Making sure remote teams feel connected is paramount. Isolated workers that do not feel part of the company will stop asking for help, they stop learning, and the business suffers. Having the collaborative tools in place is just one part of the jigsaw in making virtual workers feel part of the team. It’s the foundation – but to make it work, you need to build upon activities that bring everyone together. Most companies think that they have ticked this ‘human’ element by offering a weekly virtual coffee meeting. This isn’t enough. Not everyone can feel seen and listened to in a weekly virtual meeting, and the attendance for these types of voluntary meetings is generally poor. It’s usually the more gregarious team members that opt to attend and, by and large, these aren’t the team members who feel most ostracized.
So, here are some virtual team-building strategies to help to get everyone involved:
Mental health first-aid: Being able to spot and address mental health issues, even virtually, is crucial because it means you can help someone who is facing difficulty before it becomes a crisis. Courses are available online, so can be done virtually. A mental health first-aider in the workplace is also the go-to person for anyone who is going through some form of mental health issue, to help guide the person in distress to the relevant help that they need.
Interdepartmental buddy program: It’s also a good idea to pair people up across departments and make sure that they are aware of their responsibilities, i.e. to check in regularly on each other. Be a soundboard, if the other one is having a hard time and to share experiences/ideas to make working in isolation easier.
Team WhatsApp groups: Having these light-hearted groups to share fun anecdotes is not only an excellent tonic, but it’s also a good way to spot the people who aren’t as engaged and who may need more attention.
Virtual games/book club: Many companies offer optional virtual games, which employees are expected to attend in their own time. Try and think creatively about what would work best virtually, where everyone has a chance to contribute– this may end up being some separate events so staff can choose which suits them best. Make sure you schedule them during the working day, so everyone attends.
Show and tell home workspaces: A great way to make staff feel valued is to offer a monthly budget towards their home workspace. By being able to personalize their workspaces, you’ll not only be helping to make employee environments as comfortable as possible, but you could also be able to use it as an opportunity to ask everyone to do a ‘show and tell’ of their home office. Having a glimpse into someone’s home can help make everyone feel connected on a personal level, which is fundamental in helping people feel like they are part of a team.
As with any dynamic sales and support team, remote managers and employees must actively work to encourage transparent communication, including praise and constructive feedback, and to build trust among members. If managers can emphasize performance and services and look for opportunities to instruct and fill gaps in training, a virtual team will have the potential to function flawlessly. We know the process is complex, but to get started, you need to take the first step.