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How to Keep a Remote Team Connected

How to Keep a Remote Team Connected

From weekly Friday Netflix watch parties to Tik Tok challenges to scavenger hunts to trivia games to vision board workshops, there are a variety of ways for companies to engage their employees and keep them excited about showing up. The key is co-creating with them to build a virtual culture that they’re excited about. 

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Working from home?

You’re not alone.

Many companies have adopted remote work either full-time or as a benefit for workers looking to have some work-life balance.

For many organizations and individuals, this shift delivers a major operational and cultural challenge in creating a supportive and engaged company culture and connected remote teams.

From weekly Friday Netflix watch parties to Tik Tok challenges to scavenger hunts to trivia games to vision board workshops, there are a variety of ways for companies to engage their employees and keep them excited about showing up. The key is co-creating with them to build a virtual culture that they’re excited about. The biggest mistake employers make is trying to do what other companies are doing and expecting it to be successful with their employees. Kari DePhillips, owner and CEO at The Content Factory, said when you invite your remote team to co-create the experience they want to have, they’ll design it exactly how they want to. As a leader, you just need to help them nurture and refine what they come up with.

Here are five ways to engage virtual teams, no matter where they’re working.

Communication is key

For many teams, the biggest challenge in transitioning to remote work is the uncertainty on when and how to communicate with their managers and team members.

Remote employees can’t simply walk over to someone’s desk to ask them a question, or schedule an in-person meeting to raise a concern. Leaders must determine the correct communication channels for different types of requests, and be consistent in using these channels.

It may be that one form of communication isn’t enough. Email works best for detailed questions, but you can’t always expect an immediate response. Slack is great for quick answers, but it can also become distracting when overused. And of course, any form of written communication can suffer when we forget to carefully check our tone.

What works best for us is using a combination of communication tools. We use Zoom for weekly team meetings, Slack direct messaging for quick questions, and Cooleaf for sharing team wins and recognizing our people.

As for water-cooler chat, we use Slack channels for checking in socially or sharing fun news. Since we're dispersed, it's a nice way to check in with each other.

It may take some time to find the right combination of communication tools for your team. The important thing is to make sure that these communication channels exist and that in-house and remote workers know how and when to use them. Now, more than ever, transparency and openness is essential for success.

Sending Fun And Thoughtful Care Packages

Companies have a variety of care packages employers can choose from such as a tiny campfires, storytelling workshops or simplified role playing games. Not only does this spur creativity, but it increases engagement and is a great way to bring remote workers together.

Care packages can boost employee happiness and engagement, and help keep teams happy to be working together. Each month companies can choose a theme and send out a selection of related items in a care package that arrive on employee’s doorsteps. This is a great touchpoint that lets employees know they’re thought of wherever they are and brings some fun to their workday.

Encouraging Employee Side Projects

Giving employees the freedom to work on personal projects that align with company goals encourages more innovation in business. It’s through these side projects that 3M’s Post-It notes and Google’s Gmail were invented. In fact, 3M has more than 22,000 patents that are derived from employee side projects also known as their 15 percent program. 3M’s 15 percent program, similar to Google’s 20 percent program gives employees a percentage of their time to create new products. Companies such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Jooble and Hewlett-Packard have implemented their own version of the program.

Employees crave connection and want to feel included. They want to share what’s happening in their lives, funny moments, jokes and build relationships with their colleagues. Creating a culture of connectedness means recognizing that employees are more than workers, they’re people with unique backgrounds, interests and ideas.

Managers should take the lead in creating a space where employees feel safe being their authentic selves and sharing what makes them different. One way managers can do this is by taking some time at the start of the meeting to have a light-hearted conversation. Another way is asking employees about their weekend plans or what they did for a recent holiday. It not only keeps employees in the loop of what’s going on with their team members but it allows others to celebrate milestones, offer support and to be more understanding of what’s happening in one another’s personal lives.

Create a Culture of Connectedness

Employees crave connection and want to feel included. They want to share what’s happening in their lives, funny moments, jokes and build relationships with their colleagues. Creating a culture of connectedness means recognizing that employees are more than workers, they’re people with unique backgrounds, interests and ideas.

Managers should take the lead in creating a space where employees feel safe being their authentic selves and sharing what makes them different. One way managers can do this is by taking some time at the start of the meeting to have a light-hearted conversation. Another way is asking employees about their weekend plans or what they did for a recent holiday. It not only keeps employees in the loop of what’s going on with their team members but it allows others to celebrate milestones, offer support and to be more understanding of what’s happening in one another’s personal lives.

Establish regular check-ins

Being separated from the team can make remote employees unsure of whether their contributions are making an impact. Frequent feedback is necessary to help employees thrive.

At Cooleaf, managers are encouraged to schedule regular check-ins with their direct reports. A phone call works, but a video call is preferred. Video allows you to pick up on non-verbal cues, which can increase trust and rapport. There are a ton of ways to make face-time happen, including Zoom, Hangouts Meet, or Microsoft Teams.

A virtual one-on-one should be conducted just like an in-person one-on-one. Eliminate outside distractions, and switch your phone to Airplane mode so that you will not be tempted to read a text or respond to email that might pop up on your screen. Use this time to reinforce key ideas, so that each team member will know whether they’re on the right track.

Make wellness a priority

Wellness is one of the key reasons employees have preferred keeping the option to work from home as the restrictions of the pandemic begin to recede.

Working from home can provide a great opportunity to get more exercise and eat healthier. Instead of eating out, we can make nutritional meals at home. And time spent commuting can be replaced with yoga or a walk outside.

Step challenges are a powerful way to encourage employees to get off the couch and get moving. The Cooleaf platform syncs with users’ fitness devices, allowing employees to earn points each day that they meet their step goal. In addition, all steps are tracked on a daily leaderboard, which can inspire a friendly sense of competition, and (on occasion) even some playful trash-talking.

Cooleaf’s engagement platform offers a full library of health and wellness challenges designed to encourage nutritional eating, regular exercise, mental wellness & self-care, and more. Virtual challenges can be done from anywhere, making them ideal for remote employees.

Many workplaces are adopting health and well-being programs to not only increase remote employee engagement and retention, but to show support and help with potential burnout for their teams. Health and well-being is becoming a growing priority for many teams too, even in a remote or hybrid capacity, and with the right planning and tools, teams can still support for mind, body, and spirit.

And at Cooleaf, we love knowing that we can help inspire employees to do what’s right for them, and that it’s helping to make teams stronger as a whole.

Build an active community

When employees aren’t physically working in the same location, it’s important to find creative ways to reinforce a sense of community. Challenge your team to a board game right from your browser using Board Game Arena, or try hosting a virtual happy hour via Zoom.

Though if some of your remote workers are telecommuting from different time zones, try hosting activities like asking team members to share photos and funny stories can also help employees feel connected. At Cooleaf, we asked our team to use the platform to post photos of their home workspace or work environment. It was a great opportunity to do something fun during an otherwise gloomy week – and we were able to meet some new furry team members, too!

Check out our list of virtual team-building activities designed to keep engagement strong while employees are working remotely.

Recognize great work

With less face-to-face contact, remote employees can struggle to feel like their work is being noticed and appreciated. We believe that employee recognition is always important – but when employees are working from home, it’s even more essential. Employees may be dealing with unforeseen challenges such as managing childcare, taking care of elderly relatives, and more. On top of that, many employees are learning to manage new distractions related to working from home.

As teams adapt to flexible hybrid teams or working remote fully for the first time, meeting deadlines and delivering excellent customer service can be even more difficult. When managers take the opportunity to thank employees for their hard work, it reinforces the idea that a unified team can conquer anything.

Looking for a simple, creative way to highlight your team's great work? Download our free guide to employee spotlights!

employee spotlight guide

Unlike an email or a Slack message, Cooleaf recognitions are visible to the entire team. Cooleaf’s social recognition feed keeps appreciation front and center, allowing employees to see and engage with other team member recognitions in real-time.

Cooleaf's manager recognitions and tagging system also reinforces company goals. With recognitions front-and-center on Cooleaf's social recognition feed, everyone can see key examples of peers or managers exemplifying core values.

In addition to feeling appreciated, employees also earn points for each recognition they receive. Each recognition is added to the employee profile so they can keep track of their wins.

To be most impactful, we recommend recognizing employees at least twice per week. A timely, thoughtful recognition can energize your team and keep them on the right track.

Interested in learning more about how to boost team performance and motivation for remote teams? Cooleaf can help — let's chat!





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