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How to Foster an Engaged Remote Team (Try These Leadership Tips)

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person talks to his remote team via video call

Remote teams are here to stay. Now that water cooler chats, holiday parties, and happy hours are no longer the norm, how do you foster team culture?

As new and seasoned companies have met the challenge of working remotely these past two years, leaders have found that remote team management is a whole new experience compared to traditional, in-office dynamics. 

The big question many leaders are grappling with is, how do you nurture your team’s culture and relationships when everyone is working in different spaces?

Help Your Remote Team Succeed With These Three Shifts

Physical distance doesn’t have to mean disconnection for your remote team. As the leader, it’s up to you to foster a team-driven company culture that encourages your team to connect, no matter where they’re located. 

Here’s how:

Encourage Open Communication (and Lead By Example)

One of the biggest challenges many remote workers face is feeling isolated. Not only are they working away from everyone in their team, but they’re also living with new routines that blur the lines between work and personal lives, like commuting and quick elevator catch-ups.

Removing these daily rituals – ones many employees didn’t even realize they had until they lost them – has been a significant cause of stress. Combined with the difficulties in communication, everyday life stressors, and the abundance of “productivity” tools, your workers may be a lot more overwhelmed than you realize. 

A good way to encourage accountability while building trust is to make it a habit to ask these questions every so often:

  • What’s one thing you’re proud of this week?
  • What’s one mistake you’re learning from?
  • Do you need help with a specific task or have any roadblocks?

Another element of open communication comes from you: as you embark on this remote work journey, it’s more important than ever for you to make sure everyone on your team is crystal clear about the purpose and goals of your company. This clarity acts as a driving force, connects the company, and helps your team understand the why behind everything they do.

Foster Team Collaboration (And Reward Its Success)

Now that your departments aren’t working in close physical proximity, some teams may be struggling to interact and collaborate as they used to. 

While this may not be the case for your finance or HR team, for departments where close or collaboration interaction was the rule, e.g. creative teams, working remotely may leave people feeling like they can’t make progress.

Encouraging team leaders to propose creative new ways to collaborate and share ideas and inspiration can positively shift this dynamic. This may look like an internal chat program that fosters individual creativity (even when telling about their morning walk or what movie they watched the night before). 

Just remember, while a quick call is sometimes more effective than hours spent on a group chat, Zoom calls are not the solution for everything. Is Your Team Exhausted From Video Calls? 5 Other Ways to Communicate.

Zapier’s remote team has been vocal about their use of an internal blog tool where team members share updates and relevant information that everyone can access, no matter their time zone or availability. This clever resource helps everyone feel looped in without endless Zoom invites and threads.

Interested in learning more about how to work asynchronously and make progress?  Here are some tips about how to collaborate across time zones.

Open Space And Creative Ways For Team Members To Connect

One of the main shifts that happen when teams go remote is that communication becomes strictly business. Bringing all communication online tends to mean that casual conversation and daily catch-ups go out the window in favor of efficient team updates, one-on-one calls with higher-ups, and endless email threads. 

Casual conversation is not intentional in office settings. But going remote removes it from daily life, which can leave many feeling isolated and often exhausted at the end of the day.

Whether it means a weekly happy hour, a game session, or a Slack channel dedicated to #watercooler conversation, creating spaces for your team to connect over the daily, non-work related aspects of their routine helps everyone bond and feel invested in the people they work with. 

As the leader for a remote team, you can set the tone for these casual exchanges and encourage — not force — participation on a regular basis.

Need inspiration? Mailerlite, a remote-first company, implemented one simple shift in communication and drove team engagement like nothing else they’d tried: The shift? Asking one question every day. Learn more: How 1 question a day can skyrocket your team’s engagement.

Your Remote Team Has All The Tools They Need. Now They Need Your Support

As the reality of remote work sunk in, many leaders (rightly) feared that their team was unprepared to work from home. However, you, as a leader, can have a lasting impact on your team’s morale and success in this new normal. The solution to team engagement is not purely a function of new tools and software. In fact, productivity tools can hurt team productivity, but you can prevent that.

As you consistently share your company’s purpose and vision and do it in a way true to your culture, you’ll slowly erase the barriers of remote work. Regardless of whether your team is in the same city and “just” working from home or they’re scattered across time zones.