Managing a remote team is challenging, especially when it comes to boosting engagement and fostering social connections.
A lot of human hours have been invested in exploring this paradigmatic change at the workplace. For example, Buffer ran a study and discovered that 20% of remote workers struggle with loneliness. Owl Labs also found out through their research that 52% of remote workers felt they were left out of important conversations and meetings.
The struggle is real, and I honestly get it. When working in-office, you can greet a colleague as you pass their desk and engage in some friendly banter. Every once in a while one of our developers brings in a bunch of pączki, which are the best donuts in the world (and they happen to be Polish!) We then sit in our lounge to snack and chat about tech news, the weather, the weekend, or pets. It takes us away from our work duties for a bit, but that is okay because we build trust and emotional bonds with each other.
Also, in the physical environment, you can better see if your colleague is burnt out and feeling unwell. You can then offer them help . . . or just give them more pączki 😂 However, the opportunities to bond with your colleagues on a remote team do not appear as often unless you create them!
What Is Remote Work?
Remote work means working from a location outside of a traditional office. This can include working from home or any other place with an internet connection. Remote work is made possible by technology like email, video conferencing, and online project management tools.
More and more people are switching to working remotely these days, as technology has made this easier. Remote work can be awesome because you get more flexibility and can work from home, in a coffee shop, or wherever you like. But it can also have some downsides, like making it harder to communicate with your team and dealing with distractions.
How To Build Team Connections in a Remote Work Environment?
‘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.
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).
🚨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.
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.
Kudos Channel on 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 🍇