Remote work offers many benefits, such as saving time and money on commutes and promoting a healthier work-life balance. However, working from home also comes with a few downsides. Remote employees often feel less engaged and connected to their organization since they are not physically in the office with their colleagues. This can have a detrimental impact on their productivity and performance.
Many managers rely on collaboration and project management tools when running a distributed team. But too often, these systems track the progress of projects without paying attention to the humans working on them. People are more motivated and more satisfied when they’re connected to their coworkers. And based on research, happy employees are 20% more productive than their dissatisfied peers.
Another study reveals that 15% of employees consider collaborating and communicating with distributed team members the most challenging aspect of remote work. This is why it’s crucial for leaders managing remote teams to understand how to make remote workers feel more connected with other team members and engaged in the company culture.
Andela has been rigorous in measuring the factors that drive successful distributed teams. We have found that interpersonal relationships drive team cohesion, which leads to increased productivity and lower turnover.
To help you transform your remote workspace into a happy, collaborative, and dynamic environment, we’ve compiled five fun ways to stay connected when working remotely. But first, let’s take a closer look at the importance of having positive connections in the workplace.
Why is staying connected critical for remote teams?
Companies that do not have strong remote team connections are missing out on a wide range of benefits to operational performance and overall workplace culture. These benefits include the following:
1. Better communication and collaboration
Successfully managing remote teams involves open and effective communication among team members — with everyone willing to consider each other’s ideas and opinions. Open communication fosters improved collaboration and lowers the risk of developing team silos.
2. Enhanced performance and productivity
A genuine sense of connection with the organization and among employees brings out the best in people, resulting in high-performance teams. When employees feel they are a part of the group and not just another Zoom screen, they are more eager to share their thoughts and solutions. Encouraging positive connections also increases employee productivity and engagement exponentially.
3. Improved mental health and well-being
Loneliness is a major concern for professionals working from home since they don’t see and interact with others every day. A stronger sense of community among remote teams boosts engagement and makes it easier to deal with stress — which naturally and positively impacts employee mental health.
4. Lower employee turnover
Bringing employees together from across the organization strengthens social bonds and fosters a sense of belonging. This creates a culture that people want to be a part of — and stay a part of. Employees with a deep connection to the corporate culture have a greater sense of purpose and collaboration, which reduces burnout and employee turnover.
5. Stronger employer branding
Organizations that focus on building deeper connections between team members are more likely to establish a compelling employer brand that attracts and retains top talent.
Creative ways for remote teams to stay connected and engaged
Let’s dive into five fun ways to stay connected when working remotely to help individuals feel more involved and teams more engaged in a remote work environment.
1. Adopt a remote-first culture
When exploring remote team best practices and creating better opportunities for connection between employees, consider implementing a remote-first work model. Essentially, a well-executed remote-first organizational structure encourages an inclusive attitude across all teams.
Reinforce the message that team members are treated equally regardless of location and circumstance by providing equal access and opportunities to both remote and in-office employees.
Darren Murph recently joined Andela to head Workplace Design and Remote Experience. As a major influencer in remote work, his goal is to support and empower talented individuals regardless of race, gender, or geography. He shares, “Connecting brilliance with opportunity requires a deep understanding of remote work. I align myself with movements that change the way people live by advancing how we work. Andela is uniquely positioned to marry remote work fluency with engineering excellence at scale, and I’m honored to accelerate that vision.”
2. Get to know each other
Small talk is big. Find as many ways as possible for people in all locations to share bits of their lives. It’s not a time waster to use a few minutes at the beginning of a video call to check in with people about what’s happening outside of work. Some teams at Andela have built Friday rituals where they post their weekend plans to a Slack chat in the form of emojis. Often, this generates a conversation where employees learn one or two things about someone they didn’t know before.
Having a fun “Question of the Week” is another easy way to encourage workers to participate and share something about themselves. This simple activity can inspire discussions and even friendly debates. If you want to get people truly involved, you can ask each team member to come up with a new question. This encourages creativity and gets people more interested in the exercise.
3. Make space for teams to connect over shared interests
Nothing brings individuals closer than the realization that more people share their enthusiasm for gardening, painting, yoga, and other recreational activities. Colleagues who report to a physical workplace are more likely to engage in these conversations and even form after-work hobby groups. Remote teams, however, may need HR and company leaders to initiate these informal discussions and clubs.
Give your remote teams opportunities to connect over common interests by letting your employees create public channels in chat apps for any topic they want to discuss outside of work.
4. Organize remote team-building activities
Remote team-building activities provide a fantastic way to promote bonding and boost team morale — even if your employees are working thousands of miles from each other. There are countless types of virtual team-building activities you can organize, depending on the size of your team and the type of relationships you want to cultivate. Virtual happy hours, trivia nights, and online scavenger hunts are a few of the most popular ideas. Show-and-tell sessions and virtual bingo games are great for building connections and trust among a geographically dispersed team.
You can also use your imagination and design a unique activity perfect for your team. Holiday celebration? Try a global ugly sweater contest. What’s important is to have fun and encourage your employees to connect and engage with each other.
5. Recognize and celebrate milestones
Recognizing the accomplishments and achievements of your employees is an excellent way to make them feel valued and proud of their contributions to the team. If you want your remote workers to feel appreciated and included, take the time to recognize and reward them.
You don’t have to limit the recognition to career milestones like work anniversaries and promotions. You can celebrate birthdays, weddings, and baby announcements, too.
And while you can’t all be in the same physical location at the same time, there are creative ways to spread the good feeling around the world. Engagement party? Open up Facetime or Zoom so everybody can hear the toasts and make their own. Completed a new release? Order pizza for every office around the world.
Build a tight-knit remote team with Andela
When company leaders prioritize employee connection and engagement regardless of location, the organization thrives as a whole. With a few creative tweaks, a proactive mindset, and an inclusive community that encourages growth, you can bring your teams closer. You can successfully build a close-knit remote workforce that transcends generational, hierarchical, and physical boundaries.
Andela’s growing community connects over 175,000 engineers worldwide, providing career and mentoring opportunities to professionals wherever they reside.
Check out our blog for more tools, tips, and techniques to improve team connection, communication, and collaboration in a remote world.