With the recent one-year anniversary of our own company’s in-person operations moving to remote, we know first-hand how hard it can be to keep your employees engaged and feeling connected.
In the past year, even traditional workplaces have pivoted (everyone’s new favorite word), adapted, and even found their teams spread across time zones, poised in front of virtual backdrops. The great news is that this shift has shown us remote environments can prove highly successful and productive. However, it’s also exposed a key imbalance: Some individuals thrive remote, while others feel disengaged, overwhelmed, or left craving the bonds of a good, corporate culture.
Creating an inclusive, interactive space can help your entire team succeed, and that starts by being proactive and taking a few small steps. Try these four techniques we’ve test-driven with our teams to leverage your existing resources and help build bonds, strengthen community, and empower your employees to have their ideas heard—even if they can’t physically pop by your office.
Create “virtual water coolers” to foster socialization.
Remember, all living situations are unique. Some employees may live alone, and some may be sharing their home workspace with a spouse or child that is attending school virtually (or both). Regardless of personal circumstances, just about everyone is facing something new or different and trying to find the right balance. Facilitating virtual spaces where workers can chat, share anything from parenting tips or home workout advice to recipes that minimize their weeknight dinner prep provides a social outlet outside of the home and can help unite a scattered team. If you use SAGE Chat or another instant messaging tool, consider creating dedicated channels that serve purely as “virtual water coolers.”
Employee innovation is a powerful resource. Harness it to add a network of support and boost your team’s morale!
Seek engagement early in remote meetings.
Whether you’re leading a large presentation or a meeting with your core team, a proven best practice is to encourage engagement in the first few minutes. This is still possible—and potentially even more vital—in virtual meetings. Encourage the use of tools like the “raise hand” and “emotion” options as you welcome everyone to the room. You could also kick the meeting off with a poll question or ice-breaker. On the marketing team, one of our favorite topics to dive into is what everyone is binge-watching (Ted Lasso on Apple TV+ anyone?). It seems simple, but you get to learn a little more about your colleagues and add to your queue! By asking for participation early, individuals will feel that they’re an important part of the meeting rather than a passive viewer.
Zooming in? Utilize breakout rooms.
Bridging the virtual divide can be as easy as using tools already at your disposal. For example, consider having five-minute brainstorms with small groups via Zoom breakout rooms, then bringing everyone back together to share solutions. If you use G-Suite tools, send out a link for a Jamboard so all participants can contribute their ideas in real-time.
Find reasons to gather that aren’t task-oriented.
Culture-building is fostered through every interaction—even in a remote world. Carving out time for virtual happy hours, games, or to celebrate small wins or birthdays reminds your employees that we’re all navigating this new world together. As teams grow and shift remotely, these gatherings become important foundations to socialize and get to know one another outside of the confines of job roles and titles.
Keep team engagement front-of-mind in this golden era of remote work. By knowing your team as individuals first, each with their own unique challenges and skills, you’re nurturing an environment of engagement. That’s the type of space where great ideas flourish, even at a distance.