July 12, 2023
While several companies are putting in-office mandates back in place, we can’t avoid the fact that hybrid and remote workforces will continue to exist, whether you like them or not!
So, rather than harumphing or scratching your head trying to figure out how to connect hybrid team members, embrace this not-so-new normal of ‘everywhere employees’ and find new ways to make them feel more like a team and less like an isolated worker.
From encouraging profile pages to cultivating a culture that feels like family, here are 17 answers to the question, "Can you share your most helpful strategies for connecting employees in a hybrid work environment?"
The separation created by a hybrid work environment not only keeps employees out of personal contact but out of touch with the physical indicators of their coworkers' lives outside of the office, which is why we post personal profiles.
It is commonplace to see offices that have pictures of loved ones and pets, as well as other mementos from home that tell a little of the story of employees' lives, but we often lose this in the hybrid environment. However, you can bring that element into the hybrid work environment by having an online space where employees can display their personal profiles that allow them to post their photos, stories, and humorous anecdotes, and let their coworkers into their world.
By giving employees a personal profile page in which they can share their lives outside of work, you can create a traditional office environment and build connections.
Every couple of weeks, we schedule videoconferences during which we discuss different strategies in different areas of our business. One session might be about marketing strategies, while another one will focus on website development. We may also elicit feedback from each other about the best medical and/or nutritional plans to recommend to our clients.
Our aim is to foster a team environment among our remote employees. We encourage them to provide feedback, advice, helpful anecdotes, and recommendations at every opportunity. We don't over-schedule meetings, and we make sure not to let too much time elapse between meetings. Holding strategy sessions every other week has worked well for us.
In the growing world of hybrid work environments, it's hard to keep employees connected. A great way to start a connection is to encourage peers to submit their own recognition of one another.
There are many great peer recognition tools that can be implemented in a hybrid environment that encourage employees to build rapport and produce work that seeks recognition. With the online nature of a program like this, both remote and in-person workers can use the system and work to connect in a positive way that not only brings employees together but motivates them as well.
As the founder of a business that has been remote working for nearly two decades, it's super important to me we maintain a strong company culture. Without those connections, you lose out on the vital spirit of collaboration that helps people do their best work. Part of that effort has been to create the office watercooler or watercooler moments—spaces to chit-chat.
Rather than discourage employees from having these conversations, we recognize that five minutes of talking about the funny thing our pet did at the weekend can actually foster greater bonds between team members. That means, when one team member needs help with a work problem, they have people they trust to ask for help. It's not time wasted. It's time well spent. So, build your watercooler and encourage those discussions. We use Slack to do this, but any good messenger platform will do.
Create goals for employees to achieve as a team, as opposed to only individual goals. This will encourage communication and teamwork among remote, hybrid, and on-site employees. These team-based goals become a commonality that they share, which more effectively tethers hybrid employees to the company.
Something that gets lost in a hybrid environment is follow-through when leadership is given feedback. This can cause employees to feel disconnected from the work, resentful of leadership, and unwilling to share candid feedback in the future.
To keep your remote teams engaged, go beyond giving platforms for their feedback-actually follow-up! Follow up with your plans of how to implement their input or why it isn't workable. It keeps communication open and reciprocal and ensures that no one feels their opinion is falling on deaf ears.
While the pandemic seems like another lifetime for many people, it's no secret that the workforce is still recovering and getting to grips with the new normal, and with that, an ongoing adjustment to hybrid working.
It's crucial for senior leadership to be empathetic in their approach to conversing with and truly understanding the issues employees may have with a hybrid setup, and then taking personal responsibility to ensure that they're doing everything they can to assist employees who may otherwise struggle with a lack of connection in a hybrid environment.
Up your meeting game to foster employee connection in a hybrid work environment. Get rid of most of your meetings and reduce waste. Be deliberate about how, why, and how long you spend in meetings when you have them.
Plan 25-minute meetings instead of traditional one-hour sessions. Take advantage of the digital communication resources available and make sure your staff does the same. Complete tasks that can only be done in person. Many businesses schedule in-person business units or corporate meetings multiple times a year to take advantage of that valuable team-building time.
Be present in every way, regardless of how you meet. With your voice, words, tone, and body language say, "I see you." Avoid multitasking. Show up fully and show your concern for the team member 260 miles away.
Engaging with employees in a hybrid work environment can be seen as a little challenging, yet opportunistic, because of the blend of work routines. Seeing each other every day can become monotonous sometimes, and that's well curbed with work-from-home routines.
For me, one-on-one sessions have turned out to be perfect, so that every individual's beliefs and perspectives can be sought. As a leader, understanding the trigger points and easing off points of your workforce often leads to better strategies, one such being weekly informal meetings (followed by one-on-one sessions)!
These sessions can be online as well as in person, either supporting a cause or just casually hanging out. This highly promotes unity and togetherness within the workforce. Other than this, boosting communication lines by the use of employee engagement software and communication software such as Trello, Asana, and Slack are quite useful!
We lose most of the "accidental" interactions when hybrid workers leave the office, so building more intentional channels for your team to stay connected is crucial.
With DEI efforts growing, creating more Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) can help you keep teammates connected while simultaneously supporting diversity and inclusion in your organization.
In hybrid work, ERGs need an asynchronous place to connect. Try ERG software like Benevity Affinity Groups or Affirmity, which uses interactive tools and rich media to connect employees across shared experiences while reducing the administrative burden of organizing and managing each group. With ERG software, you can scale these groups across organizations of any size for a more connected hybrid team.
While gamification is an excellent way to make L&D a more engaging experience for our team members, it also enables remote team members to get to know one another while having fun.
We often employ gamification in our monthly Zoom meetings. Doing so has us working together to solve riddles and complete puzzles within the meeting's time frame. It's an effective and exciting way of encouraging two-way conversations, active listening, and collaboration.
And in the remote workspace, playing a collaborative game is a great icebreaker. Having a shared experience gives them something to chat about. It also helps employees feel more comfortable reaching out to one another when they need help.
Managing employees can be challenging in a remote work environment. Keeping the teams engaged when organic social interactions are limited can prove to be a struggle. Luckily, there are ways to go around it with the help of modern technology and a willingness to stay connected.
One of the best practices to manage remote workers, inspired by the agile method, is to create team rituals. Professional-related video meetings, as well as informal chats (video coffee breaks), are great ways to stay connected. One of the niftiest tools is RandomCoffee, an app integrated into Slack, Skype, etc., that randomly matches workers. They can schedule a meeting and get to know each other or take a break from the workday to discuss informal topics.
We want our employees to connect right from day one, so we developed a robust mentorship program that runs alongside onboarding. For the first three months, we pair every new teammate with someone from various backgrounds. Our mentors coach new hires via Slack, offering seasoned experience and working hand-in-hand to help them through the process.
When every onboarding program is complete, hires have gotten to know at least three teammates and a manager directly. Hybrid employees have a firm base to deepen these bonds after onboarding, and those teammates can become their perfect "in" to meet and build relationships with new teammates, too.
The lack of spontaneity and the absence of impulsive behavior are two problems that exist in remote and hybrid workplaces. While an in-office work environment always has a place for impromptu conversations and unplanned breaks, we seldom find a hybrid work environment indulging in these workplace practices.
This makes the pace of a hybrid workplace monotonous and predictable, and this is never a good thing when creating a connected workplace. In encouraging spontaneity, employees scattered across different locations can come together as a team and connect shoulder-to-shoulder with colleagues, just as they would at the office.
Whether it is a quick huddle, an unplanned brainstorming session that invites everyone's opinion, or a fun event that takes the edge off a particularly tough day, managers and team leaders can plan plenty of spontaneous events to create impact.
Hybrid work environments need leaders and employees to listen, lead with empathy, and acknowledge the humanness in each other. Consider implementing benefits that cater to this concept, such as mental health resources, extended parental support, or even focus groups and leadership training. The healthiest hybrid workplace cultures find authentic ways to show their care and appreciation for each employee's human experience.
Agile and iterative workflows can be helpful for hybrid teams, as they allow members to adapt and respond to changes in the environment quickly. Establishing an agile process requires setting up sprints where team members are given tasks that need to be completed within a certain time frame.
This helps keep everyone focused on their objectives and on track for meeting deadlines. It also allows for the change of goals with minimal disruption, as we can shift tasks to accommodate changing demands or team dynamics. Establishing an agile management process can help ensure that hybrid teams are efficient, productive, and successful.
The best way to connect employees in a hybrid work environment is to allow departments to work and socialize together like one big extended family. This means that departments can have virtual events like team-building activities, and even casual conversations about topics outside of work.
This will help build strong relationships between employees, which will lead to better collaboration and productivity. It also creates an atmosphere of trust and support that encourages creativity and innovation.
Additionally, it gives employees the opportunity to get to know one another in a more relaxed setting, allowing them to build stronger bonds with their colleagues, which has helped us keep our fifth-generation family business culture alive with our remote staff.