6 Ways to Forge Stronger Virtual Connections Among Employees
Remote work is here to stay. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, remote work was a fringe benefit at most organizations. Now, nearly 40% of employees have transitioned to remote working arrangements, according to a survey from the Boston Consulting Group. While this is a welcomed change for some, other employers are concerned about burnout and dwindling employee connections.
However, remote work does not need to come at the cost of human connections, and employers can actually help foster to foster new, virtual connections among their employees. With the help of our friends at HR360, we’ve come up with six ways that employers can bring teams together and forge stronger connections.
1. Encourage the use of webcams
Social distancing doesn’t mean the end of face-to-face interactions. With many software solutions and tools available, employees can still have face time with one another. Employers should encourage webcams during meetings instead of audio only. This can help with meeting engagement and attentiveness and also foster deeper interpersonal connections.
2. Be mindful of word choice in emails
Words must be used carefully when relying on written communication since there are no nonverbal cues to pick up on. Additional context in emails is necessary to prevent misunderstandings. For example, an email that says “Do this again” reads a lot differently than “I thought you did a nice job on this, but we need you to redo it for X, Y, Z reasons.” When working virtually, you can’t always rely on a quick check-in to ensure your recipient understood the correct sentiment.
3. Respect everyone’s time
Since all meetings are conducted on the same laptop screen, meeting fatigue is increasingly cited as a top workplace complaint. Employers, be aware of this and do your best to reduce unnecessary meetings. Meeting fatigue can work against efforts to increase connectivity. Some organizations have even blocked-off certain days of the week when no meetings are allowed.
4. Promote team-building activities
Socialization is a big part of the workplace from impromptu hallway talks and quick chats after meetings and more. When employees are separated, they need new ways to decompress and get their minds off work. Consider hosting team-building activities or similar events like virtual trivia or board games, virtual happy hours or recipe swaps, virtual craft nights or holiday costume contests. These events do not need to be facilitated by employers; they can be coordinated and scheduled by a team of employee volunteers.
5. Get management involved
Make sure management is connected with their employees. This can strengthen workplace bonds, increase worker buy-in and show employees that they are valued. Managers should be tuned in to employee engagement and will want to make themselves present around the virtual workplace. This means participating in social activities, providing transparency on important organizational news and sending emails directly to employees.
6. Hold virtual office hours
Since managers are notoriously in and out of meetings all day, it can be hard to find time to bring up conversations that employees need to talk about outside of group settings. Managers can get around this by holding virtual office hours. These are times when employees can virtually connect and discuss what’s on their mind. This shows that managers want to connect with their employees, no matter the subject.
The need for social connectivity in the workplace has gone up alongside the rise in remote working. Employers need to get creative to keep workers productive and engaged. There are many virtual opportunities to do this. If you have any questions, contact the Rose & Kiernan, Inc. Employee Benefits Management Group (EBMG) here or by calling (800) 242-4433.