Remote work has become a bigger part of corporate culture over the past few years, with both employers and employees weighing the benefits and challenges of remote-first models. The remote and hybrid work discussion is a spirited one, but one factor nearly everyone agrees on is that the biggest cost of moving to a remote-first model is the loss of office camaraderie and in-person interactions.
HR leaders have been addressing this challenge for years, long before the pandemic. While the right solution varies by organisation and team, all companies should evaluate how they are keeping employees engaged when they meet in person, even if it’s irregular. What are innovative companies doing to maintain the benefits of remote work, while getting the most of while not losing out on the advantages that in-person gatherings bring with it?
It all comes back to connection.
The biggest driver for organisations that are eager to bring their remote employees together is the desire to foster connection and a sense of community. Investing time into bringing folks together with intention pays dividends with employees who would otherwise spend the time alone. The key word here? Intention.
Be intentional about your reason to bring folks together, and make it worth their while. When you bring people together with intention, you give your employees the opportunity to build bonds outside of work-related responsibilities. Through these connections, employees can become more accountable to each other and the work they share, in shared spaces, working toward common goals.
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What do employees really want?
As HR leaders, it is our responsibility to know that getting teams together is a voluntary commitment to be taken seriously and with great care – both from an organisational standpoint and an employee well-being standpoint. We know that flexibility is the most important benefit for many remote workers, so before asking them to change their routine – and incurring travel costs for your business – really consider what your objectives are and what you’d like employees to take away from an in-person gathering. Providing clear objectives and expectations will set the tone for other events to follow, and boost engagement and morale. Demonstrating to employees that you’re thoughtful about their time goes a long way in building trust.
How to gather remote workers in the WFH era
I believe the physical environment you hold your staff gatherings in is just as important as the space you’re holding emotionally for your employees while they’re there.
At Peerspace, we work with hosts across the world that make their spaces available for events, including meetings and offsites. We bring our own team together, and I know firsthand how much goes into planning a successful and engaging offsite. We find that these regular gatherings promote internal connection and leads to a renewed sense of community for our team. I’ve included some tips below that may help you plan your next employee gathering:
1. Keep things dynamic
Consider activities where teams can move around, get to know each other, connect and work together for better engagement. Get people out of their seats, and speak with them, not at them. This can be a great way to start the day, or to avoid the afternoon energy slump.
2. Make it easy for team members to get to know each other
Provide name tags, and plan activities or small group sessions to facilitate interactions with team members who might not meet each other otherwise. Also consider having your leadership team across the organization introduce themselves.
3. Build in downtime
Going from little in-person interaction to nearly full days of it can be overwhelming. While you want to make the most of the time together, be sure to build in time for your employees to rest and recharge.
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4. Choose the right environment
We use our own site to book spaces for off-sites so we can select interesting, dynamic spaces. We’ve found that working in interesting spaces promotes productivity, inspires new ideas, and keeps folks awake and engaged.
It’s easier than ever to find and compare spaces, so it’s possible to find the right combination that creates the environment you want, while fitting your budget and location needs. Choose from a wide variety of spaces, from treehouses to a malleable creative studio space that gives your team the utmost opportunity to tailor the event to the needs of your team.
5. Consider your employees who may not be able to join in person
You can ensure they are still a part of the experience by making sessions available to them to tune into, and make sure there is a way for them to communicate to the group or ask questions. I also recommend recording in-person sessions, both for anyone who can’t make it, but also to document any great ideas or questions that emerge from your conversations.
Plan in advance to ensure you have the right AV equipment to make the offsite experience engaging and accessible, and always build in time to arrive early and test the set up. Make sure to gather feedback right after the event so it’s top of mind and can help you plan for future events.
As we head deeper into the world of remote and hybrid working environments, we will continue to see the ways we used to interact change. Whether you resonate more with the benefits or drawbacks, remote work will have to be factored into every part of your employee engagement strategy moving forward.
Consider all of your options when developing a plan to bring your remote or hybrid staff together, and most importantly, consider peer-rented spaces for hosting to cut costs and invest more time and energy into activities that your team will take more value from.
Start with the backdrop, and level up your planning strategies by prioritising the experience you want your staff to have.