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Connect Remote Teams: How to Make Remote Employees Feel Included? Strategies that Work

Connect Remote Teams: How to Make Remote Employees Feel Included? Strategies that Work
Connect Remote Teams: How to Make Remote Employees Feel Included? Strategies that Work
In recent times, remote work has undergone a significant transformation, in this post will discuss Connect Remote Teams: How to Make Remote Employees Feel Included? Strategies that Work
Posted in: Remote Work
Connect Remote Teams: How to Make Remote Employees Feel Included? Strategies that Work
Connect Remote Teams: How to Make Remote Employees Feel Included? Strategies that Work

Is Connect Remote Teams important? In recent times, remote work has undergone a significant transformation, emerging as the prevailing mode of employment for many individuals and organizations. 

While this shift has brought about notable benefits, including heightened flexibility and reduced commuting hassles, it has also presented a unique set of challenges. Among these challenges, perhaps one of the most prominent is the task of ensuring that remote employees feel genuinely included and connected within their virtual workspaces.

Remote work has reshaped the traditional landscape of office camaraderie, replacing water cooler chats and in-person interactions with digital interfaces. 

As a result, crafting strategies to bridge this gap and foster a sense of inclusion among remote team members has become a critical imperative for companies navigating this evolving work paradigm.

Key Takeways

  • Prioritize clear communication and virtual social interaction to include remote workers effectively.
  • Integration of remote employees requires clear expectations, open communication, and collaboration.
  • Foster inclusivity through active listening, recognition, and opportunities for professional growth.
  • Avoid remote work pitfalls by maintaining open communication and seeking regular collaboration.

How to Make Remote Employees Feel Included - A Complete Guide

How to Make Remote Employees Feel Included - A Complete Guide

Understanding the Challenges of Remote Workers

The paradigm shift toward remote work has ushered in a distinctive era of employment, marked by profound distinctions from traditional on-site work dynamics. 

In remote work, a palpable disconnect emerges as employees and their managers find themselves physically distanced from one another. 

While remote work offers an array of alluring advantages, it simultaneously unfurls a set of distinctive challenges, each warranting consideration. 

1. No Face-to-Face Supervision

​The first of these challenges resides in face-to-face supervision—a facet that is conspicuously absent in remote work arrangements. Managers often grapple with apprehensions about employee diligence and efficiency, notwithstanding compelling research indicating otherwise. 

Conversely, employees navigate the hurdles of diminished access to managerial support and communication, fostering a sense of isolation from their superiors. 

This can lead remote workers to perceive their managers as detached from their needs, potentially hindering the attainment of their work objectives.

2. Unclear Expectations

​The second challenge looms in the form of unclear expectations. Clarity regarding job responsibilities, once inherently understood within the office environment, does not seamlessly translate to remote work scenarios. 

Employees often seek enhanced guidance and explicit directives to navigate the intricacies of objective accomplishment, communication responsiveness, and virtual meeting attendance effectively.

3. Productivity Levels

 Amid this transformation, productivity levels undergo scrutiny as the third challenge emerges. While a substantial portion of remote workers lauds increased productivity within the comforts of their homes, some individuals may grapple with the remote work paradigm. 

The absence of direct in-person supervision poses a hurdle for these employees, necessitating additional support and innovative mechanisms for time tracking and progress monitoring.

4. Communication Problems

The fourth challenge lies in the field of communication. 

The daily routine of gathering at the office for discussions and idea exchanges, whether preceding meetings or amidst informal office interactions, undergoes a transformation in remote work settings. 

The spontaneous engagement of face-to-face interactions gives way to a more calculated and premeditated form of communication and engagement. 

5. Maintaining Team Cohesiveness

In today's hybrid work landscape, a fifth challenge comes to the forefront—maintaining team cohesiveness while managing both on-site and remote employees concurrently. 

In these scenarios, a delicate balance must be struck to ensure equitable treatment for all, avoiding disparities in the benefits offered to different employee groups. 

6. Isolation 

The world of social isolation constitutes the sixth and final challenge. 

The intrinsic value of regular human interaction often becomes apparent only when remote workers no longer have the bustling office environment as their daily backdrop. Loneliness emerges as a prevalent concern, exerting repercussions on mental and physical well-being and instilling a sense of disconnection from the organization. 

In severe cases, prolonged social isolation may culminate in anxiety, depression, decreased productivity, or even a heightened inclination to seek alternative employment opportunities.

Why is it Important to Connect Remote Teams? 

The evolving work landscape in our modern era emphasizes flexibility and autonomy, particularly in hybrid and remote employment. It is important to connect remote teams in order to increase productivity. Amid the trials and tribulations of the year 2020, numerous individuals reported an improved work/life balance within this new paradigm. However, there exist significant challenges as well.

Remote workers experience a sense of being "left out" from the workplace. 

It underscores the fundamental human need for connection in thriving. Navigating this terrain necessitates careful consideration, especially when physical proximity is absent and remote teams comprise individuals who may have never met in person. 

It amplifies the challenge of fostering authentic connections and a sense of inclusion within the company culture.

These challenges, once unique to geographically isolated employees, have become pervasive. 

The encouraging aspect is that solutions and tools are readily available to enhance connection and bolster employee engagement within remote workforces.

Strategies Make Remote Employees Feel Included

1. Keep Employees Informed

Ensuring that remote employees remain well-informed is paramount, particularly in an environment characterized by frequent changes and evolving circumstances. As an integral component of your business communication strategy, it is imperative to adopt a proactive approach to sharing company updates with your remote workforce. 

This entails the practice of conveying important company news to your employees before it is disseminated to the public. 

This preemptive communication affords your remote team an invaluable opportunity: the chance to seek clarification, ask questions, and offer feedback, thereby fostering a sense of inclusivity and engagement within the organization.

2. Promote Wellbeing of Remote Employees 

Promoting the wellbeing of remote employees is a crucial responsibility, especially when the signs of struggle might not be readily apparent in virtual workspaces. Be attentive to potential cues that remote team members may be experiencing 'isolation fatigue,' such as keeping their cameras off during meetings, missing scheduled engagements, or calling in sick. Early intervention is key to addressing these issues effectively.

To bolster personal and professional wellbeing, consider offering remote employees access to training opportunities and financial support. 

With the elimination of daily commutes, many individuals now have extra time at their disposal to invest in enriching courses and development. 

Encourage open conversations about employees' interests outside of work to demonstrate genuine appreciation for them as individuals, not merely as resources. This fosters a supportive and holistic work environment.

3. Empowering Remote Workers

Empowering your remote workforce is crucial, especially in circumstances where many external factors are beyond our control. Providing employees with a sense of autonomy is key. 

Offer flexibility in terms of working hours and patterns, allowing individuals to adapt their schedules to their needs. 

Moreover, empowers them to make decisions about the finer details, such as choosing between video or audio calls for catch-up meetings. These small steps can go a long way in making remote employees feel more in control and engaged.

4. Foster a Sense of Belonging 

Fostering a sense of belonging to the company culture can be a challenge, especially in a hybrid working environment. 

Frontline managers, in particular, may find it difficult to convey the essence of the culture to remote employees. To enhance inclusion, encourage your remote and deskless workers to contribute their perspectives to your company's values. Consider how these values are adapting to the current landscape. 

In this context, it might be necessary to emphasize company values more explicitly through your communication channels rather than relying on the subtle "feeling" that often arises when everyone is in the same physical location.

5. Encourage Communication 

Promoting communication among remote employees is essential for building a cohesive team. Encourage informal catch-ups among team members, such as virtual coffee breaks. To create a sense of intimacy and trust, consider organizing smaller groups. For larger teams, you can establish multiple coffee-break groups and rotate participants on a weekly basis. 

Additionally, for new team members, it can be beneficial to assign them a buddy who can help them acclimate.

One-on-one meetings with managers hold even greater significance in remote work scenarios. Make sure these meetings remain a priority in your schedule.  Maintain an open-door policy and provide remote employees with a choice of communication channels to reach out to you, allowing them to use the most comfortable method. 

6. Listen to Employees 

Ensuring that every employee's voice is heard is crucial for fostering a sense of inclusion, particularly among deskless workers who may feel their contributions go unnoticed. Organizations can prioritize inclusion for remote employees by providing avenues for them to express their thoughts. Utilize mobile social platforms alongside traditional methods like employee surveys to gather their input.

In meetings, allocate dedicated time for remote or deskless workers to share their insights, especially if they are experiencing disengagement. When they do contribute, you should actively listen and provide positive feedback. Extend this practice to email and team chat interactions, offering micro-feedback to validate and motivate individuals. 

These efforts can significantly contribute to making every employee feel valued and heard.

7. Engage Employees with Fun Activities

Engaging remote employees through fun activities is essential for boosting team spirit and connectivity. Consider organizing planned activities such as quizzes, book clubs, or karaoke nights. 

To enhance engagement further, allocate a budget for these activities and empower remote employees to take turns selecting themes and deciding how to utilize the budget. 

This approach not only fosters a sense of ownership but also ensures that everyone can contribute to creating enjoyable experiences within the team. 

8. Adopt Hybrid Working Model 

Maximizing connections among remote employees in a hybrid work environment requires a thoughtful approach to scheduling. Flexibility in working hours is essential to accommodate various priorities and commitments. 

To mitigate feelings of loneliness and disconnection, consider establishing a balance between flexible hours and designated core hours when employees are expected to be online together. 

Additionally, encouraging the use of video during specific meetings can further foster a sense of connection among remote teams. 

9. Use Modern Communication Tools 

Leveraging communication tools is a potent method for enhancing engagement and promoting inclusion among remote employees. 

By setting a leadership example, utilize your preferred communication platform to consistently share vital updates, encourage two-way conversations, and elevate the visibility of top executives within the organization. 

Regularly disseminating information through these channels not only keeps remote employees well-informed but also instills a sense of belonging and connectedness. 

It demonstrates that their voices are valued, and their concerns are heard, fostering a more inclusive environment where ideas can flow freely, collaboration thrives, and a shared sense of purpose is cultivated among remote team members.

How to Stay Connected when Working Remotely 

Staying connected with your team members while working remotely requires personal responsibility and proactive effort. Simply sitting in front of your computer won't create that connection magically. 

Here are some practical strategies to help you establish and maintain connections in your day-to-day remote work:

1. Engage in Virtual Team-Building Activities

Engaging in virtual team-building activities is a key strategy to make remote employees feel included. 

In the digital age, fostering a sense of belonging and camaraderie among distributed teams is essential for productivity and morale. Virtual team-building activities, such as online games, video conferencing icebreakers, and collaborative projects, bridge the physical gap and build interpersonal relationships.

These activities provide remote employees with opportunities to connect on a personal level, share experiences, and break the monotony of work. They also promote communication, trust, and empathy, strengthening the team's cohesion. 

By investing in these strategies, organizations can ensure that remote employees feel valued, motivated, and part of a cohesive team, ultimately enhancing their job satisfaction and performance.

2. Don't Ignore the Small Talk

Embracing small talk in virtual meetings can be awkward, especially when you're the first to join. Many of us are guilty of waiting until there are a few participants. In such cases, take the initiative to start these conversations with the aim of making everyone in the video call feel at ease.

Looking for conversation starters? Next time you're the early bird in a virtual meeting, consider these to help break the ice:

  • How's your day going so far?
  • Did you catch the latest weather forecast?
  • Have any fun weekend plans coming up?
  • Any good movies or TV shows you've seen lately?

3. Join Virtual Breaks

Remember those enjoyable mid-morning coffee breaks at the office? Well, you can still have them while working remotely. If you used to have a coffee buddy, consider penciling in a 15-minute coffee break in your calendar once every couple of weeks. It's a great way to foster meaningful connections over a freshly brewed cup of coffee.

Don't have a coffee buddy? No problem. Reach out to your HR or people and culture team to explore the possibility of setting up these virtual coffee breaks. 

If your team uses Slack, you can even suggest using an app like Donut, which can help recreate those in-office vibes right from the comfort of your home office. It's a delightful way to enhance your remote work culture and stay connected. 

4. Recognize your Co-Workers for their Work

Few things can rival the warm and uplifting feeling of being recognized and appreciated by your co-workers. In the virtual workplace, it's often the little gestures that leave the most significant impressions.

Acknowledging a fellow team member's excellent work during a meeting can set a positive tone and strengthen your professional relationships. Even a simple "thank you" posted on your company's communication platform can help spread positivity. It also encourages your colleagues to reciprocate when they witness your outstanding contributions.

If you've ever felt overlooked in the past year, now is the perfect time to initiate a culture of recognition. Let's make appreciative vibes a regular part of our virtual work environment!

 5. Try to Keep the Camera On

While it may sometimes feel like an extra step, keeping your camera on during virtual meetings can significantly enhance your connection with your remote team.

If you tend to multitask during work calls, having your camera on can help you stay more engaged and present in the meeting. It reduces the temptation to wander off to the kitchen, the backyard, or even sneak in a nap.

6. Attend Morning Meetings

 When it comes to remote work, we often find ourselves in two categories: the early birds and the not-so-early birds.

Early birds rise with the sun, squeezing in exercise, enjoying a local coffee, and calmly preparing for the day. Meanwhile, the not-so-early birds might roll out of bed minutes before their first meeting, camera off, coffee in hand, and calendar on standby.

While we all can't be early risers, setting the alarm just 15 minutes earlier to freshen up, make that morning coffee, or engage in pre-meeting small talk can make a significant difference. You'll come across as more approachable and start your day on the right note.

7. Regularly Read Company Updates

Opening and reading company updates might not be the most thrilling activity, but trust us – it's a game-changer. Staying in the loop with what's happening in your organization is key to feeling supported in your role.

Moreover, it's an excellent opportunity to raise any concerns or suggest improvements. Imagine missing out on free food at a company event just because you didn't read the memo or RSVP in time.

So, if the thought of free snacks at a company gathering gets your heart racing, it's time to dive into those emails, stay informed, and enjoy those tasty perks!

Creative Ways to Communicate with Remote Employees

To maintain remote employees' engagement in an enjoyable manner, it's essential to employ creative communication approaches. Consider organizing virtual meetings centered around team-building activities or games. Additionally, try diversifying your message delivery methods, such as using videos instead of emails for crucial team updates.

Moreover, having the right tools designed for remote work and communication is crucial. For instance, Switchboard goes beyond screen sharing; it allows you to collaborate seamlessly with your colleagues on important projects and tasks, enhancing remote team productivity.

To foster trust and open communication in remote teams, it's essential to establish effective practices:

  • Implement a comprehensive employee onboarding program that includes personalized introductions from team members. Sending a brief video or a personalized message can help new hires feel welcome and connected.
  • Maintain inclusive team meetings by using agendas that ensure everyone has an opportunity to express their thoughts, concerns, and opinions. This approach not only keeps everyone informed but also builds trust within the team.
  • Create an environment where employees feel safe sharing their opinions and ideas. Encourage vulnerability, peer-to-peer appreciation, and open communication during team meetings to foster trust and inclusivity.
  • Even in close-knit remote teams, it's crucial to address sensitive matters privately. This approach helps maintain trust and safeguards individual team members' privacy.
  • Keep employees engaged by diversifying how you deliver content and messages. Utilize various mediums such as video, voice notes, gifs, and polls to cater to different learning styles and ensure effective communication without overwhelming them with lengthy written content.

Activities to Engage Remote Employees

Remote employee engagement ideas encompass a range of enjoyable virtual activities and events designed to strengthen team bonds and boost performance. 

Consider these examples:

  • Create virtual spaces where team members can casually connect, share anecdotes, and build rapport. These informal interactions simulate the office water cooler experience and foster a sense of community.
  • Challenge your team's problem-solving skills with virtual escape room adventures. These engaging activities promote teamwork, critical thinking, and communication while adding an element of fun to remote work.
  • Host virtual dinner gatherings where team members can enjoy a meal together, chat about non-work topics, and unwind. These events enhance company culture, encourage camaraderie, and help employees relax.

These activities not only contribute to a positive company culture but also improve productivity and strengthen relationships among remote employees. 

Wrapping up

Fostering inclusion among remote employees is vital in today's work landscape. Understanding their unique challenges, such as supervision gaps and isolation, is crucial. Recognizing the importance of connecting remote teams is the first step.

To address these challenges, strategies like keeping employees informed, promoting wellbeing, empowering them, and encouraging communication are essential. Engaging in fun activities, adopting hybrid working models, and utilizing modern communication tools can enhance connectivity. Practical tips for staying connected remotely include team-building activities, embracing small talk, participating in virtual breaks, and recognizing colleagues' contributions.

Incorporating these strategies and activities into remote work culture improves productivity, job satisfaction, and overall success for employees and organizations. Prioritizing the inclusion of remote teams is essential for thriving in the modern workplace.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I make remote workers feel more included?

To make remote workers feel more included, ensure clear communication, involve them in team meetings and decisions, provide opportunities for virtual social interaction, recognize their contributions, and offer support for their well-being. 

Regular check-ins and sharing company updates also help in creating a sense of belonging.

How do you integrate remote employees?

Integrating remote employees involves setting clear expectations, providing them with the necessary tools and resources, fostering open communication, and ensuring they are part of team activities and decision-making processes. 

Encouraging collaboration and recognizing their input is key to successful integration. 

How do you make employees feel more included? 

To make employees feel more included, promote a culture of inclusivity by actively listening to their ideas and concerns, providing opportunities for professional development, recognizing their achievements, and encouraging diverse perspectives. Regular team-building activities and social interactions can also enhance their sense of belonging.

What is a common mistake to avoid when working remotely? 

A common mistake to avoid when working remotely is neglecting regular communication. Failing to maintain open and frequent communication with colleagues and supervisors can lead to isolation and misunderstandings. It's essential to stay connected, share progress, and seek help when needed to ensure remote work success. 

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Wednesday, 17 April 2024
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