A quick summary:
- Why communication is key to managing remote teams
- How the internet is jam-packed with virtual team building activities
- Why asking how your colleague is doing goes a very long way
- Designing an action plan for maintaining culture while remote
- Using health and wellbeing to boost engagement for employees
Nurturing employee relationships is a skill a lot of leaders have to learn. Whether it’s building relationships between other employees or strengthening their own, it requires excellent interpersonal skills.
In the modern workplace, offices have been deserted in favour of working from home. This near-instant shift has created an array of new challenges; new considerations leaders need to prepare for.
Here, we’ve explored the various techniques leaders can employ to support employee relationships from afar. Surprisingly, most of these are minor details and changes that together, produce major results.
Managing remote teams
First and foremost, let’s explore how to manage remote teams. Like most things in life, we must lead with communication - because it really is key to managing a team of any size. Strong communication between one another is the recipe for collaborative success, regardless of location.
It’s also the best way to ensure everyone is on the same page, from a project perspective. Typically, people carry out the wrong tasks or achieve the wrong results through a breakdown of communication. Not because they lack the skills and know-how.
As a leader, it’s your responsibility to make sure everyone knows the ins and outs of a project. What your expectations are of them, and how they can achieve their very best. Once we’ve established robust communication with our team, perhaps through tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams, we move on to autonomy and accountability.
Autonomy and accountability are where trust is born. Nobody enjoys being micromanaged, and it often leaves us under too much pressure. We question whether our work is ever good enough. And by over critiquing ourselves, we set ourselves up for failure.
That said, pressure isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, some of us work pretty well under pressure. But if you don’t know how your team members react to pressure put on them, you’re likely to do more bad than good.
As for micromanaging employees, this might seem like a great idea for managing remote teams - avoid it at all costs! Judge your team by their results, not by whether they are active on Slack or typing in a shared Google Doc.
These kinds of behaviours are hard to shake for leaders, who simply want what’s best for the company. But it isn’t healthy for either party involved.
Similar read: How to effectively manage employee wellbeing remotely 💚
Virtual team building activities
When we look at nurturing employee relationships remotely, we must seek out ways to bring people closer together from a distance. Getting everyone involved in a virtual team building activity is one of the best ways to achieve this.
Now, this can be as creative as you’d like. Decide on whether your virtual team building activity should have a specific outcome or not. Perhaps you want your team to learn something or just have fun. Once you’ve found your intended goal, research the different ways to host virtual team building activities.
This is something we swear by here at Heka. Every fortnight on a Wednesday, the team finish with their work early and jump on a video call. We take it in turns to host a fun game, quiz or other team-building activity. It’s an opportunity for people to have fun and break away from what can sometimes be isolating and lonely, working from home.
Some ideas for your own virtual team building activities include virtual bookclubs, video call lunch and learns and virtual escape room challenges. Icebreaker games are especially good for new team members.
Simply ask how colleagues are doing
As we’ve learnt, employee relationships are important to the success of a business. People must work in harmony to achieve great things. From a distance, nurturing workplace relationships can be difficult.
Simply asking how colleagues are feeling is one of the quickest and cost-free ways to establish open communication. Truth be told, the past couple of years haven’t been smooth sailing for most of us. Anxiety has been high, and sometimes those negative emotions can haunt our efforts in the workplace.
As a leader, it’s your duty to ensure your team feel heard and understood. These are the principles for communication both in and outside the workplace. To achieve this, your line managers must also be trained in effective communication - a single leader can’t take on every concern, message or thought of each employee.
What’s more, through means of modern technology, leaders and managers have access to an abundance of tools to help track, manage and build successful communication. Take Slack, Microsoft Teams and Zoom for example.
These three tools have helped teams communicate effectively from a distance. Employees can build relationships and work on the right tasks without face-to-face communication.
But that isn’t all, simple tools like Google calendar are a great way for leaders to add reminders to check in with certain team members on a regular basis. This can help employees feel valued while working remotely.
Similar read: How to run a 1-2-1 wellbeing meeting for managers
Design an action plan for maintaining culture while remote
Before moving to a hybrid or remote working schedule, leaders must collaborate on an action plan. This means C-level employees can sing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to the remote culture. In fact, 94% of entrepreneurs say a healthy workplace culture is vital for success.
So, why else create a plan of action when it comes to remote work culture? Well, leaders who can identify what’s needed to build a solid remote workforce can easily recognise what constitutes a poor culture. Knowing these telltale signs means leaders can avoid any potential hurdles facing their business's remote culture.
Finally, an action plan for maintaining working culture remotely means leaders can put together policies and guides for new and existing employees to absorb. These materials will give employees a better understanding of the expectations of leaders.
When working in different locations, teams can often become fragmented; responsibilities and deadlines can sometimes go unfinished. That’s exactly when policies and agreements can help. This isn’t to restrict employees, but to ensure they are able to work to their full potential and do so in a manner that everybody agrees on.
It isn’t very fair to have one set of employees working from 8am, while another team starts whenever they choose so. Of course, this is an extreme example, but general guidelines around remote working can tidy up any miscommunication.
Random happiness boosting initiatives
Now that we’ve covered nearly all of our best workplace relationship boosting techniques, what else can you do for your remote team? It’s important your strategy and techniques all point in one direction… building healthier, happier teams!
Managers should actively encourage conversations, even just casual chitchat. Employees who feel like they can’t speak to one another can become isolated. And working alone from home can be isolating without the lack of communication.
Some great ways to get the team engaging with one another is to ask them to share photos of their pets, cooking skills or maybe their workstations at home. These topics are sure to build conversation - why not turn it into a healthy bit of competition! See who’s meal pics are the best!
At Heka, we have Slack channels for different topics and interests. For instance, there’s a large group of us who enjoy Formula 1. This provides a space for Heka team members to share F1 updates and news with one another.
Managers can also use Slack channels to jump on social media trends like #throwbackthursday #mondaymotivation. Who knows, you may inspire better work productivity while starting conversations!
Finally, with the lack of face-to-face communication, a lot of us turn to our mobile phones while on our lunch breaks at home. Why not use this time to find funny TikTok videos and share them with colleagues. Putting a smile on a colleague’s face from a distance is a great way to help someone have a better day!
Boosting employee engagement remotely with wellbeing
Before we wrap things up, let’s talk about Heka!
Our employee wellbeing platform can help you build healthier, happier teams regardless of location. Through Heka, employees have access to 1000s of experiences, services and products.
And we’ve considered everyone in the workplace. This means even remote employees have access to benefits such as remote therapy consultations, healthy meal deliveries, free tickets to outdoor activities near them, and gym memberships to use at their local branches of some of the biggest chains.
To put it simply, Heka is the employee benefits platform every team needs! Our partners are all handpicked based on whether they can make a difference to your team’s health and happiness! Start taking employee wellbeing much more seriously and get in touch with us.