Get Yourself Connected (in Your Virtual Workplace)

“If you make sure you’re connected,
The writing’s on the wall
But if your mind’s neglected,
Stumble you might fall.”

Wise words from Stereo MCs. OK, yes we are letting our love of ’90s pop songs show, but it’s hard to argue with the message. 

Feeling connected to other people is essential to the human condition. It’s right there in Maslov’s Hierarchy of Needs – Belongingness. It’s fundamental, right after we’re fed, sheltered, and safe.

But consider the paradox of technology. Technology enables connection but it also enables isolation — the antithesis of human connection. Today’s workplace – and increasingly our personal lives – are dependent on technology. More and more, people are working virtually and we are physically separated from our colleagues and managers.

Research confirms this growing disconnection in the virtual workplace. According to the recent study on global work connectivity by Future Workplace, only 5% of remote workers always or very often see themselves working at their company for their entire career compared to 28% who never work remotely. In addition, 43% of remote workers said that more face-time would help them build deeper relationships with their team, while 80% of remote workers reported they would have better relationships if their team communicated with them more often.

At Powers Resource Center, we are huge supporters of the virtual workplace, but we also advise clients how to create connection on virtual teams through communication agreements and best practices. Here are a few ways that engaged virtual teams create connection:

  1. Over-communicate. In a virtual team, you must over-communicate using all the channels available to keep everyone aligned and create a natural, rapport-building team culture.
  2. Don’t cut the chit-chat. Remote teams don’t have a chance to make small talk with co-workers in the next cubicle or rehash the final episode of Game of Thrones. Urge team members to discuss personal lives and interests. Use chat programs, video conferencing, and websites and encourage team members to post pictures and non-work updates.
  3. The Social Network. Create a social media-type group page – you can even use Facebook – and encourage team members to share personal updates and stories about what’s going on in their lives. Employees can communicate and “follow” conversations in real-time sharing knowledge and staying close to what others are working on which builds a stronger sense of community. Think of it as virtual team building.
  4. Embrace emojis. While it might seem a little silly to incorporate emoticons into IMs, chat sessions, Skype messages, or even emails, it can make or break how individuals perceive each other’s emotional state. Over the phone, tone of voice is everything – the person on the other end can tell if you’re smiling or rolling your eyes. Your own non-verbals may not be seen, but they can often be heard.
  5. Get Together IRL. Obviously, nothing can replace actual face-to-face time for your virtual team. Get your teams together as often as budgets allow so they have the opportunity to build stronger interpersonal relationships.

Creating a culture of connection is a challenge in both a virtual workplace and with teams who work out of the same location. If you or your teams need to brush up on your “human” skills, we recommend DiSC Certification and Wiley’s Everything DiSC suite of products. And if you want to boost connection specifically on your virtual team, we are the experts. Contact us to get started!

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