From ditching the daily commute to getting chores done on your lunch break, working remotely comes with a whole host of benefits. Though, there are undoubtedly a few downsides too – the main one being the lack of face-to-face interaction.
In fact, research shows that while working from home has the potential to increase overall job satisfaction, it runs the risk of making people feel isolated. This survey of 1,000 remote workers from around the world found that 68% considered having a social connection during their workday to be somewhat or very important, yet over half of the respondents experienced recurring loneliness.
It’s worth paying attention to this statistic because loneliness can be harmful to our health and wellbeing. Studies show that it can lower our confidence, self-esteem, and energy levels. It can also raise our chances of developing a range of conditions, like heart disease and Alzheimer’s, and make us more anxious.
Plus, experts tell us that cultivating connections at work can help to improve our performance, keep us more engaged, and improve communication within the workplace. It even has a positive connection with staff absenteeism and turnover!
With this in mind, we’ve put together eight tips on how to stay connected to your team while working remotely…
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8 ways to stay connected while working remotely
1. Check in regularly with your team
In some remote roles, it can be easy to go hours (or even a whole day) without speaking to another member of your team. And while this can be good for productivity – especially when getting on with a solo task – it’s important to check in regularly if you want to foster a sense of connection.
Checking in isn’t only a helpful way to combat feelings of isolation, but knowing what the rest of your team is up to can help you to stay on track and avoid one of the major pitfalls of remote working: overcompensating.
One of the best ways to combat this is with communication, especially with your line manager. So why not schedule a daily video call with your team, where you can discuss what you achieved yesterday and what your goals are for today? Plus, you can use this time for a bit of light chit-chat!
2. Make room for small talk
Speaking of chit-chat, it’s important to make room for small talk in a remote work environment.
Sharing a brew and a biscuit with a coworker or heading to the breakroom to enjoy your lunch and a chat are typical parts of office life. And the good news is that you don’t have to sacrifice these things when you’re working as part of a remote team.
Plus, these conversations are actually more important than you might think. Recent research published by the Harvard Business Review tells us that small talk can help to boost our mood, prevent us from becoming burnt out, and even encourage us to go out of our way to help our fellow employees; all of which contribute to a happy and healthy work environment.
So how can we incorporate small talk into a remote working environment? Here are a few popular options…
- Schedule virtual coffee/lunch breaks – Extending invitations across teams and departments will give you the chance to get to know people that you don’t necessarily work with day to day. To connect people within your company, you could even consider using Coffee Roulette; a software that pairs different coworkers for chats depending on their weekly calendars.
- Carve out ‘chat time’ at the beginning of meetings – Research shows that having a catch-up at the beginning of meetings actually helps to put us at ease, making it easier to transition into business matters like sales pitches and performance evaluations.
- Organise ‘lunch and learn’ sessions – This is when someone from your company volunteers to give a talk about something they’re an expert in or are passionate about during everyone’s lunch break. This could be as informal as somebody giving their coworkers an insight into a hobby they love or explaining more about their job role.
3. Use video chat when possible…
Email, instant messaging, phone calls… nowadays, there are loads of different channels for remote teams to stay in touch. And, while they all have their time and place – for example, emails are ideal for sending more formal or non-urgent information – it can help to use video chat as much as possible when communicating with your team.
There are a few reasons why. For starters, messages and emails don’t portray some of the most important parts of human communication, such as tone of voice, facial expression, and body language.
When we can’t interpret someone’s tone of voice and non-verbal communication, misunderstandings are more likely to occur, which can lead to tension, and even conflict, within teams. Speaking via video chat can prevent this sort of communication breakdown.
Video chat, compared to email and instant messenger, can also be a much more effective use of time. When solving a problem or strategizing with a colleague, would you rather have a five-minute conversation over a video call or receive 30 instant messages spread out over three hours?
And finally, face-to-face connection helps to build relationships with your colleagues. So even if you’re in a large meeting, switching your camera on can make a huge difference to how connected you feel to one another.
4. …but make the most of emails and instant messages too
While some of the more extroverted people at your workplace might like to make connections through video chat, some of your more introverted colleagues might be more comfortable getting to know people via email and instant messaging. In fact, this might be part of the reason why they chose to work in a remote role in the first place.
So to make sure that you’re including more introverted people in the social side of your workplace, why not create a non-work group chat or channel on whatever instant messaging software your company uses?
Here at Rest Less, we have a ‘random’ channel on Slack, where we can share anything from TV show recommendations to cute images of dogs with our coworkers. We also have one called ‘good news’, where we share stories from the headlines and our own lives that’ll hopefully brighten our coworkers’ days.
When communicating with co-workers through emails and instant messages, it’s important to be clear and concise to make sure everyone knows where they stand. To help, you could consider taking a course to brush up on your written communication skills before you head into a remote role.
5. Organise virtual social events out-of-hours
An important thing to remember when thinking about how to make and/or maintain social connections in a remote role is that not everyone wants to be sociable with their colleagues. While some people like to be friends with their fellow employees, others prefer to keep things separate, and that’s perfectly okay too.
If you’re looking to make connections during the workday, it can also be difficult to work out whether people are really interested in socialising or not. For example, someone might engage in chit-chat just to be polite, or to make a positive professional impression.
By organising optional events out of hours, you’ll know that every person who shows up on screen is interested in getting to know each other better. Plus, doing activities together outside of work hours will allow you to make stronger connections and have better conversations, as you can chat freely, without worrying that you’re wasting company time.
Some popular virtual social events include video chat pub quizzes, weekly book clubs, at-home scavenger hunts, or even a virtual Christmas party with secret santa. If there’s any equipment or props involved (such as for a virtual cocktail-making evening), these can be sent out in the post to everyone beforehand. Check out this list from Culture Amp to find out more.
6. Reach out to colleagues that you aren’t familiar with
It’s worth noting that while staying connected with colleagues in a typical face-to-face environment can happen without much effort, when working from home, you need to be proactive about building relationships. And one of the best ways to do this is to reach out to colleagues you don’t know.
If you’re starting in a new role, you could try scheduling brief introductions with colleagues over video chat. This will give you a chance to start making connections while learning more about different teams and people’s roles within them.
In a large company, it might be difficult to know who to schedule introductions with. In this case, ask your line manager to provide you with a list of all the key contacts relevant to your new role.
If you’re looking to make connections in your existing job, then you could try building relationships through asking for help.
Say there’s something that you need to do, but it’s outside of your skillset or your job requirements. Instead of asking someone to do it for you, why not schedule a video call and ask them to show you how they do it? Even if it’s something that you won’t need to do in the future, showing interest in someone else’s role can be a great way to forge relationships and understand the wider workings of your company.
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7. Host company contests/competitions
When we work remotely, it can be difficult to organise regular get-togethers with our colleagues, even if they’re virtual.
While on-site workers tend to keep similar schedules, work-from-homers usually keep different ones. Your team/company might also be spread out all over the world, across different time zones, which means it might be difficult to get everyone to login for virtual Friday night drinks at the same time.
However, the good news is that there are still plenty of activities you can get stuck into with your co-workers at a distance that don’t require people to show up on a video call at a certain time – like ongoing contests or competitions.
Friendly competitions between co-workers can foster a sense of camaraderie and boost morale. They can also be effective icebreakers for colleagues to start conversations with each other.
For example, if your team is into keeping healthy, you might want to start a group Strava challenge, where each person competes to see who can do the most exercise each month. Or, you could even set a company target that everyone could work together to achieve. This could be something like running 100km collectively in a month.
You could also consider organising a sweepstakes for the upcoming World Cup. With sweepstakes, each entrant pays a few pounds and is assigned a team at random. Then, whoever’s team ends up winning the tournament, takes the pot.
8. Organise ‘remote work dates’
Sometimes, there’s no substitute for the real thing. So if you’re missing the feeling of working alongside someone, why not organise a ‘remote work date’?
Remote work dates are pretty simple. They involve meeting up with a fellow colleague who you’re good friends with to work together. You can choose to work in a public place, like a coffee shop, library, or coworking space, or you can take turns working at each other’s houses.
Public places are good places to work because the hustle and bustle around you can simulate an office environment – even if the other people around you aren’t your colleagues. Plus, the simple act of changing scenery has been reported to be a great productivity booster.
Though, before you set up shop in a public place, it’s best to check with your supervisor whether this is okay. Some companies have different rules and restrictions about where you can work. One of the reasons for this is that if you don’t take the right precautions (i.e. by using a VPN), then working on public Wi-Fi networks can pose a serious security risk; potentially giving hackers the chance to access your company’s files.
If working in a public place isn’t an option for you, you could consider finding a remote working buddy, and working on separate things while on a video call together. This will not only encourage the occasional chit-chat that you find in an office environment, but it’ll also help you to stay productive and on task by keeping you accountable to someone else.
While remote working comes with lots of handy benefits, it can certainly make it trickier to stay connected to your team.
But whether you’re starting a new work-from-home job or you’re transitioning into remote working in your existing role, we hope some of the tips above have given you some inspiration.
For more job-related advice and to search for roles, head over to the careers section of our website.