Leading with Compassion: How to Build Connection in Your Remote Team

It’s not always easy to create and build connections in your remote team. After all, Zoom meetings feel impersonal, and it’s all too easy to misinterpret tone in the company Slack channel. 

Even if you’ve never met your colleagues in person, it’s crucial to find ways to get to know them and build your capacity to solve problems together. It may take more intention to build these moments into day-to-day remote work. But your efforts will be well worth it when you start to see better communication, more effective collaborations, and higher retention rates.

We recently hosted an event, Leading with Compassion: How to Support a Distributed Workplace, with Kim Rohrer from Oyster and Bobby Melloy from Culture Amp, where we explored the topic of how organizations can rise to these challenges and how despite being remote, they can build work environments that foster belonging, connection, and work-life balance. 

If you missed the panel, you could watch the full recording here. Since there wasn’t enough time to answer all the questions submitted by viewers, we decided to respond through a three-part post-webinar Q&A series. Oyster recently answered questions about cultivating well-being in a distributed workforce, and keep an eye out for Culture Amp's post about measuring employee engagement in a remote environment. 

For Welcome’s post, we’re answering the question, how do you cultivate team culture and facilitate staff getting to know each other outside of work-focused meetings? Below, we’ve outlined five ways to build connection during day-to-day work, and five ways to improve connection through bigger team-building activities.

Let’s dive in!

5 Ways to Build Remote Culture & Connection During the Work Day

The better your team knows one another, the easier it will be to understand communication patterns and collaborate effectively. It takes time to build connections into the work day, but each of these suggestions will improve your team’s working relationships—and build your remote culture. 

1. Make time to get to know each other

Managers create team dynamics, which means you have a lot of control over how you get to know your team—and how your team gets to know one another. 

If you’re interested in helping your team build relationships that lead to better work, consider a few of the following tactics:

  • Let people share. Build in time to share weekend plans or other life updates at the beginning or end of your team syncs. If your agenda is too full, or you don’t open up the floor, you risk your team feeling disconnected from one another—and from you.
  • Ask themed questions. Less comfortable with open-ended discussion? Try a round robin-style Q&A on a specific theme. Favorite conversation-starters include, “What job did you want when you were growing up?” and “What non-career goal are you working toward right now?”
  • Take it to Slack. Keep the conversation going outside of your weekly or daily syncs by starting affinity-based Slack channels devoted to cooking, pets, or TV. Give people spaces to share what they’re watching or listening to, even if it’s not strictly work-related.

Remember, says Kim Rohrer, Head of Employee Experience at Oyster, work culture isn’t just gathering together outside of work-focused meetings. “It’s how you run your meetings. It’s how you assign work. It’s how you promote. That is all culture.”

2. Spotlight your new hires

It’s always hard to be the new kid on the block. That’s especially true when you’re hired for a remote position or a remote company.

Make it easier for your new hires to get to know their colleagues, so they can start building the connections that are so important to meaningful, engaged work. You can:

  • Introduce them during your all-hands meeting via a fun ice-breaker, like “Two Truths & A Lie”
  • Set up quick informational meetings with colleagues across departments
  • Match them up with an onboarding buddy for extra support

New hires make decisions about their company within the first six months, which makes onboarding a crucial time to create relationships with new colleagues.

3. Departmental AMAs

Maybe your direct reports are doing great, and you’ve got the remote team syncs down to a “T.” How are you building relationships with other members of your company, especially if your team is cross-functional?

During remote work, it’s all too easy to become more siloed instead of more connected. To help encourage communication across departments, consider hosting a weekly or monthly departmental “ask me anything” session, or AMA. 

For example, your sales team might share the customer questions they’re fielding on the regular, or your engineering team might give everyone a peek into critical feature updates. 

By opening up the communication channels, your entire company will have a better understanding of mission, vision, and cross-team collaboration efforts that lead to better engagement.

4. Mentorship programs

Demonstrating that you care about your team members’ career development is an incredible way to establish more meaningful relationships. 

In fact, as many as 65% of employees surveyed by the workforce agility platform Gloat at the beginning of the Great Resignation said that their current employer didn’t offer the kinds of employment opportunities for advancement they expected.

Whether you take the time to mentor your team members individually or establish a more formal mentorship program at your company, it pays to invest in understanding what your team members want to do—and where they want to go next in their careers.

5. Better all-hands meetings

Between the internal syncs and cross-departmental touch bases, you might be meeting-ed out. But don’t underestimate how important all-hands meetings are for building connection, both at an organizational level and on a personal level.

“What I tend to see across organizational data over the past eight months is that communication has become the number one driver of employee engagement,” said Bobby Melloy, Regional Director of People Science at Culture Amp. “Part of the reason is because people are using communications to understand what the future is for the organization, both in the near-term and then over the long-term.”

All-hands meetings are the place where organizational communication happens in an engaging way, so your team stays inspired and focused on the mission. By using a tool like Welcome, you can add the personal touches that make all-hands meetings more fun. This includes features like Lounge Room, which give your team members a chance to connect and watch an all-hands meeting together.

5 Remote Team-Building Ideas to Transform Your Connections

To build successful remote teams, team-building must be an intentional goal, too. This can be difficult for busy start-ups or short-staffed organizations where every moment counts—especially when quality team-building time doesn't always look like “work.” In fact, some of the best remote team-building activities don’t resemble work at all! 

But they are time well-spent. Team-building activities produce stronger, more connected teams who collaborate and solve problems together more effectively day-to-day. You just have to make time for them in your team’s busy schedule. Here are a few of our favorites:

1. Wellness experiences

When as many as 49% of workers identify as burned out, there’s huge value in hitting the pause button. Whether you schedule a yoga and meditation exercise, chat about feng shui, or go on a virtual safari, it’s important to build in time to re-center and come together as a team. Thankfully, Welcome makes it easy for you and your team to focus on experiential events that boost wellness, whether that’s for an hour or a day-long retreat!

2. After-hours adventures

From movie nights to Zoom happy hour, find ways for your team to connect when they can really put their work down and enjoy themselves. In the shift to remote work, 44% of employees feared loss of community and connection with their colleagues, which makes after-work bonding experiences more important than ever.

3. Games

Problem-solving games like virtual escape rooms can be great remote team-building activities. Any game that gets your team working together to creatively solve a problem will build the kinds of connections they need to collaborate effectively during regular work hours, too.

4. Clubs

From pet owners to parents, your workplace is filled with potential affinity groups that may wish to connect. These groups may even transform into full-fledged clubs, whether that’s a book club, art club, or movie club. The sky’s the limit!

5. In-person meetings

Last but not least, gathering in person is still important—even for remote teams. Whether you schedule a large retreat for the entire company or a small-scale retreat for individual teams, in-person time will help your team bond more quickly.

Want more in-person touch points for team members outside of retreats? Consider establishing local or regional networking. That way, colleagues in the same city or area can meet up for coffee, co-work, or just be available to one another as resources. 

Final Thoughts

It takes time and intention to build the kinds of connections that lead to incredible remote collaboration. But it can be done! Especially if you’re balancing casual relationship-building during your day-to-day tasks with bigger, more social efforts and events. It’s all for the culture!

Welcome is employee event software that supports your entire employee lifecycle. From wellness experiences to all-hands meetings that build engagement and create moments for connection, our software gives you the tools you need to gather your people.

Find out how Welcome can build better connections in your own remote team and book a demo today!

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