Clearly, remote work is here to stay. Not only does it give employers more hiring options, but it also benefits employees. Research from Owl Labs found that remote and hybrid employees were 22% happier than workers in an onsite office environment and stayed in their jobs longer. Also, remote workers had less stress, more focus and were more productive than when they were onsite. As it turns out, working remotely benefits employees both mentally and physically.
However, remote work still has its challenges. It can be difficult to maintain consistent communication with your team, which can increase feelings of loneliness and isolation. Yet strong work relationships are essential to stay productive and boost morale.
That’s why it’s important to take a proactive approach to stay connected with colleagues. Whether your team is entirely virtual or embracing hybrid work, these strategies will help.
Schedule virtual breaks
Even though there isn’t a physical break room, employees working remotely are still taking breaks during the day. One idea is to let people know you’ll be online at a specific time taking your coffee break and invite them to join you. Keep your virtual coffee break between 15 and 30 minutes and use small-group features like breakout rooms to encourage more discussion. You can also schedule virtual lunches with co-workers just like you would a face-to-face meeting.
Learn a new hobby or skill
Another fun way to stay connected with co-workers while working remotely is by learning something new together. For example, if you are part of a global team, you can pair up with a colleague to practice their language and teach them yours virtually. You can also organize a virtual workshop once a month when one person presents and teaches the others a new hobby or skill. For example, maybe you have someone on your team who is also a certified yoga instructor or an expert baker. This approach helps increase camaraderie and maintain the necessary connection you need for a productive team.
Create moments of connection
Before the pandemic, most employee interaction happened in the office. Now we must be much more deliberate when building relationships. Jim Kalbach, Chief Evangelist of visual collaboration company MURAL, suggests that employees “be intentional about building moments of connection into each team interaction. Start meetings with a brief check-in that reveals personal aspects of team members, take time to reflect on how well the group collaborates and review insights about collaboration on an ongoing basis. With a little bit of forethought and intention, building connection—even with remote teams—can be accomplished fairly easily.” Another idea is to create a virtual water cooler channel for everyone to discuss non-work-related topics. Invite and add colleagues to the channel and make a list of conversational topics. Set a time limit and keep it to a small group so you can interact more. You can even add a few icebreaker activities and games to spice things up.
Leverage visual collaboration software
Encouraging collaboration in the workplace is shown to increase productivity. According to a Stanford study, people who are encouraged to collaborate stick to a given task 64% longer than people who work alone. In addition, those same workers report higher engagement levels, less fatigue and higher success rates. Visual collaboration software offers several features that can imitate those used when working together in person. For example, you have access to a shared workspace, video chat, meeting rooms and templates for strategy, design and project planning. MURAL is one company that offers a digital workspace emphasizing real-time visual collaboration. It recreates the whiteboard experience online and can be used for team brainstorming, idea generation, and mind-mapping. The best part is that every employee can contribute no matter where they’re located.
Be proactive with status updates
You don’t want to be out of sight, out of mind when working remotely. Take a proactive approach to scheduling time with your manager—even if it’s just a 15- or 30-minute weekly call to check in. You can also send regular updates via video or other tools to let your boss and co-workers know what you’re working on. For example, at HR and payroll provider Paylocity, they utilize video for performance reviews or as part of ongoing employee journals to share progress throughout the year. Paylocity employees also use asynchronous video to highlight updates or wins that a manager can watch on their own time. Cheryl Johnson, Chief Human Resources Officer at Paylocity, believes peer recognition is just as important as manager feedback. “Peer recognition can provide visibility to managers but, more importantly, increases connection among employees and helps them feel valued,” says Johnson. “Tools that enable and celebrate individual employee success can help build culture, especially with distributed workforces. For our most active clients, peer recognition is contagious. The number of employees receiving public recognition from their peers increases on average by more than 500% within 180 days of implementing Paylocity.”
Adapting to the new world of work can be challenging in many ways. But with a bit of ingenuity, you can stay productive, motivated and connected while working remotely.