14 employee engagement activities to reignite enthusiasm

Give these a try and prepare for a quick morale boost

Meeples organizing paper in the shape of a heart

Say hello to Team A. They’re killing it at work. They’re knocking out projects, beating deadlines, and meeting goals. And the best part? They enjoy doing it together. They’re committed to their work, and their results speak for themselves.

Now, let’s say hello to Team B. They’re barely keeping their heads above water. They’re constantly grinding (and oftentimes failing) to make it through their daily tasks, and they have little to no clarity on why what they’re doing matters. Their enthusiasm has disappeared, and every day feels like a chore.

There are a lot of differences between these two teams, but most of their issues can be boiled down to employee engagement. Engaged employees offer heaps of benefits, including improved employee satisfaction and happiness, higher productivity, and lower turnover.  

We’ve shared an array of long-term initiatives that give engagement levels a bump. But if you’re looking for some quick wins, we’re dedicating this page to some actionable activities you can implement starting right now. Give them a go and get one step closer to those Team A vibes.

Inspire team bonding

1. Start a team volunteering day

Employees deeply care about serving their communities and supporting causes they’re passionate about while on the clock. 

In an America’s Charities survey, 71% of employees said it’s imperative or very important to work where the company culture is supportive of giving and volunteering. And 82% of businesses say their employees want the opportunity to volunteer with peers in a corporate-supported event.

Engaged employees offer heaps of benefits, including improved employee satisfaction and happiness, higher productivity, and lower turnover.

Providing opportunities for your team to do some social good together not only benefits your community, but also your company. These volunteer activities build camaraderie and give your employees a greater sense of purpose.

Plus, they’re relatively simple to organize and offer plenty of flexibility to find what works for you. Want to do this monthly? Quarterly? Annually? Are you going to pick a cause for your whole company? Or can people team up and choose their own initiatives? The sky's the limit, especially if you organize the event in a way that suits your team interest and schedule.

2. Implement internal blogging

It’s easy for communication to become strictly business at work. When will you get your hands on the supporting assets you need? Who emptied the coffee pot and didn’t start a new pot? Personal conversations and friendly chatter tend to fall off the radar in favor of more pressing topics.

This is where internal blogging comes in. It gives your employees a chance to share other topics that are interesting to them – whether it’s travel tips from their recent vacation or a glimpse at a passion project they’ve been working on.

Not only does it expose your team to insights and personal interests they otherwise would’ve missed, but it also increases their sense of connection. When a reported 40% of employees feel isolated at work, that opportunity for bonding is invaluable.

3. Encourage quick breaks

You don’t need us to tell you that burnout is a pervasive issue in modern workplaces. We’re all stressed to the max, yet we’re hesitant to rest. Of North American workers, 20% admit they worry that a regular lunch break will mean their boss won’t think they’re hard working.

Guilt or fear of a slacker reputation aside, frequent breaks have been tied to increased productivity, better mental well-being, and higher engagement. That same survey found that 81% of employees who take a daily lunch break have a strong desire to be an active member in their company.

Simply telling your team to get up from their desks won’t get you far. You need to lead by example. Take a brief lunch break every single day yourself. Or, when it isn’t time to grab some grub, invite some team members to go for a quick walk, snag a coffee refill, or even participate in a push-up contest in the front lobby. Do whatever it takes to get people away from their desks regularly.

37% of meetings add seemingly no value to the organization.

4. Plan a social event

Has your team become all work and no play? If it’s been a while since you got together for a fun social outing outside of the office, get something on the calendar.

This can be as simple as a happy hour, or something more structured like a cooking class or a sightseeing tour. The goal is to give your team a chance to connect personally and enjoy something fun together.

And before you think that your team would rather get away from each other after the clock strikes 5 p.m., think again. Researchers found that most employees favored regular team-bonding experiences, with 31.4% preferring quarterly activities and 36.5% preferring monthly activities. 

Plus, fostering these bonds can boost engagement. Gallup’s research has repeatedly shown a concrete link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort employees expend in their job.

5. Start a meaningful tradition

You don’t have to leave the office to give your employees something to look forward to. Try starting an office tradition that can create memories, foster engagement, and solidify relationships. 

Maybe you’ll have a build-your-own ice cream sundae event on the last Friday of the month. Or perhaps you’ll all wear your comfiest slippers around the office every Monday. Maybe you’ll set a monthly lunch tradition where everyone brings in a favorite food from their childhood.

Put your brains together and come up with something that everybody can get excited about. It’ll give your whole team something to look forward to on the regular.

Support learning, career growth, and productivity

6. Switch up who drives team meetings

Employees who feel included are 50% less likely to quit their jobs. So, one way to avoid being part of this stat is to change things up. Create a rotating schedule where someone different leads your team meeting every week or month.

The designated person can work with other team members to collect feedback, identify discussion points, and build the agenda. But ultimately, they’re the ones that are responsible for steering the ship.

This strategy gives everybody (even the people who aren’t as inclined to speak up) a chance to chime in and be heard.

7. Put together a learning program

When you’re trying to increase engagement, you can’t underestimate the power of learning and development. According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report, 94% of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if it simply invested in helping them learn.

There are tons of different things you could do here, such as:

  • Organizing a book club
  • Planning regular lunch and learns
  • Starting a formal education program
  • Providing online learning access
  • Offering a tuition or education reimbursement program
  • Enabling job rotation for employees to learn other areas of the company
  • Starting a monthly show and tell where employees can share a talent or passion

Get creative and remember to ask your employees what they’d appreciate. That will help you structure learning programs that actually satisfy their needs.

40% of employees say that recognition isn’t a priority within their current company.

8. Start a hackathon

When there are so many things that need to be taken care of on the daily, there isn’t a lot of time left for innovation. That means employees spend way more time doing routine tasks instead of flexing their creative muscles.

A hackathon is a designated day (it can be quarterly, bi-annually, etc.) when everyone sets aside their regular work to spend the time on an idea or project that they come up with. Here at Atlassian, we call it ShipIt

People can work individually or in teams, and you can decide whether the finalized projects need to benefit the company or not. You’ll end the day with presentations about what everybody created. 

The hackathon has become increasingly popular in Silicon Valley, as it gives everybody set time to give life to ideas that would have otherwise been pushed off.

9. Kick off a meeting-free period

Employees attend an average of 62 meetings per month, and 37% of meetings add seemingly no value to the organization

That’s bound to be a point of frustration for your team, so give them some dedicated time each week when meetings can’t be scheduled, when everyone can be heads down in their work. 

Employees will appreciate that uninterrupted time block, and you might be surprised by how much it boosts productivity and engagement. 

Of course, you won’t do away with meetings altogether. Some of them have to happen. But, if you’re going to host them, take steps to ensure that they’re productive, rather than a major pain.

10. Offer chances for cross-functional collaboration

Many workers don’t understand how their jobs impact the company’s bottom line, with 39% of surveyed employees saying they only sometimes understand how they contribute. Sadly, 9% rarely understand, and 5% never do. 

If they have such little clue about the value of their own roles, imagine how little understanding they have of other positions and departments.

Address this problem by offering opportunities for greater cross-functional collaboration, such as a shared project, buddy system, a job shadowing program, or regular presentations from other departments. 

Your team members will get greater context about how everything fits together. Added bonus: your team gets a glance at other career paths and lateral moves they could make.

Prove you’re listening

11. Send out a survey

Engagement isn’t only about fun activities and get-togethers. Being a good employer and actively listening to the needs and desires of your employees matters too. 

Unfortunately, way too many companies fall short in this area, with 34% of employees worldwide stating that their company doesn’t listen to their ideas for improving the business. 

If it’s been a while since you’ve asked for insights from your team, send out a survey (whether it’s anonymous or not is up to you) to collect candid feedback. You can ask questions like:

  • What’s one thing you’re really proud of about your current position or our team?
  • What’s one major frustration you have about your current position or our team?
  • What’s one thing that would make your daily work life significantly easier?

Lending an ear will set you apart from the vast majority of employers. Less than half (47%) of surveyed employees said their employers regularly seek input from employees and even fewer (37%) said the organization makes changes based on that feedback.

12. Host office hours

Another simple and effective way to prove to your team that you’re willing to listen and that you value their input is to host regular office hours.

This predictable time window gives your team the chance to approach you with questions, challenges, feedback, and more, without feeling like they’re interrupting or taking too much of your precious time.

34% of employees worldwide state that their company doesn’t listen to their ideas.

Show some love

13. Pay a compliment

This is sad, but true: 40% of employees say that recognition isn’t a priority within their current company. That means they’re constantly churning out work without any appreciation or praise, and that can breed disengagement and frustration.

Applaud your team (bonus points for bringing in cupcakes or ordering in a delicious lunch) for the amazing job they did on that project. Or, thank one of your team members for a recent contribution in a team meeting.

This is a small change that requires little effort, but goes a long way in improving your employees’ levels of engagement. 

14. Develop a recognition program

Recognition from management is important for your employees, but peer-to-peer recognition carries a lot of weight as well – it’s responsible for 22% of all meaningful employee recognition

However, it’s not something that will just happen. You need to provide tools, resources, and encouragement to help your team members pat each other on the back.

There are a number of bots and tools you can install in Slack (check out Kudos or Praisely) to offer praise. Or, keep it simple by starting each of your team meetings with shoutouts, where team members can compliment or thank other team members for their help, contributions, or major wins. Here at Atlassian, we use Kudos to reward and recognize team members with small prizes (like an Amazon gift card or movie tickets). 

You’re on your way to a more engaged team

If Team A and Team B from the intro didn’t already drive the point home, engagement is a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to running a team that’s productive and happy.

However, employee engagement isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight. Fostering and sustaining high engagement levels will require a larger strategy, and perhaps even some adjustments to your entire culture. 

But, much like with anything else, there’s nothing wrong with starting small and scoring some quick wins. Implement a few of these employee engagement activities we’ve highlighted here, and you’ll notice an immediate uptick on your own team.

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