Remote workers enjoy many advantages over their in-office colleagues: flexible hours, relaxed dress codes, and little to no commute. But when it comes to office celebrations, remote workers can really miss out.
Seventy percent of remote workers already feel left out of the workplace, and that feeling comes to a head during the holiday season. Office holiday parties are one example of a tried-and-true method of showing employee appreciation. They also serve as annual forums of casual engagement, a way for coworkers to bond and strengthen their personal relationships.
Ideally, your company should bite the bullet and shell out the cash to fly remote workers to your headquarters to attend the holiday party with their coworkers. You can even keep expenses down by combining the event with all-company trainings, meetings, or retreats. But bringing in all remote employees sometimes just isn’t feasible, especially as the number of them continues to climb. Currently, 30% of U.S. workers are remote full-time.
To avoid losing out on this year-end opportunity for engagement and boosting morale, get creative and brainstorm ways to bring holiday cheer to all employees—regardless of where they sit.
Use communication tools to casually engage remote employees
Employees today are used to communicating casually with their peers. Over 75% of employees are connected with their coworkers on social media. To boost morale around holiday time, encourage further casual communication within the company channels you are most likely already using.
Create a holiday-themed group chat with festive prompts to boost lighthearted engagement, bringing remote and in-office employees together. Or better yet, create a space in your intranet and encourage employees to share childhood holiday photos or swap their favorite holiday GIFs and memes or post a picture of them in an ugly holiday-themed sweater. The trick is to not set a stiff, formal agenda for the chat. Instead, sit back and let employees enjoy this time with each other as a festive break from their routines.
Take this a step further by moving the conversation to a casual video conference, boosting the fun factor by serving holiday treats—to employees both in and out of the office. Ship out preplanned holiday care packages that let remote employees enjoy the same treats as their in-office peers during the video call.
If they can’t be at the holiday party, bring the party to them
If several remote employees live near each other, sponsor a regional holiday party. Organizers should do their best to make the party as similar to the main soirée as possible, so remote employees feel just as valued as their in-office counterparts.
If regional parties aren’t possible, then bring the festivities to each remote employee. Organize and ship a party package with themed decorations and treats that match what the in-office employees will enjoy on the day of. If the party is at a restaurant, send a personalized note and a comparable gift card so they can enjoy a full meal on the company with their family.
When it comes to the night of the actual holiday party, plan activities that are video-friendly or don’t necessarily require participants to be physically present. Create collaborative playlists, digital raffles, and photo filters that all employees can use when snapping pictures of the night. Then, compile all photos (including those from remote employees) in any recap albums from the event.
Forgetting remote workers at the holidays could be a critical mistake
Remote workers value their ability to work from home. In fact, 84% agree that the ability to work remotely makes them happier. Most understand that missing out on certain office perks is just a part of the deal. But when it comes to specific acts of employee appreciation, especially those that coincide with calendar holidays, remote employees expect inclusion.
But it’s important to note that the most successful organizations take this one step further, providing all workers with the right digital tools that help them stay productive and engaged where ever they choose to work, making it easier to connect and communicate with their coworkers year-round.
By taking advantage of existing communication channels and cost-effective alternatives to plane tickets and hotel reservations, any organization can work to make every employee feel valued and included during the holiday season.
Kristen Ruttgaizer is director of Human Resources at Igloo Software.