Remote work teams around the world are showing that despite today’s extraordinary circumstances, we can still churn out hearty levels of productivity. But it’s challenging. Maybe it’s our innate desire for connection or our drive to escape social isolation, but lately many of us are missing our teammates and the buzz of an office environment.
So whether you love or loathe it, remote working looks like it’s here to stay, and fostering long-term productivity and maintaining team morale is more important than ever. All work and no play is not good for anyone’s well-being. If remote work teams are here for the long haul, organizations must consider creating opportunities for more social activities with managers and peers.
Humans are social beings, and the experts say informal office chit-chat (and some may use the specialized term of “goofing off“) can provide a strategic advantage in the marketplace. When we’re all physically separated, we’re at risk of losing that advantage. How can organizations better use technology to facilitate strong bonds between their virtual workforce? How can leaders bring their remote work teams together when they’re physically apart?
A united team is a productive team
In a recent survey of more than 6,000 remote workers, 41% said they miss the camaraderie that the office environment brings. Camaraderie is about creating a shared sense of purpose and creating the headspace that “we’re all in it together”.
Research shows that workers are happier in their jobs when they have friendships with co-workers. These work friendships often bring out improved collaboration and great ideas, motivating our approach to daily tasks and activities. This tells us that organizations need to spend time building virtual relationships by replicating face-to-face interactions using virtual means as much as appropriately possible.
And do you know what brings people together? A global pandemic. Regardless of personality types, backgrounds and experience, there’s now a glaringly apparent common ground between us. We’re presented with a unique opportunity to connect with empathy and concern. We can be a little more human. We can build rapport, trust, and understanding by asking each other how we’re doing, inquiring about what’s complicated and what’s more manageable. Being open and genuine creates deep connections, the kind that’s likely to last.
Using technology to create a stronger remote worker community
Modern physical offices have meeting rooms, break-out areas with a lounge, shared eating areas or a games room. These spaces allow team members to gather and chat, vent and de-stress, before regrouping back at their desks.
Some companies, well-versed in remote working, such as the energy advisory firm called 5, have unlocked the secret to maintaining productivity without sacrificing culture. Each morning, employees kick off their day together via a video call, allowing everyone to get on the same page and give a heads up on what they’re doing. American Express has an Ambassador Program to advocate for technology resources and support, as well as building connections among remote employees.
GitLab encourages remote team members to take virtual coffee breaks and selects teammates for randomized video calls to promote the exploration of new ideas and also general chit-chat.
Customer support operator Help Scout says planning and effort are key to building a robust remote culture. Each month they have a “Troop Talk” bringing together around ten teammates to share a little about their workspace. This kind of sharing helps bring people out of their shells, discovering new connections and points of reference for future bonding and friendships.
Adapt your team-building approach to the remote world
As a society and individually, we’re going through some major changes right now, and it’s time to leverage more practical ways to bring us closer together. We need to get our hands on the tools that make this happen. Hopefully, some of these examples have got you thinking about your own remote work team. There’s no turnkey solution to improved collaboration—it requires strategy and planning, taking stock of what you’ve got, and building from there.
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