A recent survey of over 500 engineering professionals revealed that virtually all managers turn to collaboration and project management tools when managing a distributed team. While these technologies assist in tracking tasks, they fail to take into consideration the team members behind the tasks. Research conducted by Project Aristotle at Google found that team members felt a heightened sense of psychological safety when they had meaningful relationships with their colleagues, demonstrating that employee engagement and job satisfaction could be improved through such connections. Works, a company that has created dispersed engineering teams for over 150 global technology businesses, found that employees’ productivity increased when they had personal interactions with other team members. This level of engagement created a feeling of community and collective responsibility, making the job more enjoyable for everyone.
Works has conducted extensive research to determine the key components of successful remote teams. It has been identified that team unity is largely influenced by interpersonal communication, which can be used to promote productivity and reduce employee turnover. To strengthen these relationships and ensure the success of a remote team, here are four practical steps that can be taken:
Communication between people on a small scale may have a significant impact.
Creating channels to enable people to communicate their stories is an important and worthwhile endeavour. Investing the first few minutes of a virtual conversation to catch up on each other’s lives beyond work can be beneficial, as it helps to foster meaningful connections. For example, some teams at Works have developed a weekly tradition of sharing emoji representations of their weekend plans on a Slack channel. According to Works’ Vice President of Technology Products, this exercise has led to “discover[ing] one or two facts about someone [that one] didn’t know before.
Gather your friends and family and have some fun.
Although it would be ideal to celebrate together in person, it is unfortunately not feasible in the current circumstances. However, there are other creative ways to commemorate the occasion. Why not organize a virtual get-together for everyone to join in toasting the success? Or why not treat everyone to pizza to mark the special event? As a final suggestion, why not consider a worldwide ugly sweater competition to celebrate the holiday season?
We should all make an effort to be visible during video chats.
It is understandable that some remote workers may not want to turn on their video for a call due to feeling self-conscious about their background or the time of day. However, we strongly encourage video participation as it can help to create a more personal connection between colleagues. For example, one participant joked that they have their guitar visible in the background while they work from home and this sparked conversations about music and led to deeper connections.
Set a good example.
It is essential to maintain a line of communication to ensure that all members of the team are treated with the same respect and consideration, regardless of their geographical location. At Works, formal assessments between partners and developers include feedback on human elements such as whether an employee blocked the camera during video conversations or whether a remote developer had access to all the necessary information to complete their tasks. As our leader states, “Leadership requires discipline, education, and empathy”. We must continuously remind each other of the challenges that come with working remotely and strive to modify the way this is perceived in order to maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of a distributed team.
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