Leading and managing remote teams can be daunting. With the rise of telecommuting, ensuring team cohesion and effective communication becomes paramount. Studies, like those from Buffer and Owl Labs, highlight challenges: 20% of remote employees feel isolated, while 52% believe they're excluded from crucial team discussions.

The essence of office camaraderie is the unplanned conversations—sharing pączki (delicious Polish donuts) and discussing the latest tech innovations or weekend plans. These moments not only break monotony but also enhance trust and team synergy. In a remote setting, such opportunities are scarce unless intentionally crafted.

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What Is Remote Work?

Telecommuting or remote work involves performing tasks away from a conventional office—be it home, cafes, or co-working spaces. Technology advancements like video calls, collaborative tools, and project management software make this possible. While it offers flexibility, it also poses challenges like effective communication and potential distractions.

How To Build Team Connections in a Remote Work Environment?

Virtual Social Gatherings like ‘Virtual Coffee’ and the ‘Second Breakfast Club’

That’s what we call them, or at least what my Google calendar notification says. Virtual Coffees and our Second Breakfast Club are important because they provide an opportunity for us to disconnect from work and connect on a more personal level. We socialize in a casual setting, like how we would in an office environment. Some eat yogurt while others chomp on an apple 🍎 - our second breakfast!

These regular meet-ups also help us build relationships and foster a sense of community and belonging within the team.

Virtual Coffees and Second Breakfast Clubs can help:

  • Break down communication barriers
  • Iron out ‘beefs’ or interpersonal issues
  • Facilitate the sharing of ideas and knowledge
  • Increase engagement and collaboration

I tend to join and ask about what’s going on with a project or to see how somebody is feeling. You learn a lot about what other people are working on, and also about what they do after hours.

Annual Company Retreats

Every year, our small-but-cozy software company takes a weekend trip to a little lakeside resort in the Mazury region. We kayak, play basketball, and funnel beer from a viking drinking horn 😛 Even some of our remote workers from France and Spain come to hang out for the weekend. Of course, the trip is on us 💸

Retreats provide a unique opportunity for in-office, hybrid, and remote teams to come together and step out of their usual work environments. We usually take this opportunity to participate in team-building activities, connect on a much deeper level, and build trust with each other. We make sure not to discuss religion or politics. Otherwise, all team-building gains are quickly reversed 😂

These retreats allow for face-to-face interactions that can be hard to do through virtual meetings. They can also foster a sense of camaraderie and shared experience. Our Slack channel gets bombarded with videos of the morning skinny dippers right after we get back to work 🏊

By taking a break from day-to-day tasks, employees can recharge their batteries and return to work with a renewed energy and sense of purpose, and also with a bunch of gossip to share around the water cooler (the physical water cooler as much as the one on Slack).

Regular Pulse Surveys

🚨Shameless plug alert🚨 Pulse surveys like hay for Slack are great for team connecting because they allow team members to provide feedback in a quick and easy way. By regularly checking in with pulse surveys, team members feel heard and valued. Management also gains insights into areas where they can improve team dynamics and employee satisfaction.

Pulse surveys can also help managers detect burnout before it becomes a huge problem. Managers can then take actionable steps to address burnout and see if it’s endemic throughout the team and causing a loss of productivity.

Also, when engagement is high and everyone’s cards are on the table, pulse surveys can foster transparency and trust, as they demonstrate to the other teammates that their opinions are important and that the company is committed to continuous improvement.

Mentoring Programs

I’ve been saying this for a long time, but mentoring is a great recruitment tool. How? By bringing in top talent to your company. But it’s also great to build team connections.

Mentoring connects your teammates by creating a space for knowledge sharing, skill-building, and personal growth.

At hay, we have mentors (Principal Engineers) who help mentees (Junior Developers) navigate their career paths, offer guidance on specific tasks or projects, and provide feedback and support. This not only helps mentees to improve their skills and confidence, but it also fosters a sense of community and support within the team.

Appreciation Channels on Tools like Slack

Having a kudos Slack channel allows team members to publicly recognize and appreciate each other's work and accomplishments. It creates a positive and supportive environment where people feel valued and acknowledged for their contributions.

When your colleagues receive recognition it can also motivate them to work for a kudos of their own, which can lead to increased productivity and team morale.

Our kudos channel, for example, allows us to see how people are connecting and engaging with each other. I always say: a channel with a lot of kudos, even for small stuff, is still better than a silent kudos channel.

So, time to get down to brass tacks and start building team connections in remote work. It’s essential for creating a productive and positive work environment. Granted, it does require intentional effort and a combination of communication strategies, but once you get it up and running, you’ll see the benefits right away 🍇

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