Danni Rush, Chief Customer Officer at Virgin Incentives and Virgin Experience Days
The end of the year is fast approaching. And, for most businesses, it’s a time to come together as a workforce, celebrate the past year, and let your hair down as we enter the holiday season. But 2020, as we all know, isn’t like most years.
With COVID-19 cases surging across the UK and the Government tightening restrictions on everyday life, many businesses are facing up to the fact that their Christmas plans are going to involve a lot more screens than they anticipated.
In this ‘new normal’, the question business leaders will be asking themselves isn’t how much money to put behind the bar at the Christmas party, but how to keep remote working employees engaged and motivated over the holiday season.
The importance of recognition for remote working employees
Recognising and responding to the individual needs of each employee is a great way to demonstrate to employees that you care about their wellbeing and is an effective tool for motivating and engaging them – especially if they’re working remotely.
Despite the potential benefits of working from home for some, business leaders shouldn’t assume that everyone is content with the current set up. Not every employee will feel comfortable working with the people they live with or they might not have an appropriate environment for working from home.
Similarly, employees may feel isolated. It has been over seven months since the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a pandemic and it is clearly damaging mental health. The Centre for Mental Health has predicted that up to 10 million people in England – almost a fifth of the population – will need mental health support as a direct consequence of COVID-19.
With the UK facing another wave of restrictions over the winter months, it’s now more important than ever for managers to recognise that working from home is going to affect people in different ways. Companies will need to check-in and engage with their employees more and show the same amount of attentiveness they showed during the first lockdown in March.
The role of an open culture in employee engagement
Building a strong company culture is extremely important for employee engagement, especially when the workforce is separated. But it isn’t easy and creating one virtually can be even trickier.
Having a unified purpose that binds and guides everyone can help. At Virgin Incentives, we used our company purpose – ‘making every experience extraordinary’ – in our day-to-day approach and decision making, and were able to use it as a basis to build a strong company culture whilst remaining true to the brand. As a result, we saw our team engagement increase and were able to boost team spirits for all our employees working from home.
As well as sharing into a common purpose, a targeted approach can also help to nurture a positive company culture. With each employee facing their own challenges, business leaders must approach a virtual company culture with initiatives and policies tailored to their workforce and individuals where possible.
Gathering the input of employees and then implementing their ideas is a great way to achieve this. And offering bespoke rewards and incentives or allowing employees to choose their own rewards is another way to ensure employees get the most out of their employer’s wellbeing initiatives. For example, our Virgin Experience Days Gift Card can be redeemed at over 3,000 different experiences nationwide and covers a wide range of interests to ensure there is something for everyone. There’s also stay-at-home virtual experiences for people who prefer to stay indoors.
These types of rewards and incentives are far more effective at driving engagement than financial ones. Simply offering financial perks might fail to engage employees on an emotional level, and instead offering them a reward which is not only fun but also creates a lifelong memory, will demonstrate recognition on a much deeper level. This can strengthen bonds and boost employee engagement, especially at such a crucial time.
The value of virtual events
With Christmas parties and after-work drinks almost certainly out of the question this year, virtual experiences and events are a great alternative way to engage and motivate remote working employees.
For instance, last month, Virgin Incentives ran a virtual cocktail making class with our team, sending out different ingredients to everyone at home and a cocktail shaker. We connected over Google Meet so we could ‘cheers’ virtually and share our experiences of making the drinks.
Although activities like these aren’t exactly what we imagined we’d be doing at this time of year, businesses must get imaginative and find new ways to excite employees and inject some fun into their day to stem feelings of isolation.
Creating a virtual company culture and motivating and engaging employees is now more important than ever, as everyone grapples with the side-effects of the pandemic. Businesses must regularly connect with their employees, integrate them within the decision-making process for the company culture, and think outside of the box to excite and engage employees through virtual experiences, events and team building activities.