While remote teams have become more and more commonplace in the workforce, the increase in remote work has led to a rise in disengaged employees around the globe. Without that in-person interaction, teams are often left feeling disconnected from one another, which doesn’t help in the productivity department. The challenge lies in fostering connection even when teams don’t work in the same physical environment.
Here’s how you can make the most of a virtual work environment.
Make an Effort to Get to Know Your Coworkers
All work and no play make for little connection or camaraderie. Be intentional about getting to know your team members. Ask personal (but appropriate) questions about their interests or families. Connect with them on social media channels, if they’re open to it.
If it’s possible, meet up with coworkers in real life to further foster a connection. If it’s not possible, create fun virtual events like a virtual happy hour after work on Zoom. There are also online games you can play remotely, like a virtual escape room or an online murder mystery game that can encourage everyone to let down their hair and work together to solve a fun problem.
Use the Right Communication Tools
Different channels of communication can be helpful in different situations, though some may lead to miscommunication if you can’t see the other’s body language.
Email is useful for longer messages that need to be recorded. Be sure to use descriptive subject lines rather than vague ones like “Draft” or “here’s what you asked for.”
Chat (like Slack) can be used for quick questions or for casual conversation. Just avoid sending a barrage of messages that can disrupt someone else’s workflow. If you don’t want to be disturbed, mute notifications until you can come up for air.
Videos are helpful for team meetings or one-on-one meetings and can make up for some of that lack of in-person interaction. You can even use the phone (remember that?) for other communication.
Make Meetings (Actually) Fun
We’re all zapped from the number of meetings we attend at work, and being remote doesn’t make them any easier.
But what if, before a team meeting, everyone got a pizza delivered to them? There are meeting tools like PizzaTime that are designed to make virtual meetings more interactive and connected. You could start a meeting with a round of silly questions or create a challenge like Worst-Dressed Team Member that will break the ice.
Be sure to be considerate about the time zone all participants are in. No one likes having to jump out of bed at 6 a.m. to be live on a video call. There are tools like the Meeting Planner app that help you schedule meetings while considering all participants’ time zones. Give them a buffer to wipe the sleep from their eyes before hopping on a call!
Speaking of Time Zones
While the benefit to remote teams is that they can be working on a project nearly around the clock from one time zone to another, it can be a bit more challenging if you’re trying to work with someone who’s nine hours behind you.
Keep track of which of your team members are in which time zones, and plan your communication accordingly. Sending a Slack message while someone is off work or even asleep can be seen as insensitive (and not everyone turns off notifications after hours) so consider scheduling your message or sending it via email.
Speaking of email, consider that yours is most likely to get a quick response if it’s at the top of the recipient’s inbox. You can schedule your email to arrive just when they’re settling in at their desk for best results.
Be Assertive in Your Role
It can sometimes be challenging to stand out to a supervisor when you work remotely, so you’ll have to take it upon yourself to shine. Find opportunities to lead projects or meetings. Speak up in team meetings with ideas and suggestions. Be friendly and helpful to your colleagues.
Also, keep track of any successes or new tasks you learn in a year so that when your performance review comes around, you can easily point to evidence that you deserve a raise or promotion.
Making an effort to build rapport with your coworkers, even if you aren’t in the same physical location, can go a long way to creating cohesion and harmony as you work together.
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