September 22, 2022

5 examples of how to make remote employees feel connected

Trying to keep your remote team connected? Here are 5 examples of how you can make sure everyone feels valued.

Working from home has some alluring perks (we're looking at you, daytime pajamas). But not interacting face-to-face with your co-workers can be quite isolating.

A recent study by Cigna reported that lonely employees tend to have:

  • lower productivity;
  • lower work quality;
  • more missed days;
  • and a higher risk of turnover.

If you manage remote employees, connection should be a top priority. Otherwise, you risk losing important talent and miss out on the success a close-knit team can bring.

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Examples of how to make remote employees feel connected

Here are five ways to make sure your team feels valued, engaged, and part of a larger community.

#1: Have a dedicated (and active) virtual water cooler chat to connect 

Traditional offices are loaded with opportunities for impromptu conversation. Professional relationships are built by chatting over the coffee pot and bonding over lunchtime runs to the nearby food truck.

In a remote work setting, you need to be intentional about creating opportunities for these types of interactions. The best way to do this is by setting up a dedicated virtual water cooler chat in your team's messaging app. Now, people will be hesitant to use it at first. So it's important that you set the tone by being an active participant and creating engaging conversation starters.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Ask everyone what song they're currently listening to on repeat and create a Spotify playlist. 
  • Share a funny meme related to your industry.
  • Poll the team on their favorite character from Stranger Things.

Whatever tangents emerge, make sure to be supportive and encouraging. If the above thread from Reddit is any indication of what virtual employees are looking for, banter and pleasantries are key to a thriving remote work environment.

#2: Create opportunities to have fun together

Employee engagement plummets when work feels like a monotonous, neverending grind. The key to avoiding this is by making sure your team has opportunities to have fun together—especially when they're apart.

Whether it's hosting a weekly video game sesh—like the above Reddit user—or starting a club for herbal tea enthusiasts, actively look for ways to help your employees connect over shared interests. Because when people feel like they can be themselves at work, they're more likely to feel engaged and invested in their job.

You can even take it a step further and set up a way for employees to suggest and vote on activities they'd like to do as a team. This not only helps with engagement but also shows your employees that you value their input.

Virtual team building doesn't have to take up hours of the day (in fact, there are tons of activities that only take 15 minutes) and it doesn't have to be expensive, either. A little planning and creativity are all you need to start making your remote team feel more connected.

#3: Set up regular check-ins

You can't build a strong relationship with your team if you never talk to them. Regular meetings for both team and individual employees ensure that everyone feels comfortable communicating.

Don't fall into the trap that check-ins aren't necessary until there's a problem to discuss. These should be proactive, not reactive conversations. You can use these meetings to give employees positive feedback, answer any questions they might have, and give them a chance to provide suggestions of their own.

Skip the formality of stuffy boardrooms by hosting optional coffee chats a few times a week that employees can join if they have the time. This casual setting will help put employees at ease and encourage more open communication. And remember: meetings don't have to be long. As the above Reddit user suggests, a half-hour is plenty of time to touch base.

#4 Start silly traditions that add some fun to otherwise boring activities

As much as we love the flexibility and freedom of remote work, staring at a screen all day can be, well, a little boring. You can make work more fun by starting silly traditions that add some flavor to otherwise mundane activities.

For example, one Reddit user encourages his team to use funny filters during their weekly meetings on Fridays. This small act helps add some lighthearted fun to an activity that can often be stuffy and formal. You could also try setting a theme for every meeting and encouraging employees to dress up accordingly.

The options are endless—and they don't have to be big or time-consuming. Just think of anything that would add a little extra excitement to your workday and go for it.

#5 Treat everyone as a remote employee

And finally, stop treating your remote employees like your B team. When you have both in-office and virtual workers, it's way too easy to default to in-person interactions and leave your remote team feeling left out. Make a conscious effort to give everyone the same level of attention.

This means:

  • Being mindful of time differences and scheduling meetings at times that work for everyone.
  • Prioritizing virtual team-building activities that everyone can participate in.
  • Actively seeking out remote employees' suggestions and including them in decision-making.

Doing these things shows your remote team that you value their contributions and that you're committed to making sure they feel like part of the team—not an afterthought.

Team building activities designed with Coventry University

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The keys to connecting in a virtual work environment

Feeling connected to your company and colleagues isn't just important for morale. When we feel like we belong, we're more likely to do our best work, plain and simple.

But how do you create a sense of belonging when your team is spread out across the globe? You start by fostering these three keys to connection.

Positive communication

Time and time again, research has found that one-sided criticism and negative feedback undermine people's productivity. If you want your remote team to be engaged, you need to open the lines of communication and make sure it's flowing both ways.

Keep whatever collaboration or employee engagement tool you use (like Slack or Microsoft Teams) active. You can start the day off with a quick "watercooler" thread where employees can post pictures of their pets or share something they're looking forward to that weekend.

Public acknowledgment goes a long way, especially when your team is virtual. When an employee does something great, make sure to give them a shout-out that everyone can see. You can even start a  "weekly wins" thread or play some diversity team building activities to keep the good vibes going.

Make sure you're also frequently checking in with employees one-on-one. This is a time for them to share concerns or give feedback about the company culture. These regular check-ins will help you nip any potential problems in the bud and give you a chance to show your employees that their voices are heard.

Alignment with a larger picture

Your company's culture should be more than just a set of values on a wall. It should be something that your employees experience every day. And nothing brings people together faster than having a larger vision they all can believe in.

It's not enough for your employees to just understand what the overall mission and big picture is. They need to know how their individual work is positively contributing to an outcome they can feel proud of.

You can help create this alignment by:

  • Verbally reinforcing the company's mission and how each employee's role helps achieve it.
  • Providing opportunities for employees to get involved in company decisions and goal-setting.
  • Encouraging professional development opportunities that help employees grow in their careers.
  • Partnering with other organizations and nonprofits whose missions complement your own.

Cultivate fun traditions

When you work remotely, it's easy to forget there are real humans behind the computer screen. Traditions and rituals bring back some of the personality and fun that often get lost in a virtual workplace.

You don't need to go overboard—something as simple as sending funny GIFs to celebrate team members' birthdays or hosting a monthly game night over video chat can make a big difference. Platforms like Gomada make it easy to find virtual team-building activities that everyone will enjoy.

Get creative and see what resonates with your team. By cultivating traditions and rituals, you can help your employees feel like they're part of a community—even when they're miles apart.

Keeping remote workers connected

Managing remote teams in a way where everyone feels connected is tricky, but it's not impossible. The key is to be proactive and make an effort to build relationships virtually. With a little planning, you can create an environment where everyone feels valued—no matter where they are.

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