There’s lots of help and support for individuals who suddenly find themselves working from home. But what about people dynamics? How do you keep individuals working well together?
In the face-to-face world, we have ways to build links with others through non-verbal cues and informal conversations and chats. Different faces, voices and expression add interest. As we move around the workplace, we bump into people and have a laugh, a gossip or a moan. These unplanned interactions are the social glue that holds us together, the threads that bind us.
But this is less possible when you’re remote working. In the absence of face-to-face socialisation, people can begin to feel invisible and isolated. They don’t get the same affirmation. Further, remote working can be boring. The day follows the same pattern, there’s less moving around and you spend most of the time looking at a screen.
Team leaders have to try even harder in remote meetings to create a sense of “we”. However, this is essential for morale, culture and most of all, for performance.
From our research, we know:
“If every individual within the team feels confident about their place and purpose, and they know how to connect with others both personally and digitally, collaboration will be more successful.”
Here are some ideas for creating connections to build a sense of ‘belonging’ in virtual and remote teams, and add variety and interest to the working day.
- Have an online lunch break, coffee time, or perhaps Friday drinks which are explicitly social – just for chatting.
- Share pictures of the working environments of team members, or the parts of their home they like best.
- Share stories and photos of how each person relaxes – walking the dog, gardening, exercises, cooking etc.
- It’s less common for people to praise each other in remote contexts. Make an effort to give regular positive feedback. Build it into the conversation.
- Share ‘my favourites’ – books, artists, films, food, dogs, etc. Turn it into a game asking people to guess who posted which.
- What do you have in common? Get the team to agree on ten things they have in common. The first few will be “we all wear shoes”, “we breathe”. Extend it to 15 to try to find unusual things that team members have in common, or that some have in common, to generate discussion and ideas.
- Share memories, such as your first job, your best holiday, a place you love to visit, a funny relative, your favourite fashion trend.
- Tell a story about your name. Why your parents chose it? Why you like/dislike it? What does it mean? Where it originates?
- Brainstorm questions. What would you like to know? You can make it general, give some examples, or you can pick a topic such as animals, cultures, physics, mechanics, music, sport. See if anybody from your team can help answer your question.
- Try your own Collaborative Circle. Identify a challenge you are having at work. One-by-one each person poses their challenge in the first round. They can post it on the virtual whiteboard. Then one by one, each person provides help where they can. The support might be a link, a website, a book, an introduction, or even an experience.
These are just for starters.