Team Productivity

How to Stay Connected with Coworkers When Working Remotely

Laura LaPrad
April 3, 2020
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If you’ve transitioned to remote work and are still trying to figure out how to bridge the distance with coworkers, you’re not alone. 

In fact, that question came up quite a bit during a live panel Q&A we hosted recently. So I thought I’d recap a few tips we shared to help you stay connected with your team. Here’s how to maintain a strong bond with colleagues when everyone works from home. 

Lead with kindness and compassion

We’re all experiencing a lot of change and uncertainty right now. That’s why grief expert David Kessler stressed the importance of being compassionate with each other in a recent interview with Harvard Business Review:

“. . . it’s a good time to stock up on compassion. Everyone will have different levels of fear and grief and it manifests in different ways. A coworker got very snippy with me the other day and I thought, That’s not like this person; that’s how they’re dealing with this. I’m seeing their fear and anxiety. So be patient. Think about who someone usually is and not who they seem to be in this moment.”

If you want to connect meaningfully with your team, you have to show them you genuinely care about them as humans first. So find ways to reach out and make a personal connection with your teammates.

Here’s how to extend kindness and compassion to your team during this time:

  • Check in to see how people are handling the situation. Most folks are carrying a lot on their shoulders right now. So make time to pause the status quo and just ask how people are doing. It can be as simple as starting 1:1 meetings with a personal status update or posting a quick check-in on Slack to see how everyone is and what’s keeping them busy in their downtime.
  • Offer help. Loneliness is a challenge for even the most seasoned remote workers. But social distancing cranks that isolation up to a whole new level, making it easy to feel all alone in the stress. That’s why it’s important to let coworkers know you’re on their side. If a team member is struggling, ask how you can help relieve their stress, and be there to help them succeed.
  • Be flexible. A lot of people are suddenly faced with caring for—and even educating—their kids on top of their normal work duties. So think about what you can do to help lighten the load or give a little extra grace with deadlines. In the grand scheme of things, this moment is temporary. Being flexible and kind so someone can spend more time with their kids in the short term will go a long way in building trust with your team over the long term.

Reach out and call someone

Sometimes just talking to someone is better and easier. So don’t be shy about picking up the phone or hopping on a video chat to talk things out with a teammate if email or Slack isn’t cutting it. 

It’s so easy to let miscommunication go when you’re left to your own solitude at home. But remember: To be clear is to be kind. Reaching out to a teammate at the first sign of confusion or misunderstanding helps everyone work better together—no matter the distance—and keeps false assumptions from creating division among your team.

Have virtual fun together

Nothing brings a team together like fun. That’s why we spend just as much time having fun together as we do getting work done at our annual meetups. 

The good news is, social distancing doesn’t have to put a stop to fun. You just have to get more creative about it. Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling:

  • Host a virtual lunch and learn, book club, or watch party. Meetings don’t have to be your only reason to get together. So why not organize just-for-fun gatherings over lunch or after hours? Schedule a Zoom call to discuss a book you read or share a TED Talk you’re jazzed about. Or watch a movie or show together online using Netflix Party. 
  • Create Slack channels for sharing life and/or hobbies with each other. Remote work eliminates casual conversations around the water cooler. While that’s awesome for productivity, it makes it hard to connect on a personal level. At TeamGantt, we have Slack channels for sharing pet photos, weekend/family fun, Spotify playlists, and common interests like 4x4s, movies, gardening, fantasy football, and even yacht rock. 🛥🎸
  • Schedule a virtual social hour. This is a great way to wrap up a week of hard work with each other. Block out an hour at 4:00 pm on Friday, and ask everyone to bring their favorite drink or mug and share their biggest win of the week, a creative way they’re social distancing, or something bringing them joy right now. 

Build shout-outs into your team routine

It’s easy to stop by a coworker’s desk to thank them for helping you out with a project. But those off-the-cuff moments of recognition take extra effort when everyone’s working at home. 

High-fives may be off-limits as we social distance, but that doesn’t mean you can’t recognize the awesome work your team is doing and create a culture of compliments among your team. 

So why not make space for morale-boosting in your remote routine? Dedicate 5 or 10 minutes of your weekly team meeting to shout-outs, or set up a shout-outs channel in Slack or Microsoft Teams. This will ensure your team feels seen and heard, even from far away. 

Be transparent about your plan

Whether you lead projects or manage a team, people look to you for information. And with so much uncertainty in the air, there’s never been a bigger need for open and honest communication. 

A recent Harvard Business Review article puts it like this:

“The more you communicate and share, the less chance there is to develop an information vacuum within your team. Communicate regularly even if you don’t have new information to share. Maintaining transparency through a crisis with frequent updates is the ultimate expression of good faith, empathy, and genuine concern for your team.”

One simple way to maintain transparency is to make a plan for how you’re going to get through this. So much of what’s happening is beyond our control, and it’s easy for people to get distracted with everything going on. Focusing on what you do have control over—and communicating that plan to the team—helps ease anxiety and provides clarity into next steps you can all take together.

Create a free plan for your remote team

Want to create a plan that’s easy to communicate to your team? With TeamGantt, you can build a clear project plan in minutes so you and your team can power through projects together.

Monitor task progress, spot potential delays, collaborate in real time, and share project updates with your team and stakeholders—all in one simple and intuitive tool.

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