Many have transitioned to working from home in recent years, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. Industries of all types had to switch to remote work suddenly because of COVID. While there are many benefits to working remotely (close to family, little to no commute, and overall saves money), there are also difficult aspects. Loneliness, time-management problems, and internet troubles are just a few examples of struggles a remote employee can have. Staying connected as a remote team can be difficult, as many relationships are fostered in the office. However, there are still many ways that teams can foster connectivity while working remotely.
To encourage team engagement and connectivity, remote managers need to have frequent communication with their team. This could be done over Zoom or a similar setup, so the employees can turn on their cameras and be more present. However, there are many other ways to facilitate frequent communication. Some ways to check-in include:
- A Slack channel dedicated to “water-cooler” conversations.
- A quick email/text/Slack to let employees know that they are valued.
- Standing meetings for teams to discuss current projects, what employees are struggling with, and questions they might have.
- Standing 1-on-1 meetings between team managers and employees to discuss how they are doing, what they need, aspirations, hobbies, etc.
- Create a “Happy Hour” where coworkers can jump into a Zoom for casual conversations
- Mark special occasions such as employee birthdays and other life events
It is important to remember that employees are not machines, they are people. They have needs, personal lives, families, hobbies, etc. Making time for discussing life outside of work is an excellent way to stay connected as a team. Employees who work in person usually have opportunities to have these types of discussions often. Work-from-home setups need to have something similar to encourage connectivity.
“One of the most difficult aspects of online work is the communication barrier. Staring at a screen can sometimes feel like staring at a brick wall, so remote teams should establish open communication through different channels, like some combination of Zoom, Slack, or Teams, so that casual, meaningful, and constructive conversation can happen throughout the day. “ - Remote & Freelance Company:24/Seven
It’s a thoughtful and heartfelt way to show an employee how much they’re valued and appreciated! Learn more
How Credibility Allows for Connectivity
For this article, I interviewed Adam, who works as a senior engineering manager at MasterControl and is currently managing a remote team. He said that building solid credibility with his team played a huge role in helping his team build productivity and connectivity during this time of remote work. He wrote an article about credibility and said that credibility = capability + trust. During our discussion, he said “I should mention that I had to build solid credibility with my team. Building that credibility was a 2-way street, after which I had no reason to be concerned about my team's productivity. I explicitly trust each member of my team and they know that. That being said, taking a few hours a week to do non-work things gives the team the breather they need. I find my team is far more productive overall.”
Having a team that trusts each other, as well as their team leader will help the work-from-home environment feel less isolating. The idea of knowing that your team has your back makes all the difference. Credibility also helps with employee retention, motivation and efficiency, and customer relations.
Making Time to Be Social
Another way Adam helps his team feel connected and is through weekly team activities. After a few conversations about hobbies and interests, his team realized they all enjoy playing a certain online game. He bought the Fibbage party pack to facilitate this activity and said it has become the highlight of their week.
If your team isn’t into playing online games, there are many other ways to encourage social time and team-building activities among your employees. These include:
- Virtual Trivia Nights
- Online Craft Projects
- Virtual Escape Rooms
- Virtual Cooking Classes
- Book Club
- Joke of the Day Email or Slack Channel
- Drop-in Virtual Happy Hour
It is so important for teams to have downtime and participate in team activities. This helps with team building, connectivity, and is a great way to blow off steam. According to Conover Company,
“Socializing with coworkers helps strengthen the quality of workplace relationships. Strong relationships enable the team to work better together. Coworkers who communicate well about non-work matters are more likely to collaborate on work effectively. Coworkers will also feel free and open in their work conversations. When relationships are strong, employees and the company all benefit.”
5 Tools for Communicating as A Remote Team
Thanks to the very tech-friendly age we live in, there are many tools and apps remote teams can use to stay connected. Email is of course, classic and reliable. However, if your team is working from home it is nice to use different ways to communicate if possible. It is also important to remember to utilize phone calls as well. Simple phone calls can be quick and can clear up simple misunderstandings that can happen through instant messaging and emails.
Slack is an excellent communication app that I use for work, and for our extended family (way less annoying than constant group texts, though texting does have its place in the digital world). My favorite feature is the ability to set up multiple channels for different conversations. Slack is advertised as being secure, meaning there is less worry for security risks. Slack also increases productivity and engagement because it allows for quick and straightforward team communication. Still not convinced about Slack? Check out this study on the business value of slack.
Skype for Business is a fairly straightforward video conferencing app. It can build a “buddy list” (90s AIM style). You can customize your profile and see your co-workers’ profiles and information. Skype allows for instant messaging between individuals, and “circles” (groups). It also integrates with Microsoft Office, which is convenient for calendar-related items, OneDrive, and more.
Zoom is a video platform that allows people to have virtual meetings and conferences over video. It has convenient and similar features to other video platforms (mute buttons, screen sharing, etc.). Zoom has some fun features as well, including break-out rooms, panels, and the ability for chatting and Q & A boxes. Many businesses find the recording feature convenient for remote employees who are unable to attend the meeting.
Kudoboard is a fresh way to make group e-cards. Kudobard is easy to use, and easy to add co-workers on to “sign” the card. This is perfect for remote teams that aren’t able to as easily get together to sign an actual card. Kudoboard also makes it easy to personalize and make the card special for whoever is receiving it. There are several ways to use group e-cards in the office, including employee appreciation, celebrating events, shout-outs, and more. This kudoboard blog post has more great ideas for using a group e-card and includes a section about team building.
I think the hardest part of working remotely would be not having visuals during meetings (aside from maybe seeing people’s faces on zoom). Mural is an awesome digital workspace that brings the whiteboard online. Mural is a place where teams can virtually collaborate, whiteboard style. Teams can use it for strategy & planning, design/research analysis, meetings & workshops, and brainstorming. This product has tons of reviews from fortune 500 companies, so it must be good!
The Importance of Staying Connected
Staying connected as a remote team is a crucial component to productive and efficient employees. According to Forbes, Employees who are valued are much happier and more productive, which helps the business to do well. Creating opportunities to foster connection is not always easy, but it is worth it for all involved. Remote workers need to feel connected to their remote team so they can work well together. This article from workhuman has excellent reasons why connectivity in the workplace matters, especially for remote employees. This quote sums up the need for connectivity very well:
"When the pandemic began Jesse's team first saw a lot of words around the respons: "continuity," "steady," tireless." Then they noticed relationships take priority: "friend," kindness," "compassion."Mervyn Dinnen-Workhuman
Relationships and people need to be considered when running businesses. While it is important not to be the “friend” manager, it is also important to allow for caring relationships among co-workers. This is done by letting your remote workers know how much they are valued and appreciated. Allowing organic and spontaneous ways for teams to connect will help with productivity, which helps business succeed, a win-win situation for all involved.