Over the last 2 months we’ve been hearing people express a feeling of disconnection from their teams, or being left out of the loop. Many are putting this sense of disconnection down to remote working. But is that really the cause? Or is it a symptom of a wider culture that existed prior to the forced exit from office-based working?
Workplace communication at the best of times is not all sunshine and roses, and many interactions can be fraught with misunderstandings, awkward moments or even conflict. But for some, the communications and connections that are part of the day to day interactions in an office, can make the difficult days more bearable.
In a remote workplace it’s easier to get a solid 4-5 hour block of work done during the day (as long as your not being interrupted by zoom meetings or home schooling). But one of the tradeoffs to that time to focus, is there is no natural opportunities to connect and develop closer relationships with your team.
Remote serendipity takes time
In a remote workplace it’s easier to get a solid 4-5 hour block of work done during the day (as long as your not being interrupted by zoom meetings or home schooling). But one of the tradeoffs of time to focus, is there are no natural opportunities to connect and develop closer relationships with your team.
But don’t confuse being in the same space with co-workers as connection or being kept in the loop. You can feel just as easily excluded in person as you do remotely. Also don’t confuse gossip with reliable information and transparency.
The key to good workplace communication is being mindful of the needs of your team, and understanding the strengths and needs of each person. With intentional communication invested over time, you can develop the same degree of connection remotely that you had working in the same environment.
Build up your BICEPS
Feeling connected and part of your workplace takes more than just connection. Paloma Medina identified six core human needs that people find important in the workplace. They don’t all apply to each team member but getting to know them is a shortcut to making others feel understood and valued.
Belonging: The need to belong to a group or clan. A sense of community and connection.
Improvement: The feeling that you are making progress towards a goal or milestone.
Choice: The power and flexibility to make decisions autonomously.
Equality: Equal access to resources and information. Decisions are fair and everyone is treated and supported in the same way.
Predictability: The ability to anticipate future challenges. Having a consistent direction that doesn’t change too frequently. A feeling of certainty regarding resources such as time or money.
Significance: A sense of importance and status among your peers; receiving recognition for your work.
Ignoring these needs can contribute to team members feeling disconnected, and can elicit a fight or flight response. It can also lead to a break down communication and cause tension within teams.
Tips to foster better connections
A simple “good morning” and “goodbye” on your team online platform, when you start and finish your day, can be a simple way of making a connection. It also helps you know who else is “around” so you don’t feel like you’re there alone.
Schedule time for a cuppa online. Yes, it’s not quite like an in-person chat but it still provides time for small talk and sharing
Start and end the week with a run down on what you did on the weekend or what’s coming up. In a remote environment, time for non-work interactions are just as important as they are when you are standing around your desks, or the kitchen, in an office.
If you are feeling lonely working in a quiet environment, change things up and work from a place where there’s other people. If you can visit a cafe, library or other shared environment try it for a morning once or twice a week. You will start to connect with other regulars and might be surprised how many people work in places like this.
Respect the back-and-forth. Justin Pot (Zapier) has worked remotely for over a decade. He has many suggestions for improving remote communication. “The best in-person conversations are not one-sided—they have a natural give and take. Online conversation also works best this way, even if it doesn’t happen in real time. If you want your conversations to feel natural, you need to respect this back-and-forth. This means asking a question, waiting for people to respond, and only following up after that happens.”
Not everyone wants to make social connections at work – they prefer to separate work and social. So don’t feel shunned, either at the office or remotely, if some colleagues stay at arms length.
Learn what works for others. There are now many, many companies that have created successful remote environments. They are highly sort after employers to work for. Take time to learn what they have been doing that works. One such company is HelpScout, and they regularly share their insights for remote working, including this article on Tips to keep your remote team connected.
The truth is connecting within a remote team requires you to communicate intentionally. To communicate well takes effort and time, just as it does in-person, and the benefits are unquestionably worth the effort.