So, it’s no surprise that teams are more productive when people get on well, have good work-life balance, and are happy and fulfilled in their work. And of course, a happy employee stays with you longer.
Happiness expert Annie McKee reveals that “one of the ways we can make ourselves happy and feel more fulfilled in our workplaces is by engaging and building friendships with the people that work with us and for us.”
That’s why casual and social communication is crucial when it comes to team building. Company culture often develops organically; those quick catch ups at the watercooler, that chat over a cuppa, or even the smile and nod in the corridor.
But with remote and hybrid working becoming more and more common, we’re hardly likely to bump into each other for a chat. So how on earth do we recreate those unforced connections that come from the traditional office setup?
It’s been a real challenge over the last few years and the affects have been apparent. According to The Royal Society for Public Health home working is having an impact on people’s mental health with 67% saying they feel less connected to their colleagues and 56% saying they found it harder to switch off. It’s so important for team leaders to build a culture that encourages employees to check in on each other and stay connected. But team members can also play a massive part in creating those bonds. Here are some of the creative ways employers and employees have been able to build these connections and get to know one another on a more personal level.
Be flexible and curious
Every member of your team is different and there isn’t just one way of connecting. One person may be happy tapping away uninterrupted while others might need regular check ins. In fact, some leaders have found that extroverts who might have big personalities in the real world, turn out to be the quiet, shy ones in the virtual world. And the opposite can sometimes be the case with people who are more introverted face-to-face. One way of better understanding your teams' needs could be to offer them a personality assessment which brings more self-awareness of their styles, strengths and needs but could also help you understand the way they work best in a team environment.
Find ways for employees to let their hair down
Some employees may cringe at the words ‘team’ and ‘building’ but when you’re working remotely it’s important to find ways for people to relax and do ‘non-work’ things together. If virtual activities like trivia games or lunch-and-learns feel a bit cheesy to your team, try getting team members involved to create a more genuine culture. For example, tech company Everlaw hosts a DJ lunch club where a team member takes song requests via chat, and everyone votes for the tune of the day. And remember when doing things remotely, consistency is everything- the first few times you meet virtually might feel awkward but the more you do it, the more relaxed it will feel.
Have casual daily catch ups
These can be as little as 15 minutes every day, but it helps teams to keep chatting informally. It makes it easier for any work issues to come up organically, or just to be able to chat about what you did over the weekend. Think of it as a virtual water cooler chat.
Celebrate your team
Recognition is a great way to make employees feel proud and like an important part of the team. So, if you want your remote workers to feel more connected, there’s nothing like a fist pump from the boss. Not only will praise make your team feel more connected, but it can increase productivity as well, according to a study published in Forbes. Peer to peer recognition can be just as impactful. Encourage your teams to celebrate each other and try to make it a bit light-hearted, using icons or emoticons to give a team mate a ‘virtual high five’ for a great bit of work or an online thank you card for helping with a project.
Create ‘mini’ teams within a team
A study by McKinsey found that 97% of employees and executives feel a lack of bonding in a team impacts the outcome of their work. Smaller breakaway groups could help employees to work together more closely and gives team members time to get to know each other and connect on a personal level, creating the ‘work buddy’ relationships that used to be formed in office settings.
Help a teammate
According to a study, happier workers help their colleagues 33% more than those who aren’t happy. You don’t have to do anything particularly heroic just ask if they need help on a project or offer to proofread a presentation. You might be surprised at how effective this small habit can become.
Share a bit about yourself. Remember we are all people first and employees second. When you open up about your interests outside of work, people learn more about who you genuinely are. Sparking casual chats can create real friendships over time. The key is to be genuinely interested and curious. Who knows what common ground you may dig up?
Practising really listening. Let’s be honest, we’ve all been in a virtual meeting where we sneakily check our social media while we half-listen. It's easy to miss communication signals like facial expressions or body language on video, which is why it's important to pay close attention. Missing the last two sentences of what your colleague just said because you were busy checking out a hilarious meme can create distance in the long run.
Make friends. When we get on with people we work with, we feel more confident to speak up and share ideas. We have more motivation to collaborate and innovate and we have better morale and productivity. Even remote colleagues can become friends, but it doesn’t happen as easily, and you need to make a conscious decision to do it. Sprinkle a few 15-minute meetings in your calendar they don’t need an agenda so have a bit of fun with titles like, ‘Catch up about nothing’ or ‘Work-free meeting’. It may take a few goes but if you make the catch ups regular, things will begin to flow, and real friendships can be made. And for some colleagues it can be a real lifeline, helping them to feel less isolated.
Know yourself better
Self-awareness through personality assessments, can help hugely with creating stronger relationships with others. If you can understand why you choose to work the way you do and why others make different choices, it can make it so much easier to support each other in a more effective way and grow stronger bonds.