From medical advancements to the digitisation of the workplace, the world has undergone an unforeseeable transformation.
For many people, work is a way of socialisation. Yes, communication in the office with colleagues often makes you tired, but it gives a feeling of dynamics and involvement in an overall workflow. One of the biggest challenges of outsourcing labour is little understanding of what your team is busy working on, and sometimes you won’t get an instant answer to an urgent question.
In the office, you can chat with your team members in the rec room or over a cup of coffee, catch an approving smile, discuss the news and plans for tomorrow… you know, get into the typical “work vibe”.
This forms the basis of what is lacking with remote work: an actual presence that is hard to replicate outside the office workplace. Still, anything is possible. You just need to set some infrastructure in place so that colleagues can feel connected while remaining focused on their tasks.
Employees should know that there’s a place and someone to turn to on any issue, especially when working from home.
So, despite the apparent pros of remote work, there is a big problem: a growing feeling of disconnection and isolation. When people lack simple human communication and emotions, questions arise sharply:
We’re going to look at some of the critical strategies for maintaining psychological safety and effective communication with your team in this article.
A company needs to have a virtual space for communications. Its effectiveness is a foundation for the success of your business.
Communication, among other processes, comes first, whether it’s about meeting or reporting a task status to a manager.
Of course, you can just use messenger on your smartphone, create a chat room and solve all questions in it. But, to work more effectively, you need to synchronise team activity. To do this, use:
✔️ Reliable communications channels (email, corporate website, internal blog, video chats, messengers, etc.);
✔️ Clear communication protocol.
Fix critical channels. Determine how information flows are shared and which means of communication should be used in which cases. Then, agree on specific signals of importance, urgency, the need to answer the messages, with your entire team and ensure everyone learns to stick to the agreement.
The non-verbal component is absent in distance communication. People capture emotions better in face-to-face interactions. This is a proven fact. That’s why a lot of companies prefer to use video in online touch, namely:
Regular planning brief (or scrum meetings) for summarising results and coordinating team tasks. It’s a good idea to conduct daily meetings that keep everyone accountable, autonomous and engaged.
When working remotely, one-on-one communication is a critical tool for interaction. During an online one-on-one meeting, you can set and discuss tasks for a team member, evaluate the work performed, give feedback, go over the weekly plan step-by-step, and problem-solve on what hasn’t been done and why.
It’s recommended to carry out these kinds of meetings at least once a week. If you meet with employees less frequently, their emotional engagement may decrease (which leads to much less productivity and motivation).
People need to interact, share resources, discuss work progress, and agree on further actions. The frequency of such meetings can vary, and it depends on their needs and the workflow of your company.
Workplace socialisation is something that many remote employees yearn for. So, it could be a great idea to set up a particular channel for chatting or “watercooler conversation”. This will be a dedicated space where employees can exchange ideas and compliments outside of work issues — a place to wish each other happy birthdays, discuss hobbies, exchange photos.
Jokes, memes, music videos, and any other positive content can make a huge difference in your online work environment.
Encourage team activities and a positive attitude. For example, talk about corporate news and events, special days, and share appreciation for co-workers.
Everyone should know what’s going on in the company, and everyone should have at least 1 nice thing to say about a colleague every single day. You can also use your dedicated channel to plan team-building events — creating memories together brings the team closer and creates a warm atmosphere, even when physical presence is lacking in the day-to-day.
When working remotely, human relationships are significant because they must stand the test of distance. Maintaining a healthy and optimistic vision of life, work activity, and a single focus among all remote team members is a crucial task that falls on the shoulders of the leaders and HR managers.
Mood, both good and bad, is transferred to each other like a virus. Negativity, discontentment, miscommunication, loss of trust, and a broken team spirit are dangerous to any work environment — more so when you’re working remotely since it’s harder to gauge and monitor.
To keep a finger on the pulse of your company culture, you should consider using a micro-survey tool like Pulses to solicit honest feedback. Ask open questions that will help you monitor the team atmosphere, get to know your employees, and generate a positive mood.
You should also pay attention even to little things: the tone of emails, harsh comments, passive-aggressive reactions, and general pessimism.
These factors can really bring your team down. There’s nothing wrong with laying out a general etiquette for work communication to ensure that everyone is treated with respect and dignity!
At first glance, Zoom may seem very convenient. However, scientists recently discovered that this format of communication could also be a source of severe stress. Are you really able to read the facial expressions of team members in the tiny images on the screen, specifically when technical failures often distort them? On the other hand, colleagues still need to communicate with each other and their level of understanding is essential for the company’s work. So what can you do to avoid “Zoom fatigue”?
Businesses that work remotely often have to make additional efforts to keep employees engaged. As a result, companies are moving beyond Zoom parties and choosing other virtual activities, from collaborative online games to constructing figurines out of things found at home, and many other creative options.
To maintain your team spirit, you can also try using thematic online team-building activities. This is where psychology can also come into play. For example, you can invite employees to take the Myers-Briggs personality type test (a technique based on Jungian typology).
The answers can be sent to a facilitator who will prepare a presentation for your team. Then, ask your colleagues to guess who’s who in the group and discuss the characteristics of each type. This kind of virtual team building helps employees get to know each other (and themselves!) much better.
Sometimes people miss live communication. There’s nothing better than sharing some good stories! Create opportunities during video calls for co-workers to share fun stories, for instance, the most unusual jobs they’ve ever had or the most beautiful places they’ve ever seen. Making space for casual conversation can help break the ice in online meetings, which tend to feel distant and impersonal.
With that said, keep in mind that you may always have a few disengaged team members on a video call — try to think of ways to rope them in!
Motivational chats help boost morale for remote workers — something like wishing each other a good day in the morning or offering help. It has the potential to give people a real boost when faced with a new workday. In this ‘inspo’ channel, co-workers have the space to share info-talks, books, music, photos, and quotes that motivate them and fall in line with the company’s goals.
Even those far from an athletic lifestyle notice quickly: working from home leads to reduced mobility of the whole body, negatively affecting health. That’s why many teams around the world have instituted group morning exercise sessions via video with an instructor several times a week. Some companies also rotate a few team members to lead these sessions.
Making exercise a part of your company culture means that employees will lead healthier lifestyles and have more energy to do their work well.
Getting active online with your team provides another bonus: training in an online format saves resources since it’s not needed to commute to a gym or pay gym fees.
Now more than ever, interest in self-education has increased. But, in order for skills development to become part of team building, the courses must be collaborative.
You can invite experts from different fields that interest your colleagues to facilitate online webinars at your company, for instance, an English professor, a style expert, a photographer, a psychologist, or an interior designer. You can also hone the webinars to skills and behaviours specifically needed at your company to help employees discover new paths for growth in their careers.
To find out about your employees’ interests, simply ask them to fill out a quick online questionnaire.
How about cooking dinner with your colleagues live? Try this idea with your team. By voting, choose the first participant who will cook dinner. Then, a day or two before the ‘cooking show’, the colleague who will be the chef of the evening sends the ingredients for the dish to the chat, and at the appointed time the other team members can join in and start cooking dinner together.
This is also a great way for co-workers to meet each other’s families/housemates and learn more about each other’s cultures and food preferences.
In the same way that co-workers could go to a local bar or coffee shop for after-work drinks, you could create the opportunity online for your remote team. Everyone can dial in with their favourite drink ready and just let the conversation run organically.
To avoid any awkward silences, prep a few questions or topics of conversation beforehand to set the tone of the chat.
Virtual team building involves setting specific objectives:
✔️ To build trust and motivation in the team members to talk about themselves;
✔️ To bring team members closer together and loosen them up, teach them how to work together;
The structure of classical online team building includes the following blocks:
1) Meeting: chatting + short team networking by dividing participants into groups.
2) Intellectual game: a team quiz on erudition and knowledge of the company`s history (or any other topic). The major prize for the winning team is overtime hours off work. By the way, sometimes you can reward the most active members with handy presents, such as sports insurance, annual travel insurance for trips around the world or cancellation insurance. Everyone loves traveling, so a gift like this will appeal to your remote employees.
3) Free communication: communication of participants via video link with going on air.
4) Quick business cards. At the end of the event, ask participants to write quick business cards in the chat room with their name, phone number, and how a team member could help their colleagues. In this way, you underline the main idea that it is possible and necessary to ask the colleague for help.
These team-building tools are called “icebreakers”. This is because they energize employees and increase productivity and a high level of morale.
It is as essential to prepare for online events as it is for physical events.
✔️Choose a leader responsible for breaking the ice, creating a positive attitude, and determining /the communication format.
✔️Choose the appropriate online tools beforehand and test for any technical difficulties. Be ready to help any colleagues that may struggle to use the platforms.
✔️ Think through the programme. You can easily find “icebreakers” on the Internet, but it is essential to adapt them to the online format and the individuals in your team. What does this mean? Understand which tools can be used to conduct specific activities, such as dividing into groups, chatting, and broadcasting.
✔️ Ask for help: some companies have a team of coaches dedicated to employee onboarding. Besides internal resources, you can get input from external specialists, such as business coaches or event hosts and presenters.
In the conditions of remote work, team building becomes a priority. For everything to work smoothly in the remote interaction mode, change the usual approaches and enter a new business reality. This is the key to upcoming success. A remote team with high morale is a well-functioning team.
To summarise, look through the main pros of the online format for corporate events:
Isabelle Jordan is a business and marketing journalist at Ekta insurance company. She writes for different news portals and thematic blogs that help her stay at the heart of the travel and insurance news. Such work gives her the opportunity to write articles on the most relevant topics of today.
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