As informal, impromptu opportunities to engage with our colleagues are not possible when working remotely we can find it harder to break barriers with our colleagues and engage with them more. It is common knowledge, with research to back it, that workers who have work friends are more engaged, are better performers, and are happier with their jobs overall. In this article, we will be discussing how to break these barriers and keep our team connected remotely in the age of virtual everything.
If you’re managing a remote team, you know how isolating it can be not just for yourself but also for your employees. As a manager, you can nurture an environment where a healthy rapport is established between colleagues; what researchers term as “cadence“. A coworker has cadence with another coworker when they can predict how this colleague would react when messaged and they understand who that person is. When you can predict how this interaction will go and when these interactions will take place it is easier to communicate. This rapport is that much easier when communicating face-to-face. That is why we have to work towards establishing this open communication.
Break the ice
As a manager, set the tone by starting each meeting with a personal anecdote, or something fun and light – like a series you’ve been watching, or what they did over the weekend. That will break the ice and ease off any anxiety that may be usual before a team meeting. As many of your employees, possibly like yourself, are battling loneliness as they spend their days at home, leaving communication lines open is important.
Keep communication lines open
Open virtual meeting rooms at least 10 minutes before and after, that way you allow room for informal communication. When it comes to meetings get participants to share a struggle they’ve had in the past days, how and/or whether they handled it. This lets other employees know that they are not alone in the “struggle” and fosters a caring and understanding environment which encourages employees.
In a time where the unpredictable is commonplace and constant change is the norm, rituals become almost comfort and provide structure. Touch base with a regular meeting where employees may or may not discuss work. This could be the first thing in the morning or sometime after lunch. Fifteen minutes could do the trick. Find what works for you and your team and make it something to be relied upon to keep your team connected remotely. This will definitely help your team feel more connected and more in tune with what is happening with their colleagues.
Make goals clear
When employees have clear goals and targets they will know what to aim and work for. Once they are on the right track, don’t keep moving the goal post as this will only frustrate your employees and demotivate them. Applaud them when targets are reached and/or when something good was done. When new targets are to be set, discuss them with them and help them reach mutually agreed-upon targets. It can be harder for an employee to know what you’re thinking of their work. Be sure to give them constructive feedback – good or bad.
Employees need to feel a sense of belonging in order to be their most productive. One way to do this is to remind them of the company’s values. What does your company stand for and what is at the core of the business? Aside from making a profit – what is the end goal here? If these are not obvious to the employees it can be tough for them to feel engaged and feel like their work is contributing to a bigger goal. Encouraging healthy discussions and therefore make them see that their voice is heard is also a motivator. When employees feel like they’re simply executing and not participating actively in a “democratic” discussion, it can be tough for them to engage.
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