Building a Cohesive Team in a Remote World

Aug 12

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Studies show that employees are much more productive when working remotely, but while some prefer remote work to working in the office, there are some difficulties that come along with working as a cohesive team from home.   

Isolated working conditions undoubtedly offer new challenges for managers to make their employees feel valued and recognized. Don’t forget that in a virtual reality, we are missing key aspects of the daily office life, such as the water cooler conversation or the casual team lunch. Those unplanned, off the schedule interactions would have served to allow team members to see how processes happen at various levels of management (what happens to work when it leaves their hands, how decisions that impact them and their work are made). They would have also allowed them to recognize in each other the multifacetedness that makes each person whole.  

But fret not! There is always something that company leaders can do to educate themselves and ensure that their employees feel recognized, listened to, and supported. Here are some ways we at Thriver have found can help you build a cohesive team and ensure successful team management, and thriving teams.  

Communication is key

Ongoing and effective communication is key, Adriana, HR Manager at Thriver says. “Without that, it’s really hard to feel that cohesiveness,” she says.

“Because to be cohesive or to have a team that’s well-glued together, you need to make sure that everybody is on the same page, that everybody understands what’s going on, that everybody feels engaged, and connected. And the way to really have that happen is communication.” 

Adriana – HR Manager

But it’s a certain kind of intentional communication that Adriana values: effective communication. “And by that I mean not only speaking to your team, but also hearing your team,” Adriana says. “Listening to your team, having channels and certain openness for them to feel free, or to feel that they can come to you with anything that they need.” 

Iryna is VP of Talent at Thriver, and she has also seen in her remote team a craving for transparency and communication. Iryna says that constant communication allows her team to stay in the know on updates on the executive level. “They want to understand what the executives are thinking, what challenges they are facing,” she says. This allows her team to understand how the company is moving towards realizing its vision, she explains. 

Iryna and Adriana agree that transparent communication empowers team members and builds trust between employees and the executive team. 

Try out asynchronous communication 

Asynchronous communication is when we remove timely constraints on our correspondences with our colleagues. In other words, it’s when we send an email to our colleagues and don’t expect an immediate response to it, allowing the colleague to tackle the email when they have time. Asynchronous communication is a healthy work-from-home habit that we can easily foster in our team members. These kinds of habits lead to personal and professional success, but most importantly they allow a team to function frictionlessly.

Iryna says that asynchronous communication isn’t just respectful, it’s intuitive and therefore encouraged, because it ultimately acknowledges the humanness of our coworkers. “We have so many projects happening at any given point,” she says.

“We have so many different initiatives on the go, people cannot be available around the clock and they cannot be just sitting there checking their emails.”

Iryna – VP, Talent

We should acknowledge the constraints and deadlines our colleagues are under, and understand that not expecting an immediate response benefits everyone in the company in the long run. 

“We encourage our teams to remove all the distractions,” Iryna says. This can mean putting our computers in “do not disturb” mode, not paying attention to Slack during meetings, and not checking emails. “Give somebody undivided attention,” Iryna advises. “Be an active listener, be very present in the moment.”  

Chef in front of the camera, participating in a virtual cooking class powered by Thriver

Virtual Cooking Class for your team

Share a meal (even if virtually) 

Effective communication and dialogue serve to facilitate visibility when it comes to each member’s needs and apprehensions — members feel seen. But to be seen in a meaningful way is to be seen for more than what you have to offer in a professional capacity. Before Covid, we used to get together around a table and share a meal. That might not be a possibility today, but there’s a trend of taking that idea online. Companies are now offering stipends through Treat Card to their employees to host virtual lunches.

“You also need to make time for chit-chat, and connecting with your team on something else than just work,” Adriana adds. “If every time you jump on a call, you go straight into business, people are going to feel isolated. A lot of people nowadays [in working from home] live by themselves, so they don’t have any other interaction than the one that maybe they have with you throughout the day.” 

“It’s very easy working remotely to be caught up in meetings, and [employees] are not in the office anymore, so it’s not that they can just come to you and approach you for something,”

Adriana – HR Manager

To this end, Adriana recommends you make yourself available on various channels of communication — Slack, text messaging, email — so that you can be there for members when they need you. 

To avoid having your team feel disconnected and to bring back those dearly missed office vibes, we created Thriver, which allows you and your team virtual experiences with tons of team-building activities. From virtual yoga to cooking classes and virtual escape rooms, we offer curated activities for every taste that will keep your company culture thriving anywhere.  

Communicate your availability

Adriana stresses the importance of creating a routine and sticking to it, for you and team members. In your capacity as leader, it is important to be honest with your team about how you work, letting members know that making a routine means setting aside time for yourself, and that there is nothing wrong with protecting personal time.   

“Before, we used to have the commute,” Adriana notes. “And that’s the time where you used to read, or listen to a podcast, meditate, or just be present and think about life, while you get to work. We don’t have that anymore.” It’s not just okay to enjoy breakfast, Adriana says it’s important. It’s time we should take to check in with ourselves, and it’s time that ensures our awareness of how we feel mentally and physically. Ultimately, time in the morning enjoying breakfast, and enjoying lunch, is all well spent because it is when the brain prepares for the day’s work, or the next day’s work. 

Hold One Another Accountable

Creating an action plan, or rules of engagement, however rudimentary can allow team members to hold one another accountable. These rules can be about what makes a strong team, and what hurts it, along with what makes for a reliable team member — and the rudimentary step of arriving at a set of rules can be a team-building experience. Because a set of guidelines puts everyone on the same level and fosters engagement, employees will be able to thwart feelings of powerlessness and feel prepared when a problem arises. But ultimately, the ability for team members to hold each other accountable builds trust among them as they all work toward a common goal.

Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable 

Like communication, vulnerability is a two-way street. It’s important for leaders to not just be vulnerable with their teammates, but to also make space for that vulnerability. And this can take many forms, as Certified Leadership Coach Natalie Dumond notes. “Isolation is a challenge and people feel disconnected,” Dumond says.

“So stay curious and keep asking people what they need. This will look different for each team – some will want group chats, others will want one-on-ones. This has never happened before, so we need to invite people to be vulnerable and have the courage to speak up when they’re not okay.”  

Natalie Dumond – Certified Leadership Coach

Because of the newness of our working situations, and global upheaval, it’s important for leaders to check in with their teams and to actively create safe spaces for teammates to feel and decompress, because for some who live alone, the interaction with workmates might be the only interaction they have in these isolated times.  

Say yes to virtual town Halls 

A virtual regroup allows everyone to touch base, plan for the upcoming weeks, and allows a team member to share anything that has been on their mind. A more professional counterpart to drinks after work, a virtual town hall provides teams the space to meet new members, share concerns around what is and isn’t working in the team, and allows leaders to share updates to the company, along with the ability for members to share important milestones in their own lives, such as promotions, birthdays, and births. A scheduled town hall can become a grounding experience that allows everyone to be introspective, and survey cracks and strong points in the foundation.

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