Managing a remote team and building relationships online is challenging. Still, this is something that any manager should learn these days. This article will help you adapt to managing remote employees and find ways to strengthen bonds with your remote team.
Remote working is not a new concept. Nonetheless, the COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone to learn much more about it. Worldwide lockdowns and social distancing forced businesses to shift to remote work.
Along with this change, remote offices are becoming a new normal. The COVID-19 pandemic helped companies realise that remote teams can be as effective as in-office teams. Still, even remote teams are associated with some challenges. Obviously, one of the main challenges is building social connections.
Differences between in-person and virtual communication
When working in the office, we always walk next to each other’s desks or meet near a water cooler. We can greet each other with a casual “good morning,” share some important news or have friendly small talk. We can tell jokes and find out what interests we have in common.
Remote teams don’t have this in-person interaction, simply because video conferences and work chats leave no place for it. As a result, establishing positive relationships between team members becomes a challenge.
No one will argue that strong teams usually have well-established relationships. Their members are ready to support each other and ask for help if they need it. Such an effect is called affective trust. Employees can also develop cognitive trust, which is based on competence and reliability.
However, affective trust takes much less time to build because of its emotional nature. For this reason, it works even when teams are at the beginning of their relationships.
Why good relationships in the workplace are important
A strong social connection is crucial if you want to create a healthy environment for your employees. According to research, 21% of remote employees say that loneliness is one of the main downsides of their jobs. This is also one of the most common reasons why remote employees decide to quit. We are social creatures and communication is in our nature.
According to statistics, 60% of managers are more likely to stay with their current companies if they have more friends at work. That is to say, tech-driven communication shouldn’t be strictly formal and emotionless. Otherwise you won’t be able to establish good relationships with your remote workers.
Besides, relationships in the team also have a direct impact on performance. If employees spend at least 15 minutes socialising with their colleagues, their performance can grow. This time helps people to reset their minds and have a mental break from work-related tasks.
Remote workers, however, cannot communicate with their colleagues face-to-face. The good news is that they can still communicate online. As a manager, you can build good relationships with your remote team if you approach this task strategically. Here are some good tips that will help you do it.
To build strong relationships with your remote team, you should get to know these people. First, you should know the key facts about their personality. Secondly, you should know what they think about the working process.
What do they enjoy? What would they like to change? What challenges do they face? You need to stay up to date about everything that’s important for your employees. Why? Because building relationships is a continuous process.
“Receiving regular feedback from each member of the team has many benefits. For instance, it can help you quickly detect the existing problems and predict possible ones before they appear. Other than that, it can help you provide your employees with the necessary help or advice.” added John Kasich, lawyer and writer at LegitWritingServices.com
We recommend that you schedule one-on-one video meetings with all team members. It adds a personal atmosphere and encourages more open communication. Also, this is a good way to share daily or weekly updates on all the important aspects of work.
Put more effort into onboarding
It’s important to build trust from the beginning. Onboarding is a crucial step in building relationships with your employees. Needless to say, It is mandatory to provide newcomers with useful materials and general information about the company.
Yet, it’s not enough to have a formal onboarding process. You need to show that your remote employees are not alone and that they can always get help from real people.
A great way to improve your onboarding process is to ensure effective communication between teams and managers. We also recommend that you create a so-called “buddy system”. New employees get a mentor and friend who they can contact any time they need to get quick advice and help.
Such a system is beneficial not only for new hires but also for mentors, as well. Mentors usually experience a higher level of job satisfaction and show more commitment. This is a win-win situation for all parties involved as it encourages the team spirit.
Recreate the water cooler chat
A regular water cooler chat is a crucial part of office relationships, but how can you replace or recreate it when dealing with remote teams? If you don’t use Slack or another corporate messenger, you should start using it.
A corporate chat is not only a perfect solution for communication related to work. It is also a great solution for all other types of communication. You can have channels related to work, as well as non-work channels.
Non-work channels help employees get to know each other and build relationships online. For instance, a company or its department may have a flood chat where they can take some time off work.
Employees may use this channel to share jokes, pictures of cats or simply wish a great day to each other. A water cooler chat channel will perfectly integrate into the existing system of communication.
Focus on recognition
If you want to build good relationships, you should stay close to people you’re working with. You also need it to keep up with the workflow and to make sure that all the important tasks will be completed on time. Remote employees also need feedback. Not only to know what they should improve but also to know that their contribution is recognised.
Status updates, weekly check-ins, and other communications shouldn’t be one-sided. As a manager, you should also use these communications to recognise employees’ efforts and to say thank you. By the way, we also recommend that you say thank you more often.
By showing such an example and starting to thank your employees publicly, you encourage the culture of gratitude. Sharing praise and feedback may boost motivation and encourage open communication in your team.
Pairing is an approach that connects employees that wouldn’t otherwise work together. Some companies practice it offline to keep their employees connected. For instance, a company may use an algorithm that randomly pairs employees for a coffee or lunch date.
This way, employees will be able to have meaningful conversations and to build new relationships. Other than that, pairing fosters a collaborative environment and boosts the team spirit. This method will also help you encourage communication, in general.
Apart from offline communication, pairing may be applied online, too. For example, you can pair employees who work in different teams but have the same set of responsibilities. You can also ask your employees to swap their jobs for a day.
There’s no way to switch duties without communicating and exchanging information. That’s why this is a great way to develop empathy between colleagues and boost communication.
Remote teams are always associated with some challenges. Especially when it comes to building relationships within teams. Remote workers don’t meet in the office, but it doesn’t mean that building good relationships is impossible.
Companies can use chats and video calls to ensure consistent communication. Businesses can also create the right environment for communication and encourage it. As a manager, you can do a lot to strengthen your bond with your team.
All information for that is at your fingertips. We hope that our simple tips will help you take relationships with your remote teams to the next level.
About the Author
Rhonda Martinez is an educational blogger and content marketing team lead. Rhonda believes that teamwork makes the dream work, and building a strong team is a key to success in any business.