Remote Work

RfH Insights: How to Keep Remote Workers Feeling Engaged and Included in a Hybrid Work World

July 8, 2021
November 7, 2023
Andy Przystanski
Lattice Team

RfH Insights features actionable advice curated from Resources for Humans, Lattice’s online Slack community of 10,000+ HR and recruiting professionals. Interested in joining the conversation? Register here.

As businesses reopen post-pandemic, do you find yourself wondering how remote workers will feel once more employees return and your company adopts hybrid work?

Just look at how they felt before the pandemic. A 2019 survey of U.S. remote workers found that they were more likely to have difficulty unplugging from work and collaborating with peers. Worse yet, nearly 20% in that same survey shared that they struggled with loneliness at work.

COVID-19 and the shift to remote forced HR teams to respond to those challenges at scale. So as companies start reopening, how can they ensure the future of the workplace looks less like 2019 and, instead, something better?

Resources for Humans is a Slack community of over 10,000 HR professionals. We asked members to share their plans for ensuring remote teams feel engaged and included after their offices reopen.

1. Maintain a virtual meeting culture.

After a year of working remotely, you likely don’t have to be reminded to add teleconferencing to your next meeting. But while that simple ask feels second nature now, Resources for Humans members stressed that it should remain standard practice even after your office space starts filling back up.

“We encourage all team members to set up a Zoom link for all meetings, even if the facilitator is in the office. That way, everyone on a project can be involved, not just those physically in the same spot,” said Timothy Nurnberger, Vice President of Human Resources at Campaign Solutions. “We’ve had teams spread throughout multiple offices and remote locations even prior to COVID...but now we just try to be even more precise and aware of including everyone no matter their location.”

Others encouraged implementing other meeting norms, like leveraging notetakers and meeting facilitators to ensure everyone has an equal voice despite location. “Each of our meetings will have to have an information keeper that summarizes the info that was shared — and we have all of our big meetings as recordings,” said Kristin Eyschen, Talent Acquisition Manager at Enmacc.

“We’re going to ask all of leadership to work virtually at least one to two days per week.”

2. Follow through on hybrid work.

There’s a difference between paying lip service to hybrid work and dedicating budget toward it. To some People leaders in the community, hybrid work isn’t just about amending schedules, it’s about reimagining (and literally rebuilding) cultural norms and physical office space. For the latter, that means fewer workstations and more collaborative “pods” scattered across the office — each with ready access to video conferencing and even virtual whiteboards to keep remote workers connected.

“We're also in the process of renovating our main headquarters to be a true hybrid environment,” one HR leader said. “Employees will come in when it makes sense to do so, like for collaborative work or a change of scenery. But then they will work from home when they need to really focus on individual work.”

For Trisha Chong, People Operations Manager at Mering, making sure remote workers feel included also comes down to leading by example. Specifically, that means having executive leadership show they’re serious about their commitment to hybrid work. “We’re going to ask all of leadership to work virtually at least one to two days per week. We want to ensure they have a mix of office and remote days,” Chong said. 

3. Keep team-building virtual.

At the start of the pandemic, companies improvised to make traditionally in-person activities succeed virtually. Over a year later, conducting new hire meet-and-greets, happy hours, and other team-building activities over Zoom went from feeling forced to second nature. Many in the community believe these virtual activities shouldn’t just serve as temporary fill-ins but rather the default approach moving forward.

“All our onboardings, events, and all-hands meetings are going to be virtual. We’re also hopefully going to be able to bring everyone together a couple of times a year in the future, too,” said Adrienne Barnard, SVP of People Operations & Experience at Mainstay. Another community member echoed that point, and others specifically mentioned that virtual wellness activities like instructor-led yoga and meditation classes were here to stay.

“Ditto to all of the above — and we are keeping virtual engagement events going like happy hours, lunch-and-learns, team-building exercises, and more,” said Halai Shukran, Director of Talent at Pluribus Digital.

“We’re adding a few things for in-person connection, like an annual travel budget for every employee.”

4. Don’t ditch the stipends and perks.

Wellness apps, expanded telehealth, grocery stipends, and home office care packages were just a few of the offerings businesses added to take care of their (newly) remote workers. Fast forward to today, HR teams are beginning to ask: Why not keep a good thing going?

Community members encouraged hybrid teams to carefully consider the kind of message it would send to employees to scale these back. In addition to keeping most of his company’s remote perks, Garrison Gibbons, VP of People at Amun/21Shares, is introducing a host of new benefits as the company transitions to hybrid work.

“We’re adding a few things for in-person connection, like an annual travel budget for every employee so they can visit a [domestic] office or a different office globally. We’re also having a company offsite in a location that doesn’t have an office at all,” Gibbons said.

Others are weighing something completely different: How to complement overwhelmingly popular remote employee perks so that they’re applicable to everyone.

“We’re working on a hybrid remote stipend. Staff will now be able to have a combo annual home office stipend along with a monthly stipend to use for a coworking space,” said Estrella Quiroz, Employee Engagement Specialist at The Movement Cooperative. “Before, they could only choose one, but now we’re adjusting since we know folks may want to switch between offices and home.”

How will your company make sure remote workers feel included? Share your thoughts and see what others have to say by joining the Resources for Humans Slack community.