Working from home was a trend that was on the increase before 2020, but the pandemic accelerated the process and today a large number of employees only come into the office part-time. Some voices in the media continue to claim that these WFH employees are less productive, but the reality is that the majority of employees given the flexibility to work from home at least some of the time are more productive than they were when they went into the office and will give part of their “commute time” back to the company.
Working from home, or a local co-working space, part time is the future for many people. Productivity is up as a result of this flexibility, but difficulty remains in keeping employees engaged and building a close-knit team, something that would happen more naturally with people sitting next to each other all day in the office.
Here are three things to focus on to build virtual team bonds and engage your remote employees.
1. Encourage health and wellness
Healthy workers are happy workers, and their health and wellbeing will have a significant impact on their performance at work. As such, it may be useful to encourage your employees to spend more time outdoors, cook a healthy meal, or get moving with some more exercise.
You could start a wellness programme for your employees, that included access to meditation apps and discounts for gym membership. Or, it might be productive to create a competition where your employees could compete on running or cycling to win a prize. If any of these options help your employees build healthy habits then that is a positive result.
2. Host virtual meetings and casual hangouts
There are a wealth of communication tools available to help employees stay connected during the workday, from video calls to instant messaging. Depending on the nature of the work, it may be useful to have these tools live throughout the day, so people can quickly ask questions or make comments without the hassle of scheduling a meeting for just five minutes time – a period where in an office the employees would just walk to the other’s desk.
It is also important to plan virtual get-togethers so employees can develop relationships with each other outside of the structure of work. Virtual events for team building can be a useful tool with events ranging from open chats over a virtual beer or cup of coffee, or a more structured exercise such as cooking together or watching a film together with a “watch-party” and discussing it afterwards.
3. Foster personal connections
The workplace is a professional arena. However, each member of your team is a unique individual that has their own life, loved ones, and experiences. They will have good days and bad days, and just as if you were in the office it is important to check in with how they are doing and always treating them with respect.
Nobody is a robot. Productivity will go up and down throughout the year, and you should trust your employees to try their best and help them achieve their potential. By understanding your team and their passions, you will be able to better motivate them and connect with them in a more personal way. Remote employees are at their most productive when they feel like a valued member of a team, and it is up to you to make sure that is the case.