With over 50% of people still working from home after the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered offices around the globe in 2020, employee engagement looks a bit different than it had for the past few decades. Still, keeping workers involved in the culture of the company is still a critical task, even if they’re not working in an office.
Here are five ways that you can spend your employee engagement budget in 2021.
1. Offer home office stipends for employees to renovate their workspace.
With more people working from home long-term, companies are saving tens of thousands of dollars every month on everything from office space rent to break room coffee and snacks. What better way to use those savings than to bring them back to your workers?
Many employees find that they now need to provide their own workspaces, equipment, office snacks, and Internet, which can be financially straining. By offering workers a small stipend, they can upgrade their home office to become a place that they enjoy coming back to every day. They can use the money to buy a new ergonomic chair, a standing desk, some new houseplants, or even some art that helps them feel relaxed and productive.
What it really boils down to is helping your employees feel comfortable in the space they work. After all, they’re in that same spot for hours every weekday!
2. Pay for take out from local restaurants and eat lunch together on Zoom.
Lunchtime is when most workers get to take a break and socialize with coworkers. With remote work, that time is often cut short or booked over with meetings. Many remote workers find themselves eating alone at their desk, eyes still glued to the screen trying to cram in a few more minutes of work or attending a last-minute meeting.
Remember, lunchtime is often sacred when it comes to work-life balance. Encourage your employees to take at least half an hour off of working and reset themselves. Occasionally, maybe once or twice a month, send $20 to each person and encourage them to get take out from a local restaurant in their town and then hop on a video conference with their team. It will almost feel like being back in the office. And remember — no work talk!
3. Match donations to organizations selected by your employees.
Many people enjoy donating their time and money to causes they care about, and your employees are no exception. One way to show interest in the causes they care about is to offer donation matching up to a certain percent to nonprofit organizations they select.
If you want to make it more of a group selection, have each team discuss together and select a cause to donate to. This is especially a great activity during the holidays.
4. Begin an employee recognition program with small rewards.
For many people, feeling fulfilled at work is as simple as recognizing the work that they do. A great way to do this is by starting an employee recognition program that includes small monetary rewards, like $5-20 gift cards. Workers can be nominated for recognition by their managers and coworkers. Be sure to have the people who do the nominating include a small blurb about why the recipient deserves recognition. Maybe they completed a long and difficult project, or maybe they went out of their way to help someone else.
To make the recognition even more special, be sure to announce rewards as they happen. You can do this via a company Slack channel or in team or company meetings.
5. Offer free online learning for courses that interest your workers and help them advance their careers.
For many office workers, learning on the job is something they truly enjoy. It can help them stretch their minds in ways their normal work does not and teach them new skills they can apply to their jobs. That means paying for online courses that your workers can take occasionally during their working hours will not only make your employees happy, it will also upskill them in ways that helps them be better workers. It’s a win-win!
Udacity offers Nanodegree programs that upskill workers in technical fields of all kinds, from artificial intelligence to data science. Courses are self-paced, flexible, and online so they are able to fit into your employee’s existing schedules. Check out Udacity for Enterprise to learn more.
Keep Your Workers Happy
While it’s often true that for many workers, a job is just a job, it doesn’t mean the workplace has to have the death rattle of an environment like in Office Space. With a little planning and effort, your company can keep employees happy and productive for years to come by using the employee engagement budget in the right ways.