Helping employees stay connected

Employees are overwhelmingly positive about remote working.

90% of respondents in the most recent State of Remote Work Survey from Buffer reported that their experience was "very" or "somewhat" positive .

This is good news for employers, since they are increasingly embracing remote, or hybrid, working, but it's a win for individuals and, of course, the environment too.

But there's a downside too, with 52% of people saying they feel less connected to their colleagues than they did when they were office based and 24% reporting struggling with loneliness - and this number has been increasing year in year.

When the pandemic hit, companies quickly put the technology in place to enable employees to work remotely but many didn't put anything in place to foster team building and connections. In a world where employees don't work in the same place ad physically meet their colleagues, helping everyone feel connected and part of a bigger whole is more challenging and requires more work, but there a tools out their to help you.

Team Meetings have always been a great way to help people keep up to date with what's going in their team and more broadly. In a hybrid work environment these should probably be more frequent - weekly rather than monthly, say - and less focused on work and more on building connection. Team meetings are also a great opportunity for recognition - whether that's a project milestone, a promotion, a birthday, a work anniversary or someone who's really gone above and beyond.

1:1 Check-ins provide an opportunity to talk to employees on a more personal level. More than just an opportunity to talk to an employee about how they are doing at work, check-ins are an opportunity to ask them how they are doing.

With remote working work and personal lives are more intertwined than ever before it becomes ever more important to help employees manage their mental health and work/life balance.

40% of respondents in the Buffer survey reported working more hours than when they were office based, 25% reported that they had difficulty unplugging

Run Pulse Surveys are a more formal but, more imporantly, anonymous way of asking your team how they are feeling. They're a great way of getting regular, honest feedback.

Create opportunities for casual connections - the kind that happen when people bump in to each other getting a coffee for example. It's harder to create the serendipity of a caffeine induced encounter, but there are ways to provide an opportunity for it.

At a group level, you can use technology, such as Slack or Teams, to create virtual water cooler chats. These should be at a regular time so people can plan to be there, but with attendance entirely optional and with no agenda, so they're just an opportunity for anyone who's available to join in and talk about whatever's on their mind.

On an individual level you could try coffee roulette. Setting up a coffee chat is a time-honoured way of networking but tends to favour more gregarious employees. Coffee roulette is like a coffee chat but takes the fear out of connecting with people in the organisation you wouldn't encounter day-to-day by randomly matching people (who opt-in, of course) and it works just as well with a remote team - just grab a coffee and fire up Zoom (or Teams, etc.).

Celebrate milestones, whether it's a birthday, a work anniversary, an engagement, a new baby or a retirement - an unexpected group e-card that the whole team can sign and add messages to could make someone's day.

And, of course, don't forget to celebrate the every-day wins too! How about a channel on Teams or Slack where employees can post those little achievements or recognise something great that a colleague has done?

Not having your everyone in the same place doesn't mean that employees can't feel connected and part of the team - it just means that it takes effort. There are many ways to foster engagement, connection and team spirit - you just need the right one for your team.