Working Virtually, Not Alone: How To Make Teams Feel Connected When Working Remotely

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cross functional upskilling
5 min read

If there’s one thing the pandemic has brought to light, it’s that work-from-home is a viable option for a large number of organisations and employees. However, those whose job profile allows them to work from home even beyond the lockdown, might choose not to, because of the loss of connection and investment that comes with working remotely.

Who knew there’d come a time when you would actually miss that co-worker who you would, on any other regular day, have tried to have as much social distance from as possible?

Working in isolation doesn’t work for everyone. You lose out on the sporadic moments of connection that happen in the office. It is human interaction that fuels morale, energy and creativity amongst employees.

Loss of connection between team members can lead to a loss of connection and a sense of belonging with the organisation as well.

Effective Ideas To Connect Teams When Working Remotely

Ensuring good connection between teams goes beyond setting up effective channels of communication – although that is a necessary foundation to build on.

Real connections require creating a space for conversations that go beyond work and deliverables. Team engagement activities must create space for the team members to actually get to know each other.

One holistic team engagement activity that helps employees build strong connections is better than scheduling multiple poorly thought-through video conference meetings that feel forced and flat.

Here are some great ways to build and boost connections between remote team members.

1) Have Virtual Daily Stand-Up Meetings

Adding another conference meeting to the list can be exasperating, but daily updates and check-ins with team members in the morning can be extremely helpful.

The stand-up meeting is a short meeting held between team members daily, preferably in the morning, to go over important tasks that each member has finished, is in the process of doing, or is about to start.

It is easy to fall off your routine when working from home, and slowly but surely lose touch with having a standard work day with set work hours. One day of waking up late can turn into a week of waking up late. It turns into a cycle of staying up in the night to finish your work, and waking up much after your remote colleagues have started to work. You will end up working at hours that aren’t synced with those of most of your team members.

When held in the morning, a stand-up meeting is an effective way to condition all the team members to start the work day together, much like they would in the office.

It also helps to know what others are up to and have a sense of each other’s daily schedule, so everyone feels connected and accountable. You know which team member is relatively free during the day to approach for help on a task, or just a casual chat. The meeting can also be your saviour if there’s a task you’re supposed to be a part of, that you had forgotten about.

2) Implement A Buddy System

Most organisations have a formal or informal “buddy system” in place when onboarding a new employee. Extend the system to all employees during the lockdown.

Pair two employees on the team as each other’s “buddies”, to share their concerns and have informal discussions with. These interactions should not be schedules by the bosses, but be up to the discretion of the employees.

Having a personal bond between team members can not only help boost healthy relationships between them, but also boost their mental well-being and morale.

3) Include Virtual Coffee Breaks

Breaks are a must to ensure employee productivity, and for a lot of people, so is coffee.

The chai tapri on the street outside the office or the coffee machine in the office hallways have probably seen the most wonderfully easy bantering, hilarious jokes and heated debates, during employees’ quick breaks.

Recreate these coffee breaks with team members at home. Whenever an employee desires a break, they can invite other team members to join them for a short and casual video conference call over a cup of coffee or tea. If the team members enjoy these breaks, it can become a part of their daily scheduling without even needing to be formally scheduled in.

4) Start An Office Film Or Book Club

Pop culture is something that is infamous for bringing people together. It’s fun to consume and just as fun to bond over with somebody.

Start a book club or film club for the company or just the members of your team. The team can choose a book or film for every month over messages, and proceed to read the book or watch the film during the month.

Have a virtual get-together at the end of the month to have entertaining and stimulating discussions on the book or film.

5) Themed Team Meetings

Team members should decide on a theme or topic for discussion at the beginning of the week, for a meeting held at the end of the week. This gives the members time to think about what they want to talk about.

The topics for discussion could have a wide range – from the team members’ favourite recipes that they’ve tried to mental health or financial concerns. Everyone can take turns to share and talk during the meeting at the end of the week.

6) Have A Game Night!

Games are a sure-shot way to make team members feel more comfortable and friendly with each other.

Games like charades, Pictionary, “Never Have I Ever”, or “20 Questions”, are fun and easy to play over video conference calls.

This could be the perfect high note for the team members to end their week on, and prevent dread when another work from home Monday inevitably arrives again.  

7) Recreate Whatever Office Traditions Can Be Recreated Virtually

All offices have routines and traditions – some mundane and some eccentric. Whatever can be replicated when working remotely, should be. Don’t lose out on a sense of routine and belonging with the company culture.

If the team had one-on-one meetings with the boss every month, make sure those one-on-one calls continue remotely. If the team members all ordered and ate Chinese food together on a particular day of the week, try to cook Chinese food that day and eat lunch together on video call.

Do What’s Best For The Team

Working remotely can make you feel like you’re working just to earn that paycheque at the end of the month. This could build long-term dispassion and resentment towards your work, your team members, and your company.

Do whatever is in your power to maintain healthy and good connections with your team members, to keep energies and morale high.

Implement whatever idea best fits your team, and as frequently as would be beneficial to all of you.

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Sanjana writes far too little to call herself a writer and reads far too much pop-culture fiction to call herself a reader. She once received a Special Mention for the Best Young Critic Award by MAMI, and refuses to stop talking about it. Her love for films, art, and theatre runs deep and is only borderline pretentious. She detests writing in third person but can be convinced to engage in it occasionally.

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