Don’t think for a moment that only employees who stand around the company water cooler each day build bonds. Plenty of methods exist for remote workers to get to know their colleagues—and reap benefits such as improved overall communication, a sense of belonging, and increased job satisfaction.
Looking for inspiration? Here, remote workers share their own ways to get to know coworkers:
Make time for small talk.
When it comes to turning strangers into friends, think initiative and consistency. Fellow remote workers likely will be thrilled with your courage to break the ice, and regular interaction shows genuine interest. Consider “arriving” early for virtual meetings to enjoy casual conversation. End an email with a friendly question about holiday plans. Pick up the phone simply to see how someone is doing.
“I video chat at least weekly with each of my immediate coworkers,” says Alexandra Hopkin of Simply Paraplanner. “It’s the easiest way to get a glimpse into my personal life. Am I having a great day? You can tell from my appearance and demeanor. Am I a hot mess express? That will be obvious too. You get to know your virtual coworkers on a very personal level when you schedule regular video chats!”
Take full advantage of chat platforms.
Use collaboration hubs for more than posting work-related documents. When colleagues share pet photos in a virtual “kennel” or contribute to a discussion on which film should win this year’s Oscar, they get a glimpse into the personalities and interests of others.
Fiona Adler, founder of Actioned.com, suggests a “question of the week” where everyone posts an answer. “It could be things like ‘If you could travel anywhere, where would you choose and why?’ or ‘What was the most memorable birthday gift you’ve received?’ Usually, the last person to answer has to come up with the question for the next week, so there’s a small incentive to get your answer in! Although it’s simple, doing something like this each week actually reveals a lot about each team member and sparks lots of conversation and a greater understanding for one another.”
Start a staff blog or newsletter.
The act of creating a central place for remote workers to contribute information and read about others automatically promotes stronger connections. Workers feel like part of a special team.
At Accessibility Partners, principal partner Dana Marlowe notes that the “employee spotlight” feature of the company blog involves one remote worker interviewing another, providing the chance for one-to-one contact, as well as sharing what was learned with others. “We’ll also find fun holidays, like National Clean Up Your Desk Day, and ask our workforce to send pictures of their desks to see how everyone works.”
Let the good times roll.
Finally, all work and no play make Jack and Jill dull remote workers. People bond through shared positive experiences, so set the stage for enjoyable interaction.
“We hold optional movie nights once per month on company time. Using a joint viewing software, we’ll all get together virtually to watch a kitsch movie (typically low-budget sci-fi). Most tune in, even if it’s just in the background while they’re working on something else,” says Kyle Sloka-Frey, partner at Aces Design.
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