Today we are going to be talking about making genuine connections with your virtual team members, and what that really means. Connecting with people virtually goes beyond simply sharing information about each other; it comes from genuine intention to grow relationships, and the genuine presence that comes from that intention.
A New Icebreaker – Wellness tools that are delivered with pinpoint accuracy
Mastering the transition from a co-located environment to a dispersed environment has been fraught with difficulty. However, when issues of work anxiety and stress emerged pre-COVID, many of us would just show up for work to grin and bear it. There was no conversation about it, and if there was discussion it was face-to-face in a safe environment. Problems of absenteeism and presenteeism existed, revealing that, even though there was a physical location for workers, mind and spirit were elsewhere.
This is hardly a way to build a resilient workforce. Many problems existed pre-coronavirus, and now that many workers are working remotely these problems are exacerbated.
The Right Environment
Creating a safe environment should have always been a goal of the HR professional in “normal” work settings. It is especially true now as teams continue to stay home well into 2021 (and beyond?). It’s time for a new icebreaker.
Taking that first step, or breaking the ice, is usually the hardest part. Simply speaking, having a direct connection with employees is the best solution. Unfortunately, typical icebreakers at the beginning of your virtual meetings are just the tip of the iceberg. They certainly have a place, but they are not enough for your team to build and sustain resilience.
Be creative and design communications programs that are meaningful to employees and resonate with their individual needs.
Wellness, in a virtual setting, could mean something as simple as trusting your team to get their work done or standing back when they are overcrowded. Unfortunately, virtual teams often have no set hours, and the lines between work and rest are blurred. Long after 5 pm, your teams are still checking the flashing lights on their devices, answering emails, responding to calls and continuing to work into the night.
Tools of the Trade
1. Define Expectations
Without clearly defined expectations, employees are forced to make them up for themselves. However, when ideas and expectations are formalized, employees will experience less anxiety over their tasks and will feel more confident in their roles and job goals. This is especially true for virtual teams, where tasks and expectations can be fragmented.
2. Schedule Meetings That Matter
Creating routines provide the team with familiarity. However, having too many meetings that only lead to another meeting devalues the process and burns out employees. Ensure communication (in meeting form) is meaningful and have an agenda that allows for decisions to be made with purpose.
3. Think Outside the Box
Find ways to communicate that are authentic and present. Be creative and design communications programs that are meaningful to employees and that resonate with their individual needs.
4. Have Clear Deliverables (Trust Your Employees)
Micromanaging is never the way to go. It is better to provide more detailed descriptions of the tasks, with examples of what the result should look like and trust your team to do their job.
5. Choose Video Calls or the Phone Over Email
It can be tempting to send a quick email whenever there is something to discuss. This can easily lead to misunderstandings. When working remotely, use video. Video humanizes the room and helps to connect everyone on a more personal level. If you suspect misunderstanding, check in with the person via video instead of sending an email and hoping the issue is resolved.
6. Offer Recognition
Your team should be recognized for their efforts from all levels within the company. It is simple to set up an online recognition platform that allows employees to publicly recognize one another for their accomplishments with words of encouragement. If you want to take it a step further, gamify employee recognition with a platform that enables employees to award “micro-bonuses” in the form of points that can be cashed in for things like gift cards.
7. Share the Message
Most bosses will remember to thank you, but who else knew about it? Many leaders of remote teams are keenly aware that feedback is important and do a fine job of telling each employee how they are doing. These one-on-ones are crucial. However, team relationships are built on all of us having faith in the competence and hard work of our fellow team members.
A year ago, I would have had an incredibly difficult time imagining a set of circumstances that would have kept me from a dear friend’s funeral. Yet, that’s exactly what happened when I recently found myself unable to attend due to COVID-19 restrictions. As I mourned this loss in my own way, it also made me pause and reflect on just how much the Coronavirus pandemic is wearing on us emotionally.
American workers spend a lot of time in meetings – an average of 6 hours per week by some estimates, with the total number of weekly meetings across the country as high as 55 million. At the same time, nearly half of all meetings are rated as “poor” by employees, meaning they walk away feeling as though their time has been wasted and little was accomplished. (Verizon)