The surge in remote and hybrid work has caused in-person interactions and employee engagement to decline. As a result, managers are on the lookout for ways to keep their dispersed teams engaged. Driving engagement within and among remote teams relies on trust and proper communication.
The good news is that HR leaders and managers can directly affect how their teams communicate (and help build trust). In fact, according to Gallup, “[w]hen leaders take responsibility for the wellbeing of their workers, the result is not only productive organizations, but thriving individuals, families and communities.”
Apply the right processes, practices, and tools
It’s up to leaders to build healthy cultures and solid foundations of trust for their teams. Clear communication and transparency are key. The right tools and support from leadership help maximize employee engagement levels, whether they’re working remotely, hybrid, or face-to-face.
The most successful organizations employ a business strategy and HR tech to help empower remote and hybrid managers with data-driven insights to boost team collaboration, communication, and a sense of belonging across their teams. Here are a few creative ways leaders can use to increase remote team engagement:
1. Use data to understand your teams’ engagement levels
Data is an invaluable resource when it comes to improving employee engagement. It provides insights into where team members are thriving or struggling–and can help identify areas for improvement to boost engagement.
Some key indicators of disengagement may include people’s response rates and level of activity in meetings and public communication channels. It’s also essential to gauge individuals’ interactions with their fellow teammates and the time spent communicating with people outside their immediate team or region.
To address low levels of engagement, managers can dedicate additional meeting time to speak with less-engaged team members to better understand their needs, challenges, and motivations.
2. Add meeting check-ins
Regular check-ins can also help managers better understand how the team or company can improve the overall employee experience. Check-ins help build trust between managers and employees and give everyone on the team a platform to voice their concerns and opinions without fear.
While people may be more comfortable with one-on-one check-ins, it’s just as crucial to add check-ins to your team meetings, too. Creating a safe space during these meetings is vital if you want people to be truly present and connected with their colleagues. To ensure people feel safe, managers can act as facilitators and give everyone an equal platform to listen, speak, and be heard.
One way managers can conduct successful check-ins is to come prepared with questions that each team member must answer. There should be no room for further questions or comments; people simply listen and respond to the questions. A few examples of recommended check-in questions include:
- What has been on your mind lately?
- How is your day going so far?
- What would you like to discuss in this meeting?
3. Schedule team-building activities
Research shows remote team members may have weaker relationships with colleagues than those who work on-site. But there are ways to build solid and meaningful connections between members of your dispersed teams, even over video calls.
Informal, joint experiences help nurture a sense of belonging and community. Here are some examples of team-building activities you can use to bring your people together:
Spark a conversation by posing questions about your team members’ personalities. For example, ask, “What is one item you couldn’t live without?” or “What’s your secret talent?”
You can also play ice breaker games like “Two Truths and a Lie” or “Would You Rather.”
Photo of your life
In this game, have everyone on the team share a picture of something that tells a story about their lives.
Managers can capitalize on tons of popular and competitive online games. Some apps dispersed teammates can use to play games include “Codenames” and “Words with Friends.”
Bucket list challenge
Host a video conference and have each member of the team create a bucket list of things they want to do in their lifetime. If two people share any bucket-list items, challenge them to hold each other accountable and check in on their progress.
4. Expand the virtual space
It’s not hard to understand why people find it harder to connect when they’re communicating virtually. To help your teams feel more connected and foster deeper relationships over the distance, try some of these techniques:
Leverage the new virtual space to foster connection
When we connect with people remotely, we’re often invited right into their homes. This is a unique opportunity to strengthen relationships and forge closer connections. Encourage your people to take advantage of it: Welcome people’s kids and pets into your meetings. Ask them to bring their kids in to answer check-in questions or share something about your living space.
Inviting authenticity into meetings makes space for people to share more informal and personal aspects of themselves. It can also lead to building even deeper connections than face-to-face interactions at the office allow.
Allow people to connect in smaller groups
Some people find it easier to connect in smaller groups. Use breakout rooms provided by video platforms like Zoom to divide your team up into smaller discussion groups. If relevant, they can share their discussions’ main conclusions or highlights with the entire team later on.
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Assess your team’s mood and energy level
A great way to see how people are feeling is to ask them. Use check-ins or polls to gauge how your people are doing. Sharing their feelings and concerns allows them to empathize with each other, find common ground, and understand that they’re not alone in their challenges–ultimately boosting morale, engagement, and output.
The bottom line: Remote and dispersed teams can be just as engaged and connected as any other
Virtual office spaces and digital communications can actually introduce unique engagement opportunities. It’s up to HR business leaders and managers to leverage the tools and strategies available to foster even better communication and relationships than traditional on-site work permits.
As you navigate the evolution of remote and hybrid work, it’s important to familiarize yourself and your people with the advantages of the digital and virtual workplace. Virtual teams offer an opportunity to gain more insights into your people, express empathy, and improve communication to build an exceptional workplace culture.