Connecting with colleagues remotely is often seen as mission impossible. You can’t just go to a local pub and socialize over beer or have some random conversation at an office watercooler when your colleague is miles away from you.
Let’s face it — people believe that building team connections when working from an office is always more effective by default.
But there’s good news: you can still enjoy the benefits of office work, including Friday beer and an office watercool remotely. You just have to equip yourself with the right tools and tips!
6 Tips and tricks on building connections in a remote environment
Switching to remote work isn’t always easy. Learning a new set of best practices for managing your remote team while helping them to build close connections with each other online are important results that won’t come together overnight.
You have to come up with some ideas and use certain tools to make sure people don’t feel isolated and lacking personal connections with their teammates.
As remote work is becoming mainstream now with over 75% of companies planning to keep work from home arrangements, a lot of remote team building tools and methods have appeared that you can use in your organization as well.
Whatever tools you use, focusing on how to motivate your remote team is an effort that’s well worth your time.
Let’s see what you can do to nurture connections in your remote team, prevent virtual burnout and get people to feel more confident when communicating with each other.
1. Use video more often
Instead of using text messages to communicate with colleagues, make video your default channel. Video communication is not only useful to explain complex aspects of a task or resolve a tricky issue, but it also helps establish closer relations with your colleagues and foster trust.
When using video, you can’t really multitask and it motivates your employees to become fully invested in a conversation with a colleague and maintain virtual eye contact.
Here are some creative ways of using video when working remotely.
- Intro videos: Get new team members to record an intro video when they join the team. This way, others can quickly learn about a new hire’s personality, hobbies and interests to later refer to them during their first conversations.
- All hands video announcements: Organize remote video conferences to inform everyone on the progress you make as a company and get people from different departments to learn about each team’s goals and activities.
- Video collaboration sessions: Use visual collaboration tools like Miro or Stormboard to improve internal communication during remote brainstorming and engage everyone in the team in an active discussion.
- Day-in-the-life videos: Encourage your employees to record their day from their life videos and post them on a dedicated channel. This way, everyone can learn something more about their colleagues.
2. Celebrate together on Slack
Sharing appreciation for a job well done remotely shouldn’t be a difficult thing to do. You can share some good news or congratulate employees on smaller and bigger achievements on a separate Slack channel (or another app you are using).
To share a mention, it’s enough to tag a coworker, mention an accomplishment to celebrate, and add some nice emoji like 👍🏻 or 🎉.
For example, Slack suggests creating channels called #kudos or #yay where your team could celebrate their success together.
If you have a large enough workforce and want to kick this concept up a notch, consider starting a blog just for employees to improve your internal communications. As employees share more of their knowledge with longer-form writing than would work on Slack, the blog begins to create a more connected workplace.
However, if writing articles doesn’t work for some people, create an introduction for their topic and let them record a video as a vlog to share their insight or demonstrate a skill. It’s a great way to let everyone get a sense of who their colleagues are and who shares common interests or can answer questions that require expertise.
3. Organize Friday beer sessions
When working from an office, employees would usually get together to go out after work on Fridays. In a remote environment, you can do the same — just replenish your beer stock in advance.
You can decide to keep these sessions casual and not related to work matters at all or you can discuss the achieved progress during the current week and share plans for the next.
Another idea for the Friday Happy Hour can be wine or beer tasting. You can send your teammates a bottle of their favorite beverage and let them enjoy it during their Friday remote catch-up.
To make Friday beer sessions even more interesting, you can cooperate with event companies that organize virtual beer tasting. They ship beverage kits to your team and invite experts to hold a virtual wine– or beer–tasting session.
Pro-tip: Introduce online drinking games and competitions during the Friday Happy Hour. Here are some ideas: truth or drare, flip cup, Never Have I Ever.
4. Hold a virtual lunch
Was going for lunch as a team a habit before? If you are looking for ways to spend time during lunch together again, organize a virtual lunch.
During a virtual lunch, your team can share food together when on a video call. Usually, companies cover the cost of the meal for the employees — in the end, it’s a team building activity.
Employees can have lunch at home, from a local cafe or a restaurant — they just have to join a video call from their laptop. These casual get-togethers help people connect on a personal level, talk about each other’s interests more, and relieve stress.
Apart from traditional lunch sessions, there are some other variations of virtual lunches:
- Cooking workshop or masterclass: Hire a virtual chef to teach your team members how to make a special dish and then get them to enjoy it together.
- Lunch and learn: Choose a few topics that your team wants to learn about (advanced Scrum strategies or copywriting tricks) and invite subject matter experts to teach them during lunch.
- Theme lunches: Choose a cuisine you want to taste together (for example, Chinese, Portuguese or Indian). Have a restaurant in each area deliver that themed meal that everyone can enjoy over a virtual lunch, sharing impressions about it while eating together.
- Surprise lunch: Team members share their food preferences along with a home address with their colleagues. Then, a teammate buys lunch from a local restaurant with a home delivery, keeping the restaurant and food choice a secret till it arrives at the doorstep.
5. Set up a casual chat channel
When organizing chat channels, you’d probably end up with a structure like this: #dev, #marketing, #sales, #operations, #all and the like. This structure helps provide the space for thematic discussions and allows you to manage remote teams more effectively.
At the same time, the participation in these channels is often reserved to specific teams. It’s the same way you might use business CRM software — you might not make it available by default to your design team, but everyone in the sales department is actively using it.
To nurture connections across your organization, create a channel where you will invite everyone from your company and let them discuss non-work related topics — share funny GIFs, photos of their workplace setup, or a funny thing their dog did today.
Pro-tip: Use the Donut app on Slack to hold casual meetings with employees. The app matches people randomly and suggests some fun activities they can do together. Having a virtual coffee together or just a brief conversation on chat can be one of the suggestions.
6. Organize remote fun activities
Working remotely as a virtual team is much easier when you know each other on a personal level. By organizing some remote fun activities, you can help your people to relieve stress, learn about each other’s strengths and break the ice for people who have just joined your organization.
Here are some games that your team can place remotely during the next virtual get-together:
- Ice Breaker: when playing this game, participants ask questions about each other. When preparing for this fun activity, you can ask your team to come up with some questions or use those available online. Here are some examples.
- Guess the Desk: Get people to take a photo of their workspace. Then, share it with everyone on a video and let people guess whose desk they see in the photo.
- Can you Hear Me Now?: During this fun activity, teams of two people are assembled — one is the Describer and the other one — the Artist. The Describer receives a task to make up an item and should describe how to paint it to the Artist using some basic shapes. The image is shared on a video conference with others and everyone is trying to guess what is in the picture.
Switching to remote working shouldn’t necessarily mean less communication and meaningful relations with teammates. On the contrary, you have a lot of tools and activities that can move an office watercooler or a company lunch into a virtual space. Hopefully, after reading the article, you’ve got a few ideas on what you should do to help people connect on a personal level without seeing each other in person.
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