Today, more than in the past, businesses of all sizes and across all industries are working in a hybrid business model. The model may look different in every company, but it typically includes a core group of employees and managers working in-house while other staff works remotely or on-site a few days a week or month. In some businesses, everyone works remotely, with only the management team having a set physical work location.
While there are many benefits to a hybrid or remote work model, there are also a growing number of challenges. One of the challenges is in creating authentic connections between team members and team members and leadership. That sense of human connection within teams is a driving force in meeting goals, creating new and innovative processes, and feeling a part of the group that is there to support each other and work together.
The Importance of Connection
Feeling valued and important in a team is one of the leading predictors of employee retention. People want to belong and be valued for who they are, even if they are not working in a traditional office or workplace environment.
There are effective ways for leaders to build this sense of team for all employees, but it does take specific and intentional steps to build inclusion, understanding, and a sense of camaraderie between the team.
Effective strategies include:
- Highlighting achievements and areas of strength – using virtual meetings to highlight something a team member has done, either at work or outside of work, is a great way to build a sense of understanding. This also adds another dimension to the team as they may find interests and hobbies that build those connections.
- Encourage communication – set up a separate platform or private group where team members can talk about or post anything other than work-related information. Think of this like a Facebook private group where people can share holiday photos, inspirational quotes, or special activities and events that others can participate in or learn more about.
- Conversation starters – consider having a conversation starter, puzzle, or an activity that is non-work related that is posted on your team’s communication tool once a week. This could be a Friday Fun puzzle or a Monday Motivation. Encourage people to comment or to work together to come up with ideas, brainstorming, or creative solutions.
- Breakout rooms – schedule time in each team meeting for breakout room sessions. This is a great way for employees to gather in small groups of 3 or more to share something about themselves and to have time to talk to people on the team they may not interact with on a regular basis.
If possible, consider adding a retreat for the team to gather in person at least once a year. These retreats are invaluable in adding that connection and in-person interaction that is difficult to replicate on virtual platforms.