How to Stay Connected to Your Team When You Work Remotely
In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, remote work has become standard across many fields. While working from home can be productive and is undoubtedly good for public health, it comes with some challenges. One of the most common is difficulty staying connected.
When you and your co-workers feel lonely or isolated, it’s harder to stay on task. To help with that, here are 10 steps you can take to stay connected despite the distance:
1. Communicate Often
When you’re working from home, you can’t lean over the cubicle wall and chat. Without that ease of communication, it can be challenging to know what’s going on or what to do. To combat this, make sure you communicate with everyone on your stream as much as you can.
You should check in with all members of your team at least daily. You can message them, email them or hold a video conference, or try whatever works best for each situation. Frequent communication will help everyone stay productive and feel connected.
2. Use Video Whenever Possible
While you’re talking to your team, remember that not all forms of communication are equal. Emailing and instant messaging are quick and easy but aren’t the best replacements for face-to-face interaction. Video chatting, when possible, is the best option for staying connected while working remotely.
Body language can have four times the impact on people’s impression of you over your words. Using video allows everyone to pick up on these nonverbal cues, increasing engagement. You may not be able to video conference in every situation, but try to do it as much as possible.
3. Get Casual Before Meetings
It’s tempting to jump right into business as soon as you start a meeting, but it’s not always helpful. At the office, people can chat throughout the day, but they don’t always have that luxury at home. To make up for that, take some time to socialize before you talk about work.
Find ways to break the ice and lighten the mood before discussing more important matters. You could use unique Zoom backgrounds as conversation starters. There are plenty of fun backgrounds out there that make you seem like you’re in the woods, or even on the Death Star. It’s a good way to have quick connections with team members before transitioning to business.
4. Hold Virtual Events
Holding after-hours social events is an excellent way to strengthen the bonds between team members. You may not be able to gather in person while working remotely, but you can still hang out. Now and then, video chat with everyone in a virtual happy hour or remote game night.
These socially distanced teambuilding activities may feel strange at first, but they’ll help combat isolation and loneliness. They provide some semblance of normalcy, which is especially critical given the ongoing pandemic.
5. Meet One-On-One
Group meetings are an essential step in staying connected while working from home. They aren’t the only option you have, though, and they aren’t always the best one. Make sure you also take the time to meet with team members individually from time to time.
Seeing your team members individually helps them feel seen and important, which is always beneficial. It also allows you to understand better how everyone is doing with their work. By meeting one-on-one, everyone can get the assistance they need for each of their situations.
6. Keep Schedules Aligned
One of the strongest temptations when working from home is to become too relaxed. As nice as it sounds to sleep in and work whenever you have the motivation, that can be harmful. Your schedule can be more flexible than usual, but it should still be consistent.
You should keep regular hours and encourage your team to do so as well. That way, if anyone has a question while working, they can get a faster response. Aligning everyone’s schedules will help collaboration continue, even over a distance.
7. Highlight Successes
You’re probably already aware of the impact positive reinforcement can have on productivity and motivation. You should always reward excellent work, but it’s even more crucial when working from home. Sharing people’s successes can help everyone stay motivated and feel valued.
When your team finishes a long project or someone reaches a milestone, send out an email. You don’t necessarily need to shower co-workers with praise, but recognize them for the work they do. Everyone will feel more connected when they know people see the product of their efforts.
8. Follow Up After Any Changes or Announcements
Collaboration can sometimes be challenging when you can’t walk to someone’s office and talk to them. Some team members may also feel uncomfortable about reaching out if they have any questions. To help everyone know what to do, follow up with everyone after announcing any changes or tasks.
Send emails or instant messages to your team, asking if they have any questions. If you initiate communication, they won’t feel like they’re bothering you by asking for clarification. The sooner you can follow up, the better.
9. Schedule Regular Casual Hangouts
The beginning of meetings and virtual events aren’t your only opportunities for casual conversation. Small talk may seem insignificant, but it’s crucial for building respect and trust, which you need in the workplace. You can create space for this by scheduling casual talks that are more frequent than your other events.
An excellent approach to this is hosting an open video conference before the workday begins. As people get their coffee and settle in, they can chat with one another about their days. You could also talk over lunch or in an afternoon break, as long as it’s regular and casual.
10. Encourage Co-Workers to Communicate
Finally, recognize that you can only do so much to help your team feel connected. Your team needs to talk to each other, not just with you, so encourage them to do so. Promote the idea of having at least one person on the team to reach out to regularly.
If everyone messages each other, it will create a more familiar environment. Modern technology enables people to chat across long distances, but they may feel awkward about starting the process. Some encouragement could help that.
Remote Work Isn’t the End of Workplace Relationships
Working from home may seem lonely at first, but it doesn’t have to be. You can still maintain healthy workplace relationships even if you don’t see anyone in the office. Follow these 10 steps to stay connected with your team no matter how far apart you are.