Team building for remote workplaces is even more important – and challenging – than ever before. According to an HR Executive article covering a global Gympass survey of 9,000 employees, nearly half (48%) say their well-being declined in 2022. 28% say they are miserable at work! While the study wasn’t limited to remote workers, we can safely assume that working remotely combined with all the pandemic-related stresses added to this feeling.
Getting a group of people to function as a high-performing team is a challenge in any situation. Building a strong remote team is even more difficult but it starts with communication along with these key elements of successful teams:
- Get the right people – key skill sets
- Build a sense of shared mission
- Give clear direction and objectives
- Collaborative decision-making and employee engagement
- Mutual accountability and leadership
Team building for remote workplaces – how is it different?
Communication is the foundation of any team. With remote teams, you lose opportunities for casual impromptu conversations, informal drop-ins, or saying good morning as you walk in. These personal connections help improve collaboration, creativity, and overall team performance. Team leaders must develop new strategies for remote employee engagement, including creating new opportunities to build this sense of connection.
Quick team check-ins:
For teams that are highly interdependent and collaborate on projects, some leaders schedule a daily quick check-in. This is a chance to see everyone and catch up on what’s new personally (the weather, family news, the things we mention when we say hello in person). Then it shifts to a quick update on shared work projects (accomplishments/next steps) and questions or concerns that impact everyone. The key is keeping these meetings short – 10-15 minutes. If your team is large, you may want to do this in breakout groups and come together for a quick summary.
If your team works more independently, you can do the same thing on a weekly basis with a slightly longer session of 30-45 minutes. Have someone prepare a short fun icebreaker (or a more serious sharing exercise if your culture is more formal) that enables everyone to share a bit more in-depth, while still leaving time for important announcements and concerns. Some larger virtual teams may also use a newsletter as an employee engagement strategy. It would include updates, quotes, and news for team members, providing another way to stay connected. Collaborative teams could also occasionally lengthen one of their daily check-ins to have a longer weekly session.
Neither of these check-ins is an in-depth project meeting. If something substantive needs to be discussed, hold it for a different time.
Employees’ relationship with their supervisors is a key to retention and success. The Gympass survey also showed that over 25% of employees feel their employer doesn’t care about their well-being. This negative feeling can be amplified with remote teams.
The casual drop-in is lost with remote workers. Remote leaders need to consciously build this into their workday. Schedule a formal time to check in several times a week, or set it up more spontaneously. Regardless of how you set it up, taking time for a quick one-on-one shows your employees you care about them and are thinking about them. These personal touches are critical to holding a remote team together.
The best way to show you care? LISTENING! Prepare ahead to ask a few questions about the employee’s personal life before moving into work. Listen for their feelings about work as well as the data they share. Acknowledge any struggles they have before moving on to solutions, and ask them for ideas before proposing your own. Active listening and being fully present show your team that you care about them as people as well as their work.
When working collaboratively on a project, an in-person team member can easily walk over to another member, or both can sit at a screen together and look at the work. While we can do this virtually as well, it is harder to casually synch up times to talk. Scheduling a meeting may feel overly formal. Finding balance is key. Google, Teams, and Slack, along with many other systems allow for asynchronous collaboration as people work together. While this can be very efficient, it removes the personal element. Daily check-ins keep that piece intact.
Highlight and celebrate successes, including the small incremental ones. This is even more important with remote teams, as one person’s success may be lost in overall team discussions. Many workers feel they are not appreciated and celebrating success is a great way to reverse that.
Be strategic in your communication. Use all your interactions to promote employees’ sense of being respected, appreciated, cared about, and connected. Be thoughtful and intentional about how you talk as well as what you talk about. Our T.E.A.M. Communication Styles assessment is a tool to help leaders and team members learn more about communication styles in the workplace. They can then use this knowledge to adapt their communication to better connect with each other. That’s strategic, powerful communication!
Contact us if you’d like to learn more about how T.E.A.M. can help you build a better team.