With ever-improving technology turning connectivity into second-nature, it’s becoming easier and easier for employees and teams to work remotely. The benefits of remote teams can be substantial – from cost savings for companies to increased morale for employees.
In fact, according to Indeed, 62% of Canadian employers offer their employees the option to work remotely and 80% of employees agree it increases their work-life balance. However, with an increase in remote teams and employees comes a unique set of challenges – from building teams and developing social relationships to building trust and communicating efficiently.
Despite these challenges, it is absolutely still possible to build strong remote relationships. It’s just a matter of tweaking your approach to accommodate a new dynamic. Here are 5 tips to help you do so.
Make Yourself Accessible
As much as working remote allows you to work at your own pace, it’s also important to be available when you team needs you. The idea of not seeing you daily can sometimes make your team uneasy, so it’s important to build trust.
Establishing core hours during which you will be present and available and ensuring you’re available as required are fundamental steps in creating a great remote relationship. It also goes a long way to let your team know if and when you won’t be available – whether it’s running out on a quick errand, jumping on a call or heading out for a midday appointment.
Over-communicate and Be Forward
On the flip side of the coin from the previous point, working remote also comes with the unusual need to over-communicate in some regards and be more forward and direct than you might typically be accustomed to. This is because when you’re working remotely, you face unusual communications challenges, including the ability to gauge people’s moods and get a read on when they’re in “focus mode.”
It’s important to pre-determine ways to share that context explicitly with colleagues. For instance, over-communicating and being abundantly forward about when you need some uninterrupted focus time will be beneficial for everyone. Letting people know when you’re unavailable because you need some dedicated work time will save you the frustration of being interrupted while trying to focus and save colleagues the frustration of not being able to reach you.
You can also determine a pre-set meeting schedule with your team and request that any non-pressing questions or queries are withheld until then.
Continue the Chit-Chat
There’s one major facet of a traditional office environment that you might come to miss when you move to a remote working environment: the chit-chat. From small talk over coffee or lunch to quick chit-chats in passing, these informal conversations are one of the key factors that help team members bond, build trust and help each other succeed at work.
When this element is missing, it takes a proactive effort to continue informal conversation with colleagues and teams. Whether it’s quick, casual conversation at the beginning of a meeting, or even the use of instant messaging apps, there’s value in this type of dialogue. Don’t underestimate the power of checking in with a colleague about how their vacation was or to asking how their day is going. It goes a long way.
Implement Smart Technology in Innovative Ways
Every remote team needs an internal communications backbone. Apps like Slack for direct messaging and Google Hangouts or Zoom for video conferencing help connect internal teams and facilitate discussion, brainstorming, planning, and strategy development sessions.
But when it comes to building strong remote relationships, there’s more that can be done with these apps than just formal meetings and communication.
Consider things like monthly chat breaks to speak with a randomly chosen member of the team. These can be anywhere from ten minutes to thirty minutes and cover everything from social lives to the universe to great phone apps. The point is that they create face-to-face time between remote team members who might not interact every day. You can also try these on a bigger scale by inviting the broader team for a group chat. To avoid awkward silences, try implementing a pre-set theme to get people talking – whether it’s a book report, an opportunity to share a great experience, something that team members are grateful for, or anything in between.
Don’t Be Afraid to Use Emojis and GIFs
It might seem silly to hear “use Emojis and GIFs” in the context of a professional setting but consider for a minute the challenge that digital communication often poses in conveying tone and emotion. We’ve all had an email or text message that we took completely out of context because we misconstrued a tonal nuance. This is especially true for a remote setting when team members can’t see or hear each other.
When it comes to internal emails and instant messages, an Emoji or GIF can provide important colour, tone, and emotion to your communication. It can also help team members bond over a smile.
Remote employees and teams are becoming increasingly more commonplace in Canada, and for good reason. But along with this new way of working comes a new set of challenges in creating a great team dynamic. But with a few strategic tactics, these challenges can be easily addressed to encourage strong bonds and relationships between remote employees.