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Promoting Continued Employee Engagement—Even in a Virtual World

By Ryan Schaal, Director of Client Delivery

Looking down at my calendar this past week, it struck me—it’s been over one whole year since the outbreak of COVID-19! And while there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel, our return to physical interaction without social distancing restrictions and mask mandates seems to still be several months away.

Despite the initial panic mode that impacted businesses across the globe, our professional lives adapted quickly to this sudden change. From enhanced conference call capabilities and investments in at-home office equipment to establishing an effective virtual setup and communication strategy, many of us find it hard to believe what the business world looked like prior to the pandemic.

If you’re like me, you may have felt the urge to keep things exciting and engaging during our work-from-home capacity. So as we slowly start to return to a sense of normalcy in the months ahead, here are a few virtual ways to mix things up and put an end to our current state of monotony:

Flexibility with sharing video

At the start of the madness, I was a firm believer that video sharing during conference calls was a must. But as showing your face on camera became more commonplace, I started to change my tune. There were some instances when I felt that sharing video was not always necessary. In some cases, I have recently found myself turning off my camera for certain reoccurring calls with team members who I speak to on a regular basis—and encouraging them to do the same. As we move ahead in the world of work-from-home, organizations that grant employees the option of showing their faces as needed for select calls can provide them with a little something to look forward to.

Creativity with your video backgrounds

I personally have found experimenting with my conference call backgrounds to be a great way to spice things up on a virtual call. Most of these platforms—including Zoom and Teams—offer this creative functionality. With some simple Google searching, you can find ways to add some spunk and humor to your professional backgrounds. While these add-ons can appear to be subtle, they’ve proven to be a phenomenal icebreaker to start up a conversation or two among coworkers and/or business partners. I’ve even developed a “go-to” background that—when turned on at just the right time—is sure to invoke a laugh or two!

Conduct calls without a professional purpose

I realize that this point may seem odd, especially because most of us find ourselves busier these days than ever before. But hear me out: think about the folks that you used to see in the office on a regular basis, whether it be near your work area, around the water cooler, or in the kitchen. For many of us, we haven’t spoken to these types of people—individuals from different departments—in quite a long time. While these conversations seemed meaningless in the moment, I’m guessing that many of you have dearly missed these interactions. Our work relationships have changed—and not necessarily in an entirely good way. That’s why we need to make a conscious effort to connect with coworkers throughout the day and talk about non-work-related topics. Even if these conversations last for only a few minutes, they can prove to be therapeutic. Connecting with work friends gives me a much-needed break in my day while leaving me invigorated to tackle the remaining tasks on my daily to-do list.


While many of us haven’t the slightest clue of what the future of the workplace will look like, it’s safe to assume that for some companies, virtual work arrangements are here to stay. I encourage employers and employees alike to continue to brainstorm ways of staying connected and engaged over the next several months. Despite the array of challenges that have been thrown our way over the past year, our propensity to support and care for one another has reached an all-time high. Hopefully, when the coronavirus is a thing of the past, we can all walk away from this year with a different sense of appreciation for the little things in life.

Have a specific workforce question for Ryan? You can connect with him on LinkedIn or send him an email at

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