Out of Office: Connecting your team while apart

In this third part of our “Out of Office” series on engaging your team while social distancing, we look at collaboration. Check out the other parts in the series: Engage and Collaborate.

Great teams work in harmony and share a bond built on a share mission. Building and maintaining these connections is one of the greatest benefits an organization can offer its employees.

To do this, people must understand their roles and expectations, know what others are doing, and be clear on how everyone fits into the organization’s routine. This is easier to do when people can stop by someone’s desk, catch up in the breakroom, or share a laugh over lunch.

When an office goes remote, this becomes more challenging. Employees can start to feel isolated and disconnected from the day-to-day work, as well as the organization’s overall mission. So how do you maintain your team’s connection with each other?

Hold regular video conference calls.

For both all-team touch bases and project team collaborations. Face-to-face, even virtually, is essential for maintaining personal relationships between team members.

Allow some virtual spaces to be casual.

While 3fold uses Slack for project team discussions and work-related collaboration, we also maintain dedicated channels for humor and personal sharing. From the latest pics of their kiddos being weirdos, to funny memes and videos, to life announcements, the real-time, visual aspect of Slack can reinforce those essential personal connections that make a team gel.

This may require a slightly laxer HR approach (combined with clear rules of what is and is not appropriate), but it can be worth it.

Set up some virtual extracurriculars.

When the reason for the remote work is something like the COVID-19 outbreak or a natural disaster that limits real-world contact, in-person meetings, parties, and happy hours may not be possible. However, it’s easy to see in-person isn’t the only way to build strong community connections—any visit to a Tumblr fandom or Reddit community demonstrates this.

  • Launch a virtual book or streaming movie club. Then schedule online or video discussions.
  • Hold a social media challenge. Challenge your team to create unique and interesting content from their locations to share on your organization’s profiles. Then have the team vote on weekly winners for prizes.
  • Create an officewide fantasy team league. Encourage sport-minded team members to compete in with their colleagues for honor and glory on their chosen virtual playing fields.

From perceived difficulties in implementation and management, to concerns over productivity and quality of work, implementing remote work can be daunting.

However, with a thoughtful plan, clear and consistent communication, and a constant focus on connection, the rewards can outweigh the costs. And in times of uncertainty and fear, offering a clear plan and structure can help your employees stay calm and collected through whatever challenge is facing them.