Organizations around the world are struggling to maintain key relationships and connections within this new remote working structure. Indeed, maintaining strong team relationships is so important not just for morale but for day to day productivity (which ultimately impacts long term profitability).
We don’t realize how much those quick chats in the break room, hallway conversations and meeting room banter create and sustain team bonds until they’re gone.
Now with so many people working from home, – in many cases for far longer than they expected – teams are unfortunately forced to rely on notoriously impersonal communication modes like emails, chat rooms and video conference calls to engender a sense of personal connection.
Here are three daily habits to cultivate with your team to help overcome some of this.
Host a Virtual Team Check in
Host a 15–20 minute virtual meeting at least three times a week – but daily is better – discussing topics not related to ongoing projects. Keep these meetings very positive, sharing everything from best practices for working virtually to showing off new colleagues ( aka employees’ kids, pets and plants).
Doing this creates an effective and lighthearted way to keep employees connected, and helps keep a team bonded even when physically apart.
Listen Better and Show Empathy
Recognize that everyone responds differently and some people may need more time to adjust to this new working normal, and even if months have passed since remote work began some may still be struggling.
Parents with kids at home are going to need a lot more flexibility right now, so don’t hold that against them. Also, there may be people on the team who will feel more anxious than others. Watch for signs if anyone is behaving different than normal, or reacting more strongly than others.
Offer help and make sure everyone knows about resources like your employee assistance program (EAP) and other coaching or mental health services. You won’t necessarily know who needs help when, so offer it to each other frequently.
Host Virtual Coffee Breaks
Invite colleagues to have virtual coffee breaks during the work day to catch up more informally. This promotes the social and emotional health of the team and encourages the team’s social cohesiveness.
Informal time, along with informal messaging during the day, can be used to have fun, check in on each other’s emotional health and promote social bonding with that sense that we are all in this together. Leaders need to encourage informal bonding time too and recognize that a lot of idea sharing, innovation and problem-solving takes place during informal time.
While some of these habits may seem like trivial luxuries that we can’t afford during days filled with important meetings and endless task lists, remember that strong relationships are a key element of (if not a prerequisite for) long term task effectiveness.
The truth is that work is accomplished through effective collaboration, negotiation and communication and when relationships fray, those critical skill areas tend to break down. In the worst-case scenario teams can become dysfunctional and ineffective.