Working remotely has a lot of perks, both for a company and its employees. Employers save money by avoiding the expenses that come with a traditional office and can choose the best people for their team regardless of their location. Remote workers get to enjoy more flexibility, get rid of the annoying daily commute, and spend more time at home with their families.
Although many organizations already saw these benefits and were trending toward remote workforces, the coronavirus pandemic forced others to abruptly shift to a work-from-home model (even if they didn't want to). With this came several new challenges. A primary one being a lack of perceived connection. However, there are several tools and strategies you can implement to help your remote team feel more connected.
How to make remote employees feel connected to a company
Building strong connections is a key part of building a strong business. Here's how to make your remote work team feel more connected.
1. Keep an open line of communication.
One of the most effective ways to make your team feel connected is to make them feel heard. Keeping an open dialogue of constant communication and feedback is important for every company, especially those with remote workforces. Hold regular check-in meetings to ensure each team member has the necessary tools and support to perform their best. Foster a company culture that allows employees to frequently voice any questions or concerns without fear of ramifications. When employees feel like they can be honest – and their feedback is being heard – they are more likely to feel connected to the organization.
2. Provide honest, frequent feedback.
Another way to improve employee engagement and connectivity is by offering frequent feedback. Feedback is a great way to not only show your remote workforce that you are paying attention to their contributions, but it can also help you identify and improve any areas that may be underperforming. Feedback should be constructive and honest.
If you build a remote culture that encourages frequent feedback, team members are more likely to be on the same page with performance expectations, and employees are less likely to be caught off guard by any negative remarks.
3. Use collaboration tools.
Your remote workers need to be able to easily communicate with each other. Sending off an email and waiting to receive the response just won't cut it in today's work environment. To make your remote workers really feel connected, you need to use remote working tools for communication.
Instant messaging tools
One of the most popular remote working tools is Slack. Slack is an instant messaging tool that organizes conversations into channels. These channels allow you to further organize communications based on teams, projects or even office locations. Implementing a communication tool, such as Slack, will allow your remote workers to feel like they can get a hold of someone quickly if they need to.
Aside from creating Slack channels based on teams and projects, you should create some general or family channels that allow your remote workers to chat with each other about topics unrelated to work. Many remote workers miss the opportunity to chat with their co-workers like they would in a traditional office setting. If they have a space to talk about whatever's on their mind, they'll feel like a true member of your work family.
Team collaboration software
There are several great team collaboration software options on the market to help your team stay connected and up to date. For example, Zoho Connect allows organizations to build an enterprise social network for team members to collaborate on projects.
Cloud-based storage tools
The cloud has become an integral part of many businesses. It allows users to easily store and share information like documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. This also ensures team members can access critical documents wherever they are. You can keep your team in the know by incorporating cloud-based storage options like Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox.
4. Hold weekly video meetings.
Another effective way to make your remote work team feel more connected is with some face-to-face interaction. A lot of studies out there claim technology has killed face-to-face interactions. While that may be true, in the case of remote work, technology actually makes face-to-face interaction possible. Since your remote workers can't come into the office, you can hold weekly video meetings with a video communications tool like Zoom or Skype. Holding regular video meetings will allow remote workers to get that face time they're missing. Ultimately, this will help them form better bonds with their co-workers.
To build even stronger connections during your weekly video meetings, don't talk only about work. Add a personal touch. For our company's weekly video meetings, before we start talking about projects, a new website launch or KPIs, we allow our team members to share any good news they have. This could be work-related good news or just something fun they did on the weekend.
5. Be clear in your communications.
Virtual communication can be easily misinterpreted. Conveying senses like urgency, politeness, or humor can be hard to do via digital means, so you must be as clear as possible with your communications. Frequently check in with your remote staff via video chat to ensure you are all on the same page with what is expected. This type of communication can help employees stay on track and feel connected.
6. Empower employees with flexibility.
Let your employees have flexible working arrangements. Flextime policies let employees choose their own working schedules, which can be especially beneficial for remote workers who have to take care of children or other family members during the workweek. Giving your employees the autonomy to choose the working hours that best suit them can serve your business in many ways. It can improve employees' well-being, it gives them a better work-life balance, and it allows them to adapt to changes in their personal lives. These benefits can help your team feel more connected to and appreciated by your organization.
7. Establish fun company traditions.
It's easy to establish fun company traditions in an in-person work environment. For instance, on the birthday of each of your employees, you can have a pizza and cake party in the office. On the last Friday of every month, you can have a board game day. If you want to make your remote team feel more connected, it's important to continue these types of fun company traditions online. So how do you do that?
Well, to celebrate birthdays, you can post "happy birthday" messages on Slack. This way, other employees can chime in with their own birthday messages and GIFs. Maybe you could even deliver a pizza to your remote employee's location. You could also create online scavenger hunts or get everyone together to play an online game. Including remote workers in fun company traditions will create stronger bonds and help you keep your company culture intact.
8. Create a mentor program.
Assign employees with an internal mentor as a way to keep them connected to one another. A mentor program is especially helpful for new employees who haven't yet fostered close working relationships among the team. A mentor can serve as a valuable resource for employees to turn to with any questions or concerns. It is important to keep in mind that a mentor is different from a manager.
9. Celebrate your team.
Recognizing the accomplishments and improvements your employees and co-workers are making is a great way to make them feel proud and like an important part of the team. So, if you want your remote workers to feel more connected, take the time to celebrate them. Not only will praise make your team feel more connected, but it can increase productivity as well, according to a study published in Forbes.
You can do this by sending a quick message of praise when a remote worker does a great job or adding an Employee of the Month program. However, as the owner of the company, you can't be everywhere all the time, so you won't be able to see all the awesome things your employees are doing. So, let your team members celebrate each other by implementing a system that allows team members to submit praise. That way, everyone will be able to get some shine a little easier.
10. Plan a yearly company retreat.
Getting together with your remote team in person is another great way to form stronger connections. Try to plan a yearly retreat for all of your employees. Depending on your employees' locations, a yearly company retreat might not be feasible for all companies. However, if you can swing it, a yearly retreat is one of the most effective ways to spend real quality time together and build deep connections.
A team retreat will allow all of your remote workers to get together and share ideas, work on projects together, and set company goals. But a yearly retreat shouldn't only focus on work. Make sure your team has free time during the retreat to hang out and get to know each other. You should also plan fun activities and outings; allowing your employees to let loose a little gives them a chance to open up and get to know each other. A retreat will make your remote team feel more connected and give them something awesome to look forward to all year.
When you're managing a remote team, you're often worried about the logistics. How will the team collaborate, how will they communicate and handle customer service, how will they submit completed work, and so on. But making sure your remote workers feel connected is key to running a successful remote company.
Your team members feeling connected to one another will improve their collaboration skills and ultimately the quality of work they produce. A connected remote team is a happy one. When your remote employees feel a connection to co-workers and the company, they'll stick around for the long haul.
Why keeping a remote team connected is important
When your team members are working from their homes in different locations, they're missing out on connecting with each other and the company as a whole. A Harvard Business Review study of 1,100 employees found that remote employees are more likely to feel that colleagues mistreat them and leave them out. If your remote workers are experiencing these feelings, it could decrease their productivity and negatively affect company morale.
In addition to productivity and morale, employee connection can impact how team members view your organization. If they aren't connected, there's a good chance they won't feel connected to you or your company mission, which can ultimately lead to a high turnover rate.
Skye Schooley contributed to the writing and research in this article.