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5 tips to increase remote employee participation in culture initiatives
Image by Jimmy Foulds

5 min read

5 tips to increase remote employee participation in culture initiatives

Finding it hard to get people excited about virtual events ever since switching to remote work? Here are some tips to involve employees in a real-life wellness challenge.

The remote work revolution was well underway before the COVID-19 pandemic. Across the globe, people had begun to spend more time working from home and less time in the office. After all, technology had made this possible, and the many benefits of virtual collaboration were impossible to ignore. Needless to say, the pandemic has put the remote work revolution into hyperdrive—a trend that was seemingly gradual and organic was suddenly catayzed without notice.

At Service Direct, our experience last year was similar to so many other businesses. Used to working in person at our intimate office, we were all sent home to adapt on the fly. This was a challenging transition for us, just as it was for millions of others. In response to such rapid change, we decided to implement a wellness challenge, an avenue to bring our team together and promote wellbeing during such a tough, isolated time. Our initiative turned out to be a tremendous success across our organization, and that’s why we’re sharing some of the methods we used to promote widespread employee participation. 

 

Setting up the employee wellness challenge

The Loyalty team of Service Direct consists of 5 employees representing each department; they meet every two weeks to decide on what culture initiatives we’re moving forward with for the next short while. 

When we ideated the wellness challenge, a lead was assigned to address any questions and steer the overall direction of the initiative. We decided to have it run for three months during the summer, and we revealed the event to the wider organization two weeks before the start of the challenge. 

On the event RSVP deadline, 67% of our coworkers decided to participate. To encourage further involvement (or a last-minute change of hearts), we adjusted so that anyone could decide to join midway throughout. 

The wellness challenge offered a point system in which participants would accumulate points after completing a specific activity. Here’s a list of some of the tasks involved:

Three-point activities:

  • 30 minutes of exercise
  • 4 continuous hours of digital detox
  • 7 hours of sleep in a night
  • 3 servings of fruits and veggies in a day

Two-point activities:

  • Drink 64 ounces of water in a day
  • Share 3 things you are grateful for

One-point activities:

  • Spend 20 minutes journaling
  • Perform 20 minutes of stretching
  • Meditate for 10 minutes
  • Read for 30 minutes (non-work-related reading)

Employees would input their points daily—we used the honor system to monitor this. At the end of every week, the challenge lead would quickly update the leading individuals on our Slack channel named #Wellness.

After three months of competitiveness, we hosted a wrap-up event where we celebrated people’s accomplishments and handed out prizes to the top three participants. Everyone involved also received a special branded t-shirt, followed by an employee feedback survey to learn about success factors and room for improvement. 

Here are just some tips that encapsulate what we learned and took away from our wellness challenge:

 

1. Create a challenge with diversity in mind 


Diversity was critical to the success of our challenge. Rather than focusing on a specific wellness vertical alone, such as diet and exercise, we explored other activities such as decreased screen time and meditation, which was well received and offered something fresh to people’s routines as they were stuck at home. 

Diversifying activities help capture participation and interest, especially for larger teams. According to a study by Shortlister, more than half of surveyed employers are adding niche “point solutions” to their wellness challenges such as diabetes management, mental well-being, and financial wellness.

 

2. Have a definite timeline


By adding a specific timeframe to your wellness challenge, the time commitment is upfront, and employees know what to expect. We decided to have our challenge run for three months—but you can start with a shorter timeline, say a month, to encourage even more participation. At the end of the day, we acknowledged that the duration of this challenge was too long that some employees were starting to feel fatigued by the latter part of it. In the employee feedback survey we sent at the end of the wellness challenge, 75% stated that they would prefer a monthly challenge, and 25% said they would like a bi-weekly challenge. 

 

3.  Promote the event in advance

Remember to promote, promote, and promote! Whether your leaders mention it during an all-hands meeting, post an article on your company intranet, or send out calendar invites, generating buzz and excitement around the event (and the rewards) will help set the tone and increase anticipation for when the time comes. Don’t forget to give ample notification in advance! Better yet, send out a poll to gauge the most suitable event time for your employees and consider their preferences.  

 

4. Make it easy to participate


A wellness challenge means people will need to spend time doing these activities. To encourage participation, make the barrier to entry low and the process as straightforward as possible. We created this Google Sheets Template that you can use to share with your team members.

Our solution was to create a dedicated Slack channel where we would update our scoreboard. This gave all participants an easy way to check in on the challenge in just a couple of clicks or taps. You can leverage any form of technology that’s familiar and works for your initiative— just keep it simple to make the process as easy and informal as possible.

 

5. Gather everyone to wrap up and celebrate


While it’s easy to list the many benefits of remote work, one of the drawbacks is the loss of gatherings and community fun. Not seeing co-workers in the office every day makes it hard to maintain existing relationships or develop new ones. 

At the end of our wellness challenge, we held a virtual party to celebrate each other’s accomplishments and reflect on the past three months. From our feedback, we heard from employees that they formed new friendships, explored new activities, and even adopted new habits from the short challenge. In the same employee feedback survey, 100% of participants in the wellness challenge stated that they would join us again. 

 

Conclusion

In a remote work environment, workplace culture initiatives take on added importance to keep us together. Whether your employees are working from home as a temporary pandemic response or have adopted it as a permanent arrangement, we hope you took lessons from us and consider hosting a wellness challenge to boost your organization’s community and overall well-being.

By Matt Buchanan, Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer at Service Direct.

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