Building a healthy and collaborative workplace culture requires a consistent strategy, but the rewards are well worth the effort.
Employees who feel connected to their company’s culture are much more likely to thrive and stay. And those happy employees can even be up to 20% more productive than those who are dissatisfied. The key is to help employees build genuine relationships with their peers to foster healthy communication and overcome potential conflict—and that’s easier said than done.
Managers play a major role in building connections in virtual offices and reinforcing the company culture. For those who may be new to managing virtual teams, it can be challenging to know where to focus your effort to drive the best results. Let’s explore the main opportunities for managers to connect employees, regardless of where they are based.
5 Ways to Connect Employees Across Your Distributed Workforce
To perform their best, virtual and hybrid workers need a clear understanding of their “purpose at every level.” This means that everyone—from your entry-level employees to executive leadership—should feel confident that they are working toward your mission with purpose.
Rallying virtual employees behind your company mission requires a different approach for each level, and relationships will make or break your experience. Implement these strategies for building relationships in virtual teams to strengthen your culture:
- Prioritize Your Virtual Onboarding: Your company needs to make a solid first impression on all new employees. To do so, create a virtual onboarding plan that provides a smooth transition into your company and clearly explains how new hires can succeed as part of your distributed team. Onboarding is also the ideal time to get to know new hires and encourage them to share their outside-of-work interests and previous work accomplishments. Not only does this help new hires start building their own internal network, but it also gives leaders more insight to connect employees based on their commonalities and shared hobbies.
- Establish Mentorship Programs: Pairing early career professionals with mid and senior-level employees can be incredibly effective for building relationships and breaking down potential cultural barriers. New employees can more quickly learn about your company’s culture and understand their potential career progression with guidance from their mentor, and both the mentor and mentee will benefit from the new relationship.
- Create Space for Non-Work Conversations: In the physical office, a company’s water cooler or kitchen was a hub for quick conversations and friendly banter. Likewise, virtual workspaces should also offer places for employees to chat about matters not related to work. Consider creating dedicated channels in your communication tools for employees to talk about personal hobbies and interests, and offer open networking rooms where employees can catch up throughout the work day.
- Start Meetings With an Icebreaker: Team meetings are a key opportunity to check in with employees. At the start or end of your meetings, host a quick conversation where everyone can share something about their week or personal life or recognize each other for their accomplishments. Taking a few minutes from each meeting to focus solely on your employees as humans can spark connections and help them build and find commonalities.
- Live By Your Values: When implementing the above strategies, your team needs to live the values you are trying to nurture. Encourage managers to dedicate time each week to actively work on building relationships within their team, and openly discuss the challenges that people are facing.
Start to Build Employee Connections on Day One
There are challenges—and distinct advantages—to building genuine connections in fully remote, distributed, and hybrid teams. Try out a few different tactics, and find out what works best for you and your team. But ask for ongoing feedback and be open to adapting as your team grows and develops.
One of the most important times to help an employee embed themselves into your culture is during their new hire onboarding. The onboarding process presents many key opportunities to connect employees and establish a healthy foundation that will help them overcome any challenges they face in your virtual workspace.
To bring a new-found sense of community to your virtual or distributed team, add Spaces to Microsoft Teams and see what a virtual office can do for your team’s productivity.