If you are in charge of a remote team, one of the aspects you notice is the vital need for communication. Coming up with the best ways to communicate with your remote team members is of the essence when not working closely with each other. The distance between you and your team causes context to be entirely left out.
Working in an office setting with your employees allows everyone to notice when someone is silent and withdrawn. Being aware of these behaviors in your team member lets you deduce that they didn’t sleep well the previous night and need space. They could also be heavily stressed out and could use a talk to share their concerns.
Other details can be noticed in an office space, such as any distracting noises. It allows managers to know when a worker is concentrating on their work versus when they are open for some small talk. As human beings, we are excellent at picking up on signals that let us know how a person is feeling. It is something that is practiced every day during daily interactions. Body language and tone of voice let us know how we are communicating with them.
However, a remote working environment causes all of this communication to disappear amongst team members. Fortunately, there are ways for business leaders to establish methods for remote workers to build rapport with each other. Let’s go over some of the more unique and effective ways to develop remote team support.
Conduct a check-in with an icebreaker
When everyone is working from home, there is no opportunity for encounters that allow everyone to casually get to know each other. Unfortunately, that could be an issue in remote working environments since people need to feel connected. Isolation can lead to loneliness which leads to a drop in productivity. Managers need to provide a moment at the start of a meeting where everyone asks each other an icebreaker question. Doing so will allow you to know what state everyone is in.
There is a chance you may discover that a remote team member is distracted due to family issues, or they are feeling overwhelmed because of the workload. Sharing these contexts helps develop rapport and has the meeting run more seamlessly. If you are unsure of what kind of questions to ask, here are some you can consider asking:
- What’s the best thing you've got going on in your life at the moment?
- What do you need to stop doing to make space for bigger changes?
- What’s the most courageous thing you have ever done?
- What could you do to make it easier to accept feedback?
- What’s the number one thing you want to achieve?
If you want a far more extensive list, we have an excellent collection of meaningful questions you can use during your future meetings.
Starting a round of icebreaker questions is relatively easy. The team leader merely needs to ask participating team members the same questions and give them some time to respond. Guide the team along so you can ensure everyone has a set amount of time to take the floor and answer these questions. If these icebreaker questions last for only a few minutes during the start of each meeting, your team may look forward to this rapport-building session instead of feeling like their time is being wasted.
Harness the power of Emojis, GIFs, and memes.
Over the years, the way people communicate has altered to some extent. Things like emojis, Gifs, and memes have made it more humorous and exciting to speak with others. Studies have found out that Emojis improve a person's capability to communicate emotions. TalkTalk mobile released a study that states 72% of younger people (18-25) find it much easier to express themselves using emojis. There is a significant number of millennials and generation Z entering the workforce. Business leaders need to keep this in mind as they move their organizations forward.
Research conducted by Flinders University found the people have grown accustomed to the use of emojis. People react to them in the same way we would from seeing a human facial expression. In future interactions, consider sending an emoji that could make your intentions much more obvious. It could also save your remote employees a ton of unwarranted stress or confusion and instead allow them to understand your personality better.
The Royal Society found out that social laughter affects our pain thresholds. They discovered that laughter not only improves verbal and nonverbal communication but holds a significant impact on group bonding. Sending out a well-timed gif or meme is excellent for building rapport and makes it far more effortless than attempting to make a decent joke.
Chat apps like Slack have excellent integration with programs like Giphy, which allow you to easily inject some humor into your work. That eventually leads your remote team to build rapport seamlessly.
Since your team cannot physically gather at the kitchenette to get some coffee and chat for a few minutes, consider setting one up virtually. Fika is a Swedish coffee break practice that emphasizes socializing while enjoying some delicious coffee. Studies have shown that practicing Fika has allowed remote workers to increase their happiness and productivity.
The Fika can be structured in any way you and your team feel comfortable. You could gather once a week on a Zoom call and have an unstructured discussion while enjoying some coffee or tea if you prefer. Depending on the size of your team, you may need to scale Fika in several ways.
Whenever topics start to develop, allow people to break off into smaller groups to continue those discussions. Consider scheduling Fika for a total of two hours and invite your employees to come in as they wish. You could also set your Fika for department or team levels by limiting the attendance, allowing for greater intimacy. Managers can also set aside a chat channel for Fika to keep the discussion going outside of other slots.
Be considerate and friendly.
It is fascinating how much a conversation improves when it starts on a friendly beat. It is especially crucial to be cordial in a remote working environment. Funny enough, online communication can make people forget their polite manners.
When it comes to remote workers, people tend to forget simple pleasantries, such as greeting someone in the morning or asking how their weekend went before starting their work. Taking some time to reach out to a remote team member with a pleasant greeting works wonders for morale compared to candid communication. Friendly greetings can make remote employees feel like they are being treated like actual people instead of faceless individuals on the other side of the screen.
Whenever you need to request something from a team member, consider mentioning time in the message. Some of these phrases allow your remote team members to know you are acknowledging their time when reaching out to them. Here are some examples of the message you could send them:
- “Hey! When you have the time, could you send that document to me?“
- “If you have any free time soon, can we schedule a quick video call?“
- “Hey, do you have the time to assist with a project?“
Acknowledge that they have only enough time in their day to answer your request and demonstrate that allows you to recognize their work and build rapport.
Furthermore, do not forget to thank them for their hard work. When a remote employee goes the extra mile, acknowledge their efforts in a message. These recognitions will go a long way. When every one of these techniques is combined, it causes powerful bonds to develop.
Set aside time for facetime
While this may not seem the most unique method around, it highly effective for remote working environments. Managers need to opt for a video call instead of conference calls. It allows remote employees to see each other's faces and become acquainted with your smiles. It also offers them an opportunity to see where their leader works and gain insight into what you enjoy outside of work.
Video calls are especially crucial for remote teams since it allows for that much-needed rapport to develop among everyone. Since remote employees are incapable of engaging with each other during the weeks, these video calls are excellent substitutes for these missing links. It also offers everyone to gain some insight into each other. For example, you may find out that one of your remote employees can play a mean ukulele or that another has a cat that enjoys curling up in their lap.
Even if these facetime sessions last for a couple of minutes, seeing another person's face and environment can cause a deeper connection to develop. It also increases the likability of that specific person. It offers a chance to see their facial expressions and body language cues, which leads to the development of a more close relationship. That eventually leads to success in any upcoming projects your remote team needs to tackle together.
Building rapport among your remote team will ensure everyone is capable of working together and productivity remains high. The bonds your team members create are essential for ensuring they do not feel isolated and lonely. Take the time to see if any of these methods are suitable for your team and start building a healthy rapport among your remote team.