5 min
5 May 2021

What matters when keeping your employees engaged in the new normal

Rita Mendes
Rita Mendes

This article is co-written by Rita Mendes and Andreia dos Reis


Let’s all pause and take a moment to reflect on the fact that it has been more than one year since this all started. Since we had to adapt to a new way of work and living while believing it would all be temporary. Except it wasn’t.


But there was also a positive side! These were/are tough times for everyone, there is no denying it, but they also allowed us to show our resilience and will to move forward. It might sound like it’s nothing much, but it is! 


In the beginning, everything was a novelty. The idea of working remotely was fun. We didn’t have to go to the office every day. I mean, think of the amount of time we gained from not having to commute!


Companies, we included, started focusing on how to move everything to a remote environment and how to keep connected to the employees. 


After one year in this new work structure, and knowing that a hybrid way of working will be a new reality, some of the initiatives we all developed in the past year will be crucial for the years to come.


In this article, we will go through some of these initiatives that we and other companies implemented and look at the conclusions we took from it that helped us understand where we need to focus on now.


How to keep employees engaged?

When we first started with employee engagement activities, everyone was very engaged and helped develop new initiatives. We even had a remote summer event with the entire company. But shortly after, we saw engagement going down. Due to that, we knew we needed to investigate what was happening.


We spoke with HR peers from inside and outside our company to help us understand how we could improve our actions next to our colleagues, to learn how other companies were handling the topic of employee engagement, and to share ideas.


Most of the initiatives that were developed in the past year were around the following categories: company and team activities, extra check-ins and follow-ups, mental health initiatives, training sessions, parenting time, and WFH support. Apart from these initiatives, the companies we spoke to also reported struggling with keeping everyone involved and engaged.


Finding a common challenge, we turned to our colleagues and asked them how they perceived these activities and if they brought them any value. This is what we found:


  • The activities helped to break the day and clear the mind;
  • Creating random groups within the activities was great to help our colleagues meet new joiners or different colleagues they usually work with;
  • The activities need to be different and diverse to accommodate the diversity inside Nmbrs;
  • The activities helped to decrease feelings of isolation;
  • People felt guilty for participating in the activities and not “working”.


The last point was, for us, the most surprising. We expected that some people had no time or didn’t enjoy online activities, but they felt guilty for joining.


Why? As human beings, we are connected to social interactions and the norms that come with them. We build our behaviour according to others. In the workplace, we measure our engagement through the engagement of others. When taken out of that context, we can’t measure ourselves to others anymore. We start thinking that if we are distracted, we are the only ones. If we have an unproductive day, we are the only ones. And if we decide to take 30 minutes to participate in company activities, everyone else is working while we are slacking off. So we keep on pushing ourselves, not realising that everyone has the same insecurity.



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What about the famous “new normal”?

After more than one year, we still don’t have the answers. Things change every day, and it is difficult to understand what needs to be done. But first, we need to understand that going remote is not as simple as it looks. There is a reason why not a lot of companies have embraced it until now. It isn’t only about moving to a new work environment and bringing all our physical equipment there. It involves a lot of mental adaptation as well that not everyone is equipped for. We need to supply our colleagues with the right tools to maintain performance and mental health in this work style.


Go to your employees and assess the hard and soft skills they are missing to deal with remote working. Performance reviews also give great insights since you can easily see in which areas people have improved or not.


Going back to the conversations we had with different companies and research we did, to correctly move towards a hybrid approach to work, some initiatives are critical to develop or keep on doing. We noticed a few trends on what they can be:


  1. Self-management training
    As mentioned before, working remotely is a lot about the mindset. Time management, remote communication etiquette, the importance of breaks and pauses, health tips and how to prioritise and stay motivated are crucial skills.
  2. Compensation and Benefits
    It is a topic we are starting to hear about a lot. What should change in company benefits and compensation in a full remote or hybrid work environment? From work materials to different salaries according to location, not every company can give unconditional support. Being transparent about it and working together with employees to come up with solutions can come a long way.
  3. Mental Health Initiatives
    Mental Health has always been an important issue, but the pandemic brought it to the centre of the discussion. Some companies hired external psychologists, created mindfulness classes and training about working from home. Yoga or workout sessions were also widely used and successful. We already had People Coaches to help our employees with their personal and professional development, but during the past year, they dedicated extra time to taking care of their mental health. Linkedin announced they will give one week off to all employees at the same time to prevent burnout. It seems like it’s a topic that finally caught the attention of employers, and it will be part of the discussion for the upcoming years.
  4. Team Buildings
    Before Covid-19, no one believed that team building activities could be online. However, at the beginning of the lockdown, we saw plenty of companies coming forward with solutions such as those. With the rapid transition to hybrid or full remote settings, these online options will become more important. At Nmbrs, we have Monthly and weekly activities. We did pub quizzes (Kahoot), online games (Among us,, Mesh online), online competitions, escape rooms (Social Spel, Locus Quest), online random coffees (Donut), online tours (WithLocals), amongst many others.
  5. Online Check-ins
    Even if done digitally, increasing the contact between colleagues helps people be more in sync and keep track of how everyone is doing. Some teams have small daily check-ins in the morning or afternoon to talk about everything non-work-related. Other companies have also developed training for managers to have more touch-points with their teams.
  6. Communication
    Transparent, asynchronous and clear communication is becoming crucial. Not only internal company communication but amongst teams as well. Work towards understanding how communication is happening inside your company and how it helps (or not) teams become more efficient, maintain collaboration and achieve their goals.


More than implementing new initiatives, the focus should be on understanding what employees need from those or other initiatives.


Look inside and outside the company for answers and new ideas. You can also find research about these topics. More than following the trends, it’s crucial to make evidence-based decisions and assess the impact of what you do.


Different companies have different needs. We can learn a lot from this whole situation. People are important. We should keep putting the focus on them.



About the authors



Rita Mendes

Rita is part of the Employee Experience team at Nmbrs. She is responsible for providing the best experience for candidates during the hiring process at Nmbrs. Whether she is working together with internal stakeholders or using data to analyze behaviours within the recruitment process she consistently finds ways to create a positive candidate experience. 


“I believe that treating people like humans brings efficiency to all the HR processes. Combining my Psychologist heart with my People Operations mindset, I’m able to provide the best experience to our candidates.”



Andreia dos Reis

I'm a designer turned marketer turned Employer Branding Specialist who is passionate about helping create an enjoyable experience where candidates, employees and HR professionals are all equals. How do I do this? By talking to people. A lot of them!

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