The Role of Real-Time Connection in the Remote Workplace
Jessica Thiefels is a published author, podcast host, and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, an organic content marketing agency. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications including Forbes and Entrepreneur. She also contributes to Glassdoor, Fast Company, Outbrain, Score.org, and more. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
While some companies like Twitter and Google have transitioned workers to permanently remote positions, other businesses are eager to get workers back.
In mid-April, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) asked employers what they thought about the future of remote work now that they have experienced it during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly all who were surveyed, 95 percent, said they expect the workplace to return to pre-pandemic levels within six months.
Whether you want to stay remote or not, it may be the reality of our “new normal,” which means it’s critical you don’t overlook one of the key pieces to staying productive and effective during this time: real-time connection.
When employees can connect with each other immediately and communicate clearly, remote work is more enjoyable. Yet Buffer’s 2020 State of Remote Work found that the biggest struggle of remote workers surveyed was tied between “collaboration and communication” and “loneliness.”
The good news is real-time collaboration can be a powerful tool for combating loneliness and lack of connection, along with challenges surrounding collaboration and engagement.
Collaboration via email is challenging to do effectively, if not impossible. Messages get lost in the thread, files get lost between emails, and verbal and facial clues are nowhere to be found. This is why creating a space for real-time collaboration is key.
However, employees won’t naturally collaborate unless you make it possible by giving them the resources to do so. This means they need access to video call software, real-time chat software, and perhaps file-sharing tools so everyone can access what they need to do their part and connect.
As the team at Float says: “Creating situations where your team has the opportunity to cross collaborate—like proactively scheduling meetings and discussions—can make all the difference. The beauty of having a remote team is that you’re in charge of what those communications look like.” Still struggling to find ways to get your team to collaborate? Check out these teamwork quotes to get inspired with fresh ideas.
Boost Remote Unity Among Team Members
Over the past few months, you may have noticed an increase in employee conflicts. There might be more harsh words or minor spats as your employees turn to virtual communication. This is called the online disinhibition effect which results in people, “either behaving meaner or opening up more online than they normally would in face-to-face conversations,” says Lauren Farrar, KQED reporter.
For example, in the heat of the moment, one employee might respond with a fiery email, saying things they wouldn’t normally say in-person. This creates a stressful work environment in the short term and can scar professional relationships in the long run.
This is why it is essential for your company to use real-time communication to promote remote unity and give employees opportunities to connect.
You may create guidelines for when employees are required or encouraged to connect face-to-face, in real-time, rather than via email, like when they’re butting heads, working through a problem, or frustrated with one another.
Increase Happiness, Decrease Stress
Remote work is easier for some employees than others. While one team member might have a dedicated home office with no kids or pets, another employee works from the kitchen table alongside two dogs and a small child. What’s more, these employees aren’t just stressed about work, they’re worried about the pandemic, returning to school, and every other normal life challenge. And you, as a leader, have the power to increase their stress levels or decrease them.
“As a leader, model a relaxed attitude and take the tact of not sweating the small stuff,” Elena Carstoiu, COO of Hubgets, writes. “Be understanding of your team’s new normal and the fact that it’s not very normal compared to what they are used to.”
One way to do this is to connect with your employees 1-on-1 in real-time. This provides an opportunity to share feedback, mentor, and support your employees like you would in the office. Make it a point to leave space in your calendar for these meetings each week, and don’t forget to personally check-in. Not everyone will automatically come to you with challenges, you may need to encourage them to do so.
Encourage Employee Engagement
By creating connections for employees in the workplace, you can encourage them to engage with their peers and coworkers, which also connects them to their work. Tracy Maylett, CEO of DecisionWise, explains:
“When employees feel a deep, strong connection, they are more likely to expend extra energy for one another, to give more to the organization, and to be more positive in the things they say both at work and away from it. Effort, attention to quality and detail, and morale go up … and generally, so do profits.”
Along with social Zoom calls, create threads and chat groups in your real-time tool dedicated to personal sharing and requests for help. You can also create company book clubs for professional development or set up a mentorship program
A platform like ClickUp is the perfect way to facilitate this real-time connection. With goals, projects, email, time tracking, and more all in one place, your employees can manage their workflow in the same place they engage with their co-workers. This creates multiple opportunities for people to engage, and stay connected, especially if they like one option but not the others.
Think About Real-Time Connection in Your Remote Work
The COVID-19 pandemic is not an ideal situation for anyone. However, it has shown us the importance of human interaction and real-time connection. Keep these values in mind as you develop your long-term remote work policies to ensure employees are happy, connected, collaborative, and productive.