Leading a remote team comes with several challenges. One of the biggest is keeping everyone connected when no one is in the same place. You’re missing not only the physical aspect of being in the same office but also the social interactions. This lack of connection can lead to a disjointed team.
To avoid the miscommunication and inefficiencies that can crop up with remote teams, build bridges where you can. In this article, you’ll learn several ways to connect your fully remote team better.
Maintain a Team Calendar
When you’re not all in the office together, keeping track of everyone’s comings and goings can be especially tricky. Creating and sharing a team calendar is a great way to know who’s “in the office” and who isn’t. It can also be used as a meeting scheduler to ensure any team gatherings take place at a time that truly works for everyone.
With a team that’s all spread out, you need to be even more aware of your team members’ availability. Having an up-to-date calendar will prevent people from being overbooked or invited to meetings when they aren’t available. This increased awareness will give you the information you need to schedule more meaningful time with your staff.
Consistently Meet Face-to-Face
Despite being physically separated, it’s important to have consistent face time with your remote team. Communicating only via email or instant message keeps everyone at a distance. Be sure to regularly connect with members of your team face-to-face to foster connection. Seeing each other is a good way to remind your team they are not working alone.
Another benefit of face-to-face communication is seeing people’s genuine reactions and body language. It’s easier to tell when someone is having a hard time or is unsure about something when you can see their expressions. If you sense an employee is struggling, you can work together to find a solution. Even though you’re physically distant, you can still let team members know that you’re concerned for their well-being.
Showing your team members you care about them and their lives outside of work is a great way to connect. First, acknowledge that many of them work from home, which isn’t always the most productive environment. You may have people taking care of sick partners or watching the kids because school is closed. Allowing them flexibility with regard to when they complete their work will build your relationship by demonstrating trust. It can also improve their productivity.
More flexibility can benefit everyone as long as individual employees communicate via the team calendar when they are available. Staff members could reside in different time zones but still be able to collaborate in real-time because one is working evening hours. A rigid schedule wouldn’t allow that connection to happen. Being open about non-work responsibilities also creates opportunities for bonding over shared experiences.
Sustain Group Chats
Even those who love working remotely occasionally feel disconnected from their team. To ensure everyone is on the same page, encourage consistent communication through group chats. Obviously, you want team members to talk about work-related matters but don’t discourage other chatter. These off-topic conversations can lead to better co-worker relationships and maybe even friendships.
To keep your group chat from becoming a free-for-all, create channels or groups for a variety of topics. Keep a few exclusively reserved for work-related discussions and remove any content that doesn’t fit within the boundaries you set. Then, open a channel or two for shared interests or general “water cooler” topics. Fostering a way for people to get to know one another will help everyone feel more connected.
Collaborate on Special Events
Without an office, you don’t get an office holiday party, a birthday lunch, or casual coffee with your co-workers. While some people may not mind the loss of those activities, they are important to team building and connection. In fact, according to Microsoft’s work trend index, 50% of remote employees feel lonelier than they did before they switched to working remotely. Fight that loneliness and help build relationships through conscious efforts to encourage social interaction.
You can have a social hour via a video conferencing service, or team members who live near each other could meet up. If your budget allows, consider bringing everyone together for a retreat. Keep the focus of these events on socializing rather than work to encourage the forging of stronger connections.
Listen to Your Team
To make strong connections, your team members have to listen to one another. It would help if you also listened to them. Check in with your people periodically to see how things are going for them, good or bad. If they bring up any problems with their work or remote arrangement to you, do what you can to fix the problem.
Demonstrating that you hear your team when they have concerns will build trust and further open lines for communication. Your team members may have great feedback or good ideas for improving things for everyone. Listen to what they say, and take action where possible. Remote work cannot be successful without collaboration, and each team member should feel heard.
If At First You Don’t Succeed…
Building better connections with a remote team isn’t easy. It requires everyone to establish trust, communicate effectively, and be open to trying new things. Not everything you try will work, so test out different strategies until you discover what makes sense for your people. In the end, you’ll be rewarded with a well-connected remote team.
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