Trending / September 9, 2020

How to Keep Engagement Levels High with Your Remote and Distributed Teams

We’re nine months into the year, yet it feels like far more time has passed. With a global pandemic ongoing, social unrest on the rise and an unpredictable economy looming, it seems as though we’ve lived through entire years in the span of weeks. For those who have been working from home, it may feel even longer.

Working from home has undeniable benefits, but socializing and collaborating are not among them. Being physically apart from your team can be isolating and lonely, and with so much happening in the world, it can even lead to employee burnout.

As leaders, it’s our responsibility to ensure we’re doing our best to keep our teams connected, engaged and grounded. The following provides insight into some of the strategies that have helped us keep our OneGigamon team together, productive and mentally sound through even the most challenging times. I hope that this list can serve as a source of inspiration when you’re running low on steam, and a reminder that we all work better together.

Foster Trust Through Autonomy and Flexibility

Allow room for your employees to bend before they break. A recent New York Times article notes that productivity has remained at pre-pandemic levels, or even increased: “Without long commutes, small talk with colleagues and leisurely coffees in the break room, many workers — especially those who don’t have to worry about child care — are getting more done.”

But what about those who now are working from home whose kids are “back to school”? It’s clear that work-from-home life creates an additional burden on parents and caretakers who were already strapped for time pre-pandemic. Many children are now back to school in a virtual classroom with distance learning, which is most effective when a guardian is nearby to monitor and assist in the learning process. This new reality requires us to provide more empathy and even greater flexibility for employees who need time to adjust.

Adopt User-Friendly Communication Tools

When we first started using Slack a couple of years ago, it was a game-changer for our internal communications and collaboration. I can’t imagine what our daily communications would look like without this type of software, especially now as we’re all working from different parts of the globe.

Take a look at your current communication tools and determine how you can make the most of them. Don’t have anything outside of email or text? Adopt a work-focused chat program that helps your teams keep in touch throughout the workday. At Gigamon we use Slack for daily brainstorming, quick check-ins and, yes, even occasionally sharing our funny #Gigapets videos. We also have a #Gigaparents Slack channel for parents to share favorite tips, resources, and best practices with other parents. We still rely on email for things like partner and customer communications, but we recognize that this is not the best way to have fluid conversations.

Video, but Don’t Overdo It

Video conferencing tools have been a fantastic way for our teams to connect when we can’t be in the office. But these tools can easily be abused when they’re in use for every little touchpoint. Be mindful of how much time you’re asking employees to spend on camera. Expecting our teams to put their faces on video for every single meeting can eventually become counterproductive. Don’t get me wrong, we use tools like Zoom on a daily basis, but when a video chat can be replaced with a simple 15-minute phone call, we opt for the old-fashioned method because we recognize how easy it is to get “Zoomed out” — and we prefer our teams to save that energy for the stuff that truly matters.

Provide an Ongoing Support System

Let’s be honest, working remotely for extended periods can take its toll on even the most upbeat, optimistic team member. With this in mind, it’s important to instill an open line of communication for addressing these issues, such as hosting a town hall (video not required) where people can ask questions and provide ideas for improvement. These regular meetups can also be used as an opportunity for extra socialization.

Keep in mind that not every conversation needs to revolve around work. Remember those impromptu “pop-by” chats you used to have in the office? That dynamic still has a place in our new “office space.” When used sparingly throughout the day, casual chatter via Slack, phone or video is not a time-waster; it’s an effective way to remain connected to your team — no matter how physically far away they may be.

Schedule Time for Fun

With so many moving parts in a single day, the idea of “fun” can seem like a luxury, but it’s actually an integral part of keeping employee engagement and morale high. Fun is something we could and should incorporate more often into our 9-to-5 lives. Consider hosting a themed event, such as a virtual luncheon where everyone can relax and share common interests. Watch a work-appropriate movie or documentary together through a party app. Or take a virtual employee outing to one of the cultural institutions providing tours online. The important thing is to keep your teams connected; encourage fun and remind them it’s okay to relax. Also, each individual has his or her own idea of fun, so ask what they would like to do for fun as a team.


With working from home as the norm today and for the foreseeable future for most, it’s vital that we continually strive to elevate employee performance and engagement. It’s important for us to be empathetic to each other’s needs, especially during this time. We must remember that big ideas don’t grow in silos. They require space, connection and maintenance in order to become something terrific.

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