How To Keep A Remote Team Engaged Through the Holidays


The end of the year is fast approaching. For most workplaces, it’s a time to celebrate the year past and prepare for the year ahead. It’s also a time to take a step back and invest in employee engagement.

Showing appreciation is the best way to invest in employee happiness and engagement. Seven of 10 employees who receive appreciation for their good work say they’re happy with their jobs. You’ll also want to motivate employees for the year to come.

In both cases, engaging employees at the end of the year requires intention and a little planning. You don’t have the benefit of a holiday party or team outings.

Here are actionable ways to engage a remote team at the end of the year.

Show Appreciation for The Year’s Work

Mail a Written Recognition Letter From Leadership

Sixty-three percent of respondents to this McKinsey survey found attention from leaders extremely motivating.

On remote teams, that attention from leaders can be hard to come by. There are no handshakes. No ‘hellos’ as you pass by in the office. Almost all interaction is virtual.

Add a personal touch with a written recognition letter — not an email — from leadership. Ask leaders to articulate why they appreciate each employee. This will need some planning on your end: Getting the notes from your leader and mailing them in time for the holidays. But the small gesture will go a long way.

Consider Bonuses

A year-end bonus doesn’t have to be cash. Consider surprising employees with Restricted Stock Units (RSUs), a higher 401k match, a charitable giving match, or tuition matching.

Also consider the things a distributed team especially values. Would they appreciate more PTO? Global gym discounts? Monthly travel stipends? A budget for a co-working space membership?

Providing a bonus — in whatever form you choose — shows employees that you recognize their job well done.

Gifts Geared Towards Remote Work

Small gifts also go a long way towards showing your appreciation for employees.

Choose a gift that makes working remotely easier and more fun. Some ideas include:

  • Noise-cancelling headphones for video calls
  • Spotify subscription
  • Headspace subscription
  • Charging dock
  • Ergonomic laptop stand or keyboard

Time Off for the Entire Company

Almost 60% of millennials report feeling worried about finding a career path that will support the lifestyle they’ve envisioned for themselves.

Remote companies value flexibility and a work-life balance. It’s why they give employees the freedom of working wherever they’d like.

Show employees that you value work-life balance with company-wide time off. This could be for a few days, up to a week. Everyone will pause together, so employees won’t worry about taking time off while their teams move full steam ahead.

If you do this, clarify why — as a thank you for a year’s hard work.

Awards That Recognize The Quirks of Remote Work

Set up a video call to recognize jobs well done this past year.

You can include accomplishment-focused awards like Biggest Sale or Best Customer Service. But try to incorporate fun and lighthearted awards too. This is a chance to have fun revisiting the past year together.

Add silly awards that recognize the quirks of working remotely. Some ideas:

  • Earliest Alarm Clock to recognize the difficult of working across time zones
  • Most Slack Messages Sent to recognize the nature of remote conversations
  • Easiest to Get on a Video Call to recognize the need to communicate ‘in person’ when working remotely
  • Best Office Space to recognize the variety of workplaces your distributed team operates from — and that you see in your video calls

Ramp Employees Up For the Work Ahead

Invest in Employee Development

Nearly 60% of respondents in a survey by EdAssist said they’d pick the job with strong professional development over one with regular pay raises.

On a remote team, learning and development needs to take a different shape than the traditional in-person sessions. Look to eLearning opportunities to provide employees the development they need — wherever they are.

Companies like Hone offer the trainings your employees need to jump into a bigger and better year.

Share Company Goals

Seventy-three percent of employees who work for a ‘purpose-driven’ company are engaged, compared to 23% at ‘non-purpose driven’ companies.

At the end of the year, share your company’s purpose, goals, and focuses going into the next year. Even if leadership is still working through the plans, share your progress.

In doing so, you’ll provide employees the context they need to see the bigger picture. You’ll also help employees understand the impact they have on the company’s performance next year.

Set Up A Company Offsite

Company offsites are a great change to connect with employees outside of working hours. Remote company Buffer doesn’t let its distributed team prevent it from holding company-wide offsites. As its blog post on the topic states:

“There’s something magical that happens when you meet in person. In a retreat setting it’s even more powerful. We have casual meals together and do activities on off days. We can learn about what makes each other tick and what our true passions are.”

The company covers all expenses and changes its location each year to accommodate employees across the globe.

Set Up Task Forces

As your company plans for its year ahead, set up task forces or special projects that can help your company reach its goals.

Get your team involved in setting these up. Brainstorm what task forces are needed. Do you want to improve diversity? Break into a new market? Start a book club?

And ask who wants to participate and in what roles. Sixty-two percent of respondents to this McKinsey survey found the opportunity to lead a task force extremely motivating — more so than stock options, in fact.

It’s hard to connect with other teams when you’re a distributed workforce. These task forces are a good foundation for improved collaboration in the year to come.


You don’t need to act on all these tips to keep your remote team engaged through the holidays. Recognizing and motivating employees in even two or three ways will go a long way. Who said you need a holiday party to keep employees engaged, anyway?