Major employers and big tech companies, including Amazon and Adobe, have announced “indefinite remote work” policies as the pandemic marches into 2022. Although working remotely comes with challenges, this news might be welcomed by the overwhelming majority of employees as well as employers who believe such flexibility increases productivity and overall happiness. 

At the same time, this work-from-home era presents a quandary for recruiters and HR executives who find themselves rethinking which benefits, beyond traditional packages, they should offer to attract and retain top talent. Specifically, they know job candidates often want a strong workplace culture. So, how can HR provide and convey a strong culture and engagement when employees rarely see each other in-person? 

A recent The Upside article by Woody Rini explores how employers can empower employees to help lift morale and foster more peer-to-peer engagement. The article examines Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage, which describes the “ripple effect”—how our emotions affect people up to three degrees away from ourselves. Rini presents three “Happiness Advantage” experiments he conducted that resulted in incredible productivity and morale boosts. 

The first one can easily be done virtually: Encourage Gratitude with a Thank-You Box.
We do this at Twill every month and call it the Good Month Box. Our employees are asked to each submit 1-3 things or people they are thankful for via e-form, and then all the gratitudes are randomly distributed over email. During an all-staff meeting, we take turns reading them out loud. It's an easy but effective way to celebrate team wins and give employees a space to show appreciation and acknowledge the colleagues who help them be successful. 

Rini also describes how he fostered greater connections among coworkers by hosting roundtables with executives and asking them icebreaker questions like:

  • What did you want to be when you were growing up?
  • When was a time you faced adversity? How did you handle it? What did you learn?
  • What is your favorite part of the workday?
  • What key company initiative are you working on?

    Again, this activity could be facilitated in-person or online. According to Rini, the exercise "gave employees valuable insight into the company’s mission and connected a diverse group of people more intimately," which resulted in them feeling more engaged with the work they were doing. Which is important because "the difference between employees who are satisfied and employees who are truly engaged is that engaged employees genuinely care about their company and will work harder to create results," Rini explains. 

At Twill, we also have several affinity groups to support and foster connection among employees with shared backgrounds/identities. These groups, led by volunteer steering committees, host quarterly professional development and networking events and have been very popular.

This article on SHRM offers useful guidance for creating employee resource groups, including considerations around anti-discrimination and inclusivity. Key takeaway: "Affinity groups, managed wisely, can serve to attract and retain top talent, increase the bottom line, and build a healthy and thriving workplace culture."

We'd love to hear from you how you're making your work environment happier and more productive—tell us in the comments how you’re applying these tips in practice!