August 22, 2019

Beyond the Screen: Real Connections in Remote Teams

In a world where over 70% of employees work remotely at least once per week, virtual isolation is becoming increasingly common and overwhelmingly visible in the secluded workforce. The recognition of digital possibility has forced employers to give remote work a second glance and embrace the flexibility and efficiency of this new and arguably improved career style. Despite countless studies and statistics that claim remote work as the most productive, cost-effective, and engaging job approach, many still scrutinize the concept.

While hiring remote employees can serve companies through the decrease of real estate costs and overhead, the employees themselves too often fail to reap the benefits that remote employment, if used correctly, can provide. In fact, many remote employees suffer from a lack of colleague connection, team development, and social interaction. However, many businesses praise the results remote employment can offer. These supporters report increased productivity, lower stress, higher employee engagement, and increased morale. These drastically differing viewpoints accredited to the workforce’s universal necessity of bridging cultural, geographical, and relational gaps between remote employees and their company.

Many remote employees report feeling disconnected from their teams and employees due to a lack of communication, empathy, spontaneity, and social interaction. Cultivating a virtual environment filled with genuine relationships and engaged team members is crucial to employee retention and exceptional work. So how can we remove the digital and social barriers that often accompany remote employment? Here are four ways to go beyond the screen and build real connections within your remote teams.

Build Personal Connections

Building and maintaining personal connections within virtual teams can be a challenge that affects not only the employee but the company as a whole. There are several approaches that can be used create these connections between employees. One of these methods is the concept of a “buddy system” in which each new hire is assigned a mentor who will be responsible for answering questions, assisting with acclimation, and most importantly, encouraging their new colleague.

Another method to building genuine connections within your remote teams is to personalize meetings and tailor conversations to include “check-ins” in which each member is given the opportunity to share both personal and professional updates and successes. Weekly virtual meetings allow each team member to feel valued, connected and motivated to perform successfully.

Communication is Key

One of the most crucial factors to a successful virtual team is thorough and frequent communication. While email may be the easiest and most comfortable way to communicate, it can sometimes lead to a number of challenges including confusion among team members. By taking advantage of communication platforms such as IM, videoconferencing, online calendars, and the occasional in-person meeting, employers can facilitate idea generation, encourage creativity, and build trust within your team.

The implementation of real-time communication, or instant messaging, can positively change the dynamic of a remote team. Not only will real-time communication increase a sense of responsibly in employees, but it will also allow teams to instantly express concerns, make suggestions, and further build team rapport. Further platforms such as videoconferencing can eliminate the virtual barrier and allow for face to face communication and collaboration. Videoconferencing tools such as Zoom Video Communications and GoToMeeting allow employees to participate in meeting from virtually anywhere.

Celebrate Success

A positive way to connect remote teams is through the celebration of large and small victories. Celebrating successes within your teams can assist in building an environment of support and reinforcement. Celebration within remote teams can lead employees to feel more engaged, appreciated, and motivated to perform well.

An obvious and effective way of recognizing success among employees is incentivization. Incentives can be given in a number of forms including financial compensation, public recognition, positive feedback, specific privileges, etc. The acknowledgment of individual or team improvement is a simple, yet effective way to humanize virtual employees and reward positive development.

Consistency in Flexibility

While remote employment has been praised for the flexible lifestyle it allows, maintaining consistency within that lifestyle is key to creating efficient virtual teams. Consistency within remote employment can ensure that work is completed promptly and in a way that encourages each employee to perform at their highest capability.

There are several ways in which consistency can be present in the remote lifestyle. By holding weekly or scheduled meetings throughout the week, team members can stay up-to-date on information and experience the same stability of traditional employment. Consistency can also be present in the form of a team-accessible knowledge base in which company documents, information, phone lists, etc., are frequently updated and available to remote employees. Standardizing company processes and procedures can increase productivity and eliminate possible confusion among virtual teams.

While it may often be difficult to see beyond the screen and develop real connections within remote teams, the implementation of these practices can lead to individual and team-wide success, whether traditional or virtual. As the number of remote employees continues to rise, building and maintaining personal connections among remote employees is more crucial than ever.

How do you build real connections in your remote teams?