How To Remain Connected As A Remote Team?

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What Is It To Be Connected With Your Team?

A connected team is one in which every team member takes advantage of the productive collaboration they have with others to get the work efficiently done. And however, many people recognise the team as “a family.”

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, more companies than ever before allowed their teams to work from home. Even before the pandemic year, remote working was a convenient trend gaining traction, especially in the IT industry. Many teams were working from different parts of the world, so their communication happens through the Internet. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests the pattern will continue, with 73% of all teams having remote workers by 2028.

While working from home has its fair share of benefits, like saving time and money on commutes, stimulating work-life balance, team members still notice essential downsides. Working remotely, or at least far away from your office, can lead to isolation and anxiety. You begin to feel alone and disconnected from the rest of the team. It’s important for employees not to be isolated in order to stay motivated and happy. Because they were not in the office talking and seeing each other face-to-face, they felt less engaged, integrated, and connected to their team peers and company, potentially hurting team performance and productivity.

Another common issue is loneliness. Working from home can sometimes trigger feelings of isolation and depression. If you’re living by yourself, this can be a big problem because you’ll have nobody else to talk to or help you stay motivated.

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Face-to-face or face-to-screen?

Since we are all social and emotional creatures that need other human beings to survive, we find the physical “offline” environment more engaging and energising. So, taking this perspective, we can say that the traditional working environment (the presence of the shared office) is fundamental for stronger relationships and higher integration and interaction. However, another point of view states that remote teams can be as productive and engaged as the “in-presence” teams. According to a two-year study by Stanford University, remote workers are, on average:

  • 13.5% more productive than their office-based counterparts.
  • 9% more engaged in their jobs.
  • 50% less likely to quit.

The surveys say that the main reasons for the above results are:

  • remote teams’ flexibility fosters self-determination.
  • work-life balance is better managed, and teams are happier.
  • technology gives wider and more creative options to connect and collaborate.
  • when working remotely, individuals are less interrupted, so more concentrated.
  • remote teams have the chance to be more inclusive.

Whether you have just started working from home with a new remote team, or you have been working remotely for the past couple of years, you probably have experienced some common psychological effects. However, as a manager or team leader, you can build your digital working environment to mirror the physical one. In other words, you have the power to keep your remote team engaged, satisfied, and productive.

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Connected in the digital space

Connecting with your coworkers when working remotely does not have the be a struggle. It is not to say that it will come naturally because the human instincts for collaboration and cooperation have existed long before developing technologies. Keeping your teams engaged and motivated is a consistent process that you need to improve and sustain over time.

“Keeping remote workers engaged is a necessary part of leading a remote team, company, or employee,” said Rachel Jay, senior career writer at FlexJobs.

Without having a natural conversation in the break room or at each other’s cubicles, remote team members need more focused efforts to engage with others. A lack of engagement and frequent interactions can lead to:

  • Isolation
  • Loneliness
  • Lack of passion for the team’s vision and goals
  • Feeling unhappy and unappreciated.

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The lack of emotional connection with your teammates

The standard approach towards establishing emotional relationships among your team consists of:

  • Organising some off-work bonding meetings;
  • Developing communication capabilities;
  • Stimulating informal discussions on a variety of topics.

All these activities are aimed at getting your people to know each other better. You will allocate them to different projects, monitor how they collaborate, and look to fill the gaps to ensure the success of your next project. This is a long-term cycle, but it is a proven way to make people closer to each other by uniting them around the perception that they operate more like a “family” than as a “working team”.

What happens if your team is newly created and it started working from its first day completely remote? How are you going to bond? How are you going to organise informal meetings and discussions just for the sake of communication?

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Digital Space Challenges Emotional Intelligence

Consider the role of emotional intelligence (EI) – your ability to comprehend and manage emotions while understanding the emotions of others. There are some expressions of EI that organisational behaviour surveys have proven to be of great importance, such as the ability to interpret body language. Consider some of the gestures, expressions, moods of your team members today. If you are remote, you can barely identify the body language of your team members because you can see only their faces. One of the key points that most sociologists also agree on is some solid social links between creativity and mental health. So, the digital environment inhibited some of these crucial elements for emotional connection.

It may seem like EI is less important at a time when in-person interactions have fallen off drastically, but the opposite is true. For example, according to a recent Slack survey, almost half of new remote workers report that their “sense of belonging suffers at home.” Meanwhile, half of the American employees feel less connected to their colleagues than before Covid-19 (while just 20% say they feel more connected).

One of the most significant components of EI is awareness. When team members have sustained contact in the office, it is easy to check in and provides emotional support when necessary. But when these interactions are relegated to calls, emails, and online meetings, recognising when someone needs assistance is much more challenging. It is much harder to maintain natural healthy relationships. Therefore, you and your team should be proactive during the pandemic and utilise your knowledge of emotional intelligence.

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Lack of Access

Without an office, personal communication becomes less natural and more of an effort. When people are in the same physical space, it is easier and faster to start a conversation or work out an issue that unexpectedly comes up. In-presence working fosters creativity and helps you develop ideas faster. In terms of feedback, advice, or support needed, a team member just needs to roll his chair to their team leader’s office or desk. When remote teams cannot ‘see’ where their leader is – they need to call, type a message, or arrange a meeting with a date and time. Think of it as if the North Star of the team (the leader) has disappeared.

Difficult to Create Routines

The workflow in office spaces is made up of routines. People know that the office opens at nine in the morning and closes at six, for example. Moreover, team members are aware of their weekly and daily schedules, so they are mentally prepared for the brainstorming session or the feedback meeting you have planned. Although remote working gives more flexibility, the lack of standard routines is a downside.

Limited Team Building Activities

The traditional brick-and-mortar (office-centric) companies have the benefit of organising team-building activities regularly and in various formats. They can get the entire company to take a half-day off for fun games and activities offsite or encourage volunteer work. In addition, they can also implement team-building activities during project works, MVP development, and others. In contrast, a remote team needs to plan these activities further ahead, so everybody can participate. Of course, there are companies like Zapier and Pagely operating entirely remotely that are pioneers in building remote teams and developing a strong corporate culture with employees worldwide.

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Real-time data exchange

The digital environment postpones the process of exchanging information. Remote teams operate almost in real-time. Maybe you have been in a situation where you sent an email to your teammate and receive the answer the following day? This downtime can hurt team cohesiveness and collaboration.

We consider face-to-face communication to be high bandwidth because you can transmit and receive a large volume of information at any time and in real-time. This is possible thanks to all the nonverbal cues and supplementary information conveyed in a conversation. For example, one study found that a face-to-face request is 34 times more successful than an email.

Although written communication can accomplish a lot, it falls short compared with face-to-face conversations’ information exchange and personal connection. The real-time benefits of face-to-face interaction are lost in the delayed replies, and other interruptions sprinkled in between.

Remote Working hurts the most crucial chain being the ‘Communication – Informativeness – Productivity’.

Tools for the manager to bring remote teams together

Without the right approach, high-quality communication and cooperation of the remote team can be hard to achieve. As team members operate from the desks at their homes or cafes and possibly even in different time zones, opportunities for disconnecting arise every day.

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To bridge the gap, you need to take an intentional approach. Substituting face-to-face interaction with video chats and recordings, encouraging communication outside of meetings, and allowing informal conversation can help unite a team and improve operations. But more specifically, you can do the following:

Team Check-Ins

Check-ins can happen over a shared document, over the phone, or in a video call. It is vital to keep them regular and frequently stimulate constant informal communication among your team. They put all your team’s progress and needs in the spotlight.

Check-ins also track the big-picture progress of the company. You can facilitate daily check-ins to share personal improvement, but you can also perform weekly or monthly ones covering the long-term milestones. Whether daily, weekly, or monthly catchups, each team member can keep a steady phase and catch up on everything happening across the team.

One to one support

Check in with your team members. First and foremost, the one-to-one meetings are a sign that you genuinely care, acknowledge, recognise and support your people. Looking to have close interactions with your team will accelerate the growth of your relationship.

Another benefit you can extract from one-to-one meetings is the fostering of emotional connection. This is your chance to monitor, assess and reward your team’s work and performance. This is your chance to provide helpful feedback to stimulate professional development and willingness to grow.

As we said, remote teams’ most significant advantage is their flexibility. Use this as your advantage to schedule one-to-one meetings as informal discussions. Turn it into a morning coffee meeting and combine the pleasant with the useful.

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Be Creative

Chit-chats

Do you have chit-chats? While it is imperative to focus on results and get work done, most businesses’ success today relies on the ability of teams to collaborate, share ideas, and trust one another. The best way to build trust is to get to know your co-workers and develop an emotional connection. We are not robots.

Just because you are remote, nothing is stopping you from chatting with other people at your company. Quick informal chats or calls can be incredibly effective for getting to know personalities, clarifying questions, and strengthening personal relationships.

KissTheFrogNOW is filling a gap that email or other ways of communication never could. We are looking to provide you with creative ways to learn more about your teammates, exchange ideas, share personal preferences and interests. Replace the conversations that used to happen “around the water cooler” with an energising team experience.

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Set the same standards and routines

To make your team feel more engaged, as they are in the traditional office space, you need to behave as you are in such. For instance, you can share an idea or a problem in the office and get an answer almost immediately.

Let us get this scenario online. Use your team-wide Slack channel to ping others when you have a question or something to share.

Create Team building activities

Given the challenges and barriers that online working presumes, you need to be even more creative in organising team-building sessions.

By developing a team-building strategy, it will be more accessible to:

  • Identify personal needs
  • Put a program in place to keep your team energised
  • Have an approach to inspire team members

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Track progress

This strategy will help you guide the team through some common problems that remote work can bring. So, team building is first and foremost a chance to meet with your team and get to know them better, bond, and connect with them.

Additional training and support for Career Development

As the worldwide business evolves, responding to the whims of technology and increased competition, so does the importance of professional career development programs for your team. Designed to support employees with new resources to succeed in their positions, these programs gain popularity, complexity, and necessity.

According to Steve Hawker, vice president of learning and development at The Learning Experience, professional development “controls an employee’s readiness for contributing to a company in new ways, whether the company adopts a new strategy, expands or needs change.” With the rapid pace of change, employees must be encouraged and supported to seek advancement courses and seek new challenges.

There is a difference between professional training and career development. You need to support our team with both. Training helps fill the skill and competencies gaps among your team, but development looks to the future and growth of the company and the whole team. Providing them with helpful training now, you support their career development for the future.

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Remote Team Care List

  • Communicate daily.
  • Have quick informal meetings.
  • Organise meetings & discussions to learn about everyone’s needs.
  • Be creative, show them new tools for team-building activities.
  • Balance between face-to-face & face-to-screen.
  • Set rules and routines as in the physical office – make the transition easier.

by Vasilena Vasileva

A firm believer in team culture, creative team-building games & that inspiration comes within.

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