Blue Beyond Consulting

How to Keep Remote Teams Connected: 5 Strategies for Maximum Impact

Did you know that there are very few things that motivate employees more than a strong connection to their coworkers? In fact, research from Gallup shows that people who have a good friend at work are not only more likely to enjoy their time at work, but they are also significantly more likely to get more work accomplished in less time, innovate, and drive business outcomes. For co-located companies, closeness happens almost organically over lunch, coffee breaks, or a beer after work. But how can you ensure that your remote teams remain just as connected as those in the office? 

The truth is that employee engagement and team effectiveness is an outcomes of whether or not employees truly feel connected to the company, its purpose, and their coworkers. Focusing on what makes your company unique — shared norms, mindsets, and behaviors — will enable your team to work together effectively.

Here are five ways to keep remote teams connected and engaged in your culture.

1. Ask How They Like to Work

It may seem intuitive, but asking your team what works best for them can help you establish effective workflows. As one example, you might ask your team if they’d like to work asynchronously, which can help drive deliverables without having to wait for others to complete a task. Not only does this promote connection and engagement, it allows you to demonstrate empathetic leadership, a key component of a successful remote work model.

By establishing a cadence that leans into the ways they work, you’ll maximize their productivity and set them up for success on their own terms (remote work loves autonomy). 

2. Communicate, Then Communicate Some More

One of the most important tools that effective remote managers have to make their teams feel connected is to make them feel heard. Schedule regular 1-on-1s that focus not only on the work and what you can do to support them, but also to ask how they’re doing as people. Ensure that everyone has an adequate feedback loop to communicate concerns or questions without being afraid. Communicate via different channels such as chat, email, or project management apps so people aren’t in meetings all day.

Hold regular team meetings and make space for people to enhance their relationships with their colleagues. One simple and engaging way to do this is by beginning your next meeting with interesting icebreaker questions. Use these conversation cards and ideas to get started.

3. Put Your Values into Action

Your company’s values are the heart of your culture and alignment around those values helps your organization to achieve its core mission by providing a common purpose. But it’s not enough to put it on a poster or a plaque – you have to visibly live those values every day.

Find ways to model your organization’s values by aligning them with your organization’s culture activities and recognizing and rewarding those who live them. Consistently communicate and train your values, and don’t forget to ask your employees what values matter to them to ensure alignment. We can help you do that with Values Navigator™

4. Make Others Feel Seen and Valued

Out-of-sight should never mean out-of-mind, and one of the biggest pieces missing for remote workers is recognition. In fact, a report from InComm on the post-COVID state of work shared that 59% of employees feel less appreciated by their teams while working remotely. This can lead to disengagement and feeling forgotten, which will destroy the connection.

Bringing recognition rituals to your remote team brings your team together. It can be anything from a shoutout on a team or company meeting to a personalized gift or an eCard. Show appreciation beyond just work things too (e.g., Best Office Coworker Award goes to – Frodo the Cat!). Use our fun template to create and send kudos right away.

5. Share Stories

At the core of all human interaction lies emotion. When you tell stories, different areas of your employees’ brains are stimulated, combining words, logic, emotions and sensory images. Good stories make us feel something as we listen to them — excitement, empathy or enthusiasm. Storytelling is a powerful tool to build a feeling of community and connection.

Build a story that helps team members connect their functional activities with the organization’s objectives. Allow your team members to share stories about how their work has made an impact or that of a teammate who contributed to a project. Sharing stories will help your team stay motivated and engaged. Download the activity to get started.

Other Strategies to Cultivate Trust with Your Remote Teams

While it’s important for employees to feel connected to their coworkers, company culture, and work, it’s also vital that they feel connected to their managers and leaders — and building that connection starts with trust. 

For all managers, deep, two-way trust with your team is essential to effective collaboration and productivity. In a virtual setting, it’s important to be especially mindful of how you deliberately build and maintain trust with team members you don’t see in person on a daily basis.

Here are some tips to help you cultivate a deep trust culture:

Clarify Roles and Responsibilities

If you’re used to working in an office, remote team dynamics may appear slightly different. Ensure that team members know which of their peers they can turn to with specific questions and consider delegating responsibilities that can be managed without your direct input. 

Delegating tasks to your team and trusting them to follow through serves two important purposes: it will curb any tendency you have to micromanage and free up valuable time so you can avoid becoming a bottleneck for productivity.

Lead from the Trenches, If Needed

While you don’t want to micromanage, your team may need to see you a bit more visibly “in the work” with them. Leaning into opportunities to actively support your team members in a more hands-on way than you might have in an in-person work environment can bolster a sense of camaraderie and heighten your visibility in virtual settings. In doing so, it’s also likely you’ll find an increased sense of confidence and team effectiveness

Practice Deep Listening

Seek to understand before seeking to be understood is a time-worn adage, but it especially holds true in remote work environments where communication can be all the more difficult. 

Allow your team to share their concerns, triumphs, and fears — and practice listening without judgment or critique. When people know they have been heard, they feel seen and validated — all building blocks of deep trust.

Encourage Self-Care

Many managers worry that their team will be less productive while working from home. In reality, most employees spend too much time at their desks when working remotely out of fear they are not being visible enough, and it actually hinders productivity and engagement. 

Encourage your team to take time to stretch and move around and to block their calendars for lunch breaks, dog walks, and other restorative activities.

Keep Vision and Purpose Top of Mind

Remind your team how their contributions fit into the larger company purpose and vision. And, don’t forget to cascade messages from company leadership to the rest of your team to maintain transparency and instill confidence about your organization’s future.

The Wrap-Up

Supporting your people by building connections and establishing deep trust is crucial to the emotional well-being of your teams and, in turn, crucial to the success of your organization. Remote teams can be very close-knit, but the distance involved requires better planning and deliberate effort. 

Utilize communication, keep it fun, tell good stories, and maximize productivity by living your values and recognizing your team members. By taking a little time to build strong relationships, you’ll create a more cohesive and effective team that is set up for success.

Feeling a little disconnected? See how Blue Beyond can help you create strategies that engage and inspire your remote teams.