The Loop

Engagement Strategies For Remote Workers

Filed under: Benefits

When the US partially locked down at the beginning of the pandemic, the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research reported that 33 percent of Americans had stopped working. Another 26 percent, largely essential service workers, continued to work at their place of business. Remarkably, a whopping 42 percent started working from home full-time.

In just a handful of months, the US became a remote-work economy. This tested the adaptability and tech proficiency of nearly every business in America. And thousands of them passed that test, so much so that they are looking at ways to continue remote work options once the pandemic ends. For most companies, this can only happen through effective technology innovation that facilitates communication and team collaboration. 

Remote Workforce Advantages

Millennials and Generation Z have long requested flexibility and mobility from their employers, so the pandemic-induced remote work option turned that into a reality. In addition, many busy households trying to juggle work and family obligations have benefited by achieving better work-life balance.

There are advantages for employers as well, such as cost savings associated with shuttering office space. In same cases, productivity has even improved. However, the offsite workforce model requires additional effort when it comes to benefit engagement strategies. With less inter-office and face-to-face interaction, electronic communications are more important than ever.

Consider that if workers failed to read an HR email or web bulletin about a specific topic, they were still likely to see a poster in the breakroom or hear coworkers discuss it. However, if they miss the email or web post while working from home, they may never get the message. If this causes them to miss out on important benefits or enrollment deadlines, it can generate anger and resentment – targeted directly at their employer. For this reason, it is exceedingly important to ramp up communication strategies to keep a remote workforce informed and engaged.

Benefit Considerations

Consider that, in 2019, more than 40 percent of workers waited until the last minute to complete their benefit enrollment. That was before the pandemic. Now, working remotely, employees are even less likely to stay attuned to enrollment deadlines. However, with timely employer prompts, they could be motivated to take more time to review benefits from the comfort of their own home. After all, for many, it is their work environment now, so they can choose any time of day to evaluate their options without feeling like they’re wasting work time, or infringing on family time.

It is important for workers to review their current benefits and consider changes each year, based on their circumstances. To motivate this level of engagement, consider a variety of strategies to get their attention and elicit interest. Tactics may include videos, contests, and benefit testimonials by employees. If you want them to log into a virtual meeting, consider providing incentives, such as a gift for attendees and/or a drawing for a gift certificate or paid time off.

Provide a steady stream of spotlighted individual benefits, such as voluntary offerings like pet insurance, wellness programs, nutrition counseling, travel insurance, college loans, and financial literacy. Focus on any cost savings or discounts, demonstrating how much a worker can save over time through participation.


One of the benefits of a remote workforce is that they tend to take fewer sick days. After all, most people can continue working when they’re sick; the biggest challenges tend to be getting dressed for work, enduring the commute, and not being able to lie down for brief rest periods. They also can continue working a full day with a sick child at home when normally they would have to take time off.

Fewer sick days means remote workers can enjoy more vacation PTO. It’s a good idea for both workers and their supervisors to easily be able to track unused time off. That’s because working at home can sometimes feel like a vacation in itself, simply because they can sleep in longer and don’t have to put on “work clothes.” Some employees even get into the bad habit of never “leaving” work – opting to check emails at night or work a few more hours after dinner. It’s important for remote workers to take plenty of vacation time off throughout the year, even if it’s just to extend a weekend or take a day off during the middle of the week.

Creating a virtual PTO calendar for each worker, with periodic prompts of how much time they have available, can remind workers to take time off when they’ve gone too long without a break. Communication strategies may include PTO suggestions – like local attractions or available travel discounts. Encourage workers not to use all of their PTO for staycations; it’s hard to recharge your batteries at the same place you live and work. Many employees struggle to “unplug” when they work from home, which can lead to a negative work-life balance and/or burnout.

Health Benefits

Just as PTO is important for remote workers, so is taking full advantage of health benefits. Periodic communications related to wellness benefits, exercises they can do at home, gym memberships, yoga classes, or educational articles on how to deal with anxiety, financial stress, and ergonomic tips should be in regular rotation. Since there are no breakrooms or physical bulletin boards, employers need to be resourceful. Consider developing a virtual breakroom and community forums to share benefit information all year round.

Bear in mind that with a remote workforce, local wellness benefit memberships should be local to workers’ individual homes, not the office. Consider franchise gyms and fitness centers across the city, state, and even the country if you hire workers from all over.

With employees out of the office, it’s difficult to gauge their mental and physical status – such as whether they’re gaining weight or losing sleep. It’s important to continue communicating positive messages that encourage workers to take frequent breaks, go for a walk at lunchtime, offer nutritious meal ideas that can be prepared at home, and other healthy habits. Let them know that just because they work at home, they don’t have to sit at their desk for eight hours. Studies have shown that people who work from home tend to be more productive, so encouraging healthy habits is not likely to impede their performance.


People who work from home generally miss out on the perks of the office environment. They can’t take advantage of subsidized meals at the campus cafeteria, and don’t get treated to in-office pizza or catered lunch meetings. Use technology resources to provide opportunities for remote social interaction, such as: 

  • Virtual pizza parties – order pizza to be delivered to each participant at their home at the time of the videoconference
  • Virtual office parties – have “care packages” sent in advance to be opened and enjoyed simultaneously
  • Team trivia games; computer bingo cards
  • Surprise birthday parties – a quick impromptu Zoom conference with the whole team, including a virtual gift card
  • Congratulation calls when a worker reaches an anniversary, professional goal, or meets a project benchmark
  • Constantly be on the look out for ways to engage in simple acts to show workers the company cares about them
  • It may take time and practice to learn how to make virtual parties and meetings engaging, but if you plan on having a remote workforce, it’s time to put in the work and find out what strategies are effective.

The Personal Touch

It’s tougher for colleagues and supervisors to bond when everyone works remotely. In an office environment, workers inherently share their interests without discussing them. From family photos to vacation mementos to desk knickknacks and quotes/words of wisdom posted in their workspace, quick visits can help a manager learn much about a direct report. With remote workers, that takes an extra effort.

Therefore it is beneficial to ask questions and keep tabs on what your workers enjoy doing, the names of members of their family, their hobbies and passions. Without a personal bond with other people from work, a remote job can feel like they’re stranded on an island by themselves. Like they’re not part of a team. Consider corralling passions so that team members can share and relate to each other’s interests, such as a running scoreboard of all their favorite sports teams, entertainers, and post local events where they can make plans to meet up. Even consider assigning various local hubs, such as a coffee shop or a remote office space, where employees can go to work whenever they need to meet face-to-face or just get out of the house. 

Communication Strategies

When communicating with workers, whether key benefits or opportunities for socialization, make sure the same messaging is consistent across a variety of mediums. For example:

  • Check-in frequently with remote workers to remind them of upcoming events or deadlines (“Did you receive” or “Have you signed up yet”).
  • Facetime and virtual meetings – mix up work meetings with casual hangouts.
  • Webinars – pre-recorded audio or video presentations to convey information; if they work at home they can play it out loud without distracting coworkers. That way they can listen to benefit information while folding laundry.
  • Websites or webpages – Put relevant information right at their fingertips for quick access to their available PTO, request forms, staff calendar, healthcare and wellness benefits, telehealth phone number, etc.
  • Printed materials delivered to their home.
  • Text and direct messaging.
  • Social media, such as a private Facebook group or Google chat room for discussions.
  • On-demand call centers and online chats for benefit questions and tech support.
  • Telephone calls – sometimes we get so used to email and direct messaging that we forget the value of hearing a concerned voice on the other end of the line.

Some employees adapt easily to the remote work environment, but for others it can be difficult because they are used to and expect more human interaction. Supervisors should assess which workers need more attention and respond to their individual needs, especially during the transition to a fulltime remote model. Evaluate which supervisors excel at managing remote workers, and adapt their strategies into a training model. 

Whether in the office or offsite, there’s no question that high levels of employee engagement yield higher satisfaction and productivity. As your company adapts to the remote staffing model, identify what savings are achieved by reduced overhead, transportation and parking subsidies, and perhaps even better employee health outcomes. If the combination of lower expenses and increased productivity yields higher revenues – don’t forget to share your profits with remote workers. Consider ways to redeploy those savings to attract new recruits and improve retention, such as through monthly stipends to cover in-home office expenses, higher healthcare cost sharing, or increased compensation.

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