with them to update schedules and responsibilities as needed will build trust and engagement.

Focus on Mental Health
Mental health should always be a top consideration when it comes to the employee experience for remote workers. Because people who work from home tend to work longer hours and have fewer boundaries between their professional and personal lives, some of the onus falls on employers to make sure employees aren’t experiencing burnout.

In a recent survey FlexJobs conducted with Mental Health America, 75% of respondents reported experiencing burnout at work—40% specifically during the pandemic. And, 76% say that workplace stress affects their mental health. Employers need to make sure their benefits meet the mental health needs of all staff members, and managers should be alert to signs of chronic stress on their teams. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your offerings—wellness webinars and perks can go a long way toward easing stress.

Defining the Employee Experience
In some respects, the definition of the employee experience is very straightforward. According to Gallup, “The employee experience is the journey an employee takes with your organization. It includes all the interactions an employee has with your organization before, during, and after their tenure.”

Every moment of an employee’s experience plays a role in how they feel about their employer’s purpose, brand, and culture. These feelings, in turn, directly impact employee engagement, retention, and performance—and ultimately, the company’s ability to attract, engage, and develop excellent employees.

On a broad scale, the key to ensuring positive employee experiences is focusing on human experiences, rather than only on processes. This enables employers to create a work environment that is intuitive and adaptable to both the company’s purpose and to what matters most to employees.

According to research from MIT, organizations with a top employee experience are able to achieve double the customer satisfaction, twice the innovation, and 25% higher profits than companies that provide an inadequate employee experience.

So, how do you make sure your employees have beneficial experiences through their entire employment lifecycle? Here are nine specific ways to drill down to create a positive employee experience for remote workers.

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Building Positive Employee Experiences for Remote Workers

Optimize Your Onboarding Process
By necessity, onboarding has become a virtual process for most companies, but that doesn’t mean it should fall down on your list of priorities. In fact, how you onboard remote employees sets the tone for your employees’ experiences down the road.

Use onboarding to align employees with the company’s mission and get them involved and communicating with their coworkers. Make sure to provide consistent and effective communication throughout the process because this will be their very first post-hire experience with the company. Pairing up new employees with a mentor or buddy who can offer peer-to-peer support can help answer some of the questions that inevitably arise in new jobs.

Connect Employees to the Mission
When employees feel aligned with their organization’s mission, vision, and core company values, they’ll be more productive and will feel fulfilled by their work.

Instead of taking a process-based management approach to aligning staff with your company’s purpose by having employees simply know the mission of your organization, find a way to have them connect with the mission and understand their own contributions. This gives employees’ work a purpose that ultimately increases engagement and success.

Support Work-Life Balance
Before COVID-19, research on work-life balance showed that only 74% of work is done during normal work hours. That means that more than a quarter of work happens “after hours,” during what would usually be family or personal time. And this was prior to the pandemic. Now that so many people are working from home, the boundaries between work and life are more blurred than ever, and workers are struggling to balance their full-time jobs with full-time caregiving, teaching, and other obligations.

According to a Salesforce survey on employee experience during the pandemic, 88% of workers in the U.S. say they need flexible work schedules from their employers to find that balance during this time. Only 38% say they’ve been offered increased flexibility, though. Showing that you understand your staff members’ unique circumstances and are willing to work with them to update schedules and responsibilities as needed will build trust and engagement.

Listen to Your Team
Being an empathetic leader is essential for building positive employee experiences. Taking the time to understand what inspires and motivates your team—as well as what discourages them—will help you understand their day-to-day work experiences.

Once you are able to see things from their perspective and have a grasp on what is and isn’t working, you can adapt and adjust to be more in line with their goals. When your employees truly feel heard, they’ll have a better all-around employee experience.

Keep Open Lines of Communication
In a remote work environment, communication all but makes up the employee experience. And though communication between employees is imperative, keeping the lines of communication open between leadership and employees has a tremendous impact on your workers’ experience. Salesforce found that 87% of remote workers consider communication from management important, but only 32% report that their employer has taken steps to increase the frequency since the pandemic started.

By communicating regularly, employers can show they care and instill a sense of stability in uncertain times. Keep staff updated on shifting initiatives and goals, give your employees frequent feedback, and ask for their feedback in return. Keep the channels open, and employees will feel respected and heard.

Provide Professional Development Opportunities
As employees have moved to working from home, there’s been an increased emphasis on productivity as companies evaluate whether or not remote work fits the bill. However, that’s not only what matters to employees. Salesforce found that 53% of employees want a more up-to-date or better skill set, but only 56% of their companies have provided the necessary training.

In a remote work environment, it can be easy for employers to focus on the here and now and neglect planning for the long-term employee experience. Employers need to commit to providing their staff with professional growth and career development opportunities, along with supporting resources. Offering regular coaching, feedback, check-ins, and online learning methods (e-learning, training tools, and courses) ensures that your employees have something to look forward to as their career progresses.

Build a Connected Company Culture
Many employers struggle to build and maintain a healthy company culture with a remote workforce, but it’s one of the most important aspects of an employee’s experience. When your team doesn’t have any in-person interactions, a culture that emphasizes virtual connection, teamwork, and collaboration can make your staff feel included and part of the bigger picture, rather than isolated and lonely.

Provide ways for your staff to stay connected outside of regular meetings that mirror how you may have connected in an office environment. Instead of birthday or anniversary celebrations in the break room, send shout-outs via Slack or another company communication tool and have flowers or a gift card sent to your employee’s home. To replace water cooler chats, organize virtual lunches or online coffee breaks that enable employees to connect with one another “outside” of work.

Provide the Right Tech Tools
In a remote environment, it’s crucial to also view employee experience from a technology standpoint. The right experience technology (EX) enables engagement, creativity, collaboration, and productivity.

So how does an organization prioritize EX? Use the IT department to make sure employees have access to all the business applications they need, with high bandwidth, few disruptions or delays, and compatibility across various systems and formats. Cloud-based applications give employees the access they need to remain productive while working remotely.

EX also supports a healthy company culture by fostering the connectivity that determines employee well-being and retention.

How You Can Create a Positive Remote Work Experience
Most employees are looking for so much more than just a paycheck—they want their work to feel meaningful. Focusing on the overall employee experience for remote workers over the entire employee lifecycle can give your staff the sense of belonging, trust, and meaning they need to be successful and fulfilled in the workplace.

FlexJobs has been a leader in the remote workplace for more than 13 years. For support as you build and maintain your remote team’s experience, check out our employer resource articles for more tips and advice. Or, if you’re looking for expert guidance on your company’s remote work plans, get in touch with us today.

Continue to connect remote employees to company culture, be mindful of mental health needs, and tune in to what remote employees really want this holiday season. I can guarantee a virtual happy hour or singing carols on Zoom is pretty far down the list for a lot of folks.

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