As more and more people work in flexible ways, whether remotely or by working custom hours, we face new challenges to the traditional ways of keeping employees connected and fostering thriving teams and workplace communities.
It can be easy to take for granted the casual moments of human connection and interaction we experience at work, as well as the surge in energy and sense of belonging that often come with being around other people. It’s important to share these experiences with remote and flex-time workers as well. After all, they’re just as part of the team as someone working onsite.
Here are a few action ideas that you can try to keep your team connected – wherever they are located, or whatever their working arrangement:
- Develop work schedules to accommodate remote and in-office workers:
Consider how you can include them in both in-office activities and meetings. This might mean Skyping them in to the daily newspaper quiz that you run at the lunch table, and weekly or monthly team meetings via video chat or in person.
- Find intentional ways of getting to know remote workers and create time to socialise:
Allow time for personal talk in your conversations over phone and email rather than getting straight down to business. This could include asking a conversation-starting question about something you may not already know about each other. When possible, schedule social events to consider the calendars of travelling and remote workers. Encourage everyone to help these workers feel connected so it’s a workplace priority.
- Establish strong communications systems:
Ensure you have access to a full range of tools to connect with all employees. Provide technology solutions that can help turn their remote location into a functioning set-up. Instant messaging, video conferencing and virtual hangouts are useful tools to ensure connection is ongoing and interactive.
- Get social with social media and intranets:
Social media and intranets are great communication channels to share positive feedback and provide recognition for remote workers. Providing recognition is just as important for people who aren’t onsite, and can lead to an increase in “energy and enthusiasm, and a greater sense of pride and participation in work” according to Building Thriving Workplaces. They can also act as hubs to share knowledge, funny/personal stories, notes and memos to help your workplace bond.
- Ask for their feedback:
The best way to see how far you’ve progressed and where you can improve is to simply ask your remote workers. After all, they’re the ones who know how well-connected they’re feeling! Make sure your questions are open-ended, and be sure to incorporate their feedback into future planning and communications with the wider team. Building Thriving Workplaces suggests to “conduct worker opinion or engagement surveys, and share key findings, including workers in action planning.”
- Do a regular mental health check in:
It’s harder to know the baseline for someone’s normal behaviour and pick up on cues that they may not be okay when you don’t see them everyday. Check in regularly on how they’re going, make yourself available and let them know they can reach out at any time. You can also remind them of any services available through your workplace, such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), as well as national support services that include suicide support, and mental health counselling and advice should they need it.
National 24/7 Crisis Support numbers
|Suicide Call Back Service||1300 659 467|
|Lifeline||13 11 14|
|Beyond Blue||1300 22 4636|
|MensLine Australia||1300 78 99 78|
Youth Specific Services
|Kids Helpline||1800 55 1800|
|Headspace||1800 650 890|