When you are working from a physical office space, social interactions are just as easy as walking up to your colleague’s desk and asking them a question. Coffee breaks, lunchtimes, and routine team dinners help create great opportunities for employees to connect outside of work and build a better rapport with their team members.
All these little informal interactions may seem small, but they can actually have a huge impact on team bonding and the overall company culture.
But social interactions are now dwindling with remote work. As the majority of the employees are now working from home, there is a lack of face-to-face interactions which makes employees feel lonely and loneliness has been linked to lower employee performance leading to more chances of burnout.
For organizations that are planning to implement long-term remote work, it’s now crucial to recreate virtual opportunities for employees to interact in a more social manner in order to build better connections and work seamlessly with coworkers.
Here are the main remote collaboration challenges and how recreating social interactions in remote work can help overcome them.
1. Distributed team members working across different time zones
When remote employees are located across the globe and working from different time zones, it can be difficult to collaborate and communicate. Your colleagues might have already shut down work by the time you start your work for the day and vice versa. Not only can it make things difficult for remote teams to interact but it can also make employees feel more alienated from their team.
When finding overlapping working hours to schedule team meetings is already a big struggle, interacting socially with colleagues becomes almost impossible.
How to overcome it:
- Identify and mark work hours of all the team members in order to find overlapping hours when everyone is available and schedule team meetings accordingly
- Schedule regular 1:1 meetings with colleagues to connect with each other in a more informal manner
- Create and share meeting notes for the entire team to ensure everyone is in loop. If a team member isn’t able to attend a particular team meeting, you can also record your meetings and share the video with them
2. Unsuitable collaboration tools
When working remotely, it can be tempting to try every new remote work tool possible just to see if it can improve collaboration. But the more tools you use, the more siloed conversations will get, and the more difficult it will become to communicate with team members.
Also, the collaboration tools that work for one team might not work for the other. It’s important to find the right collaboration tools that fit the needs of your remote team and actually help you in improving communication and efficiency at the same time.
How to overcome it:
- Instead of trying to use different collaboration tools together, you can establish a digital workplace platform that can integrate all the business applications and centralize communication
- Create both formal and informal communication channels for employees to encourage social interactions by giving employees a separate space for non-work related conversations.
3. The lack of office banter and activities
Remote employees are always conscious of taking too much of their colleagues’ time. Working from home is not an easy feat and everyone understands that. As a result, most remote teams are conscious about the number of meetings they have in a week and the overall time duration of these meetings. In a survey, 65% of workers said that meetings keep them from completing their own work. After all, if employees spend too much of their time in meetings, they won’t have enough time to manage their actual work.
It may seem like a good idea to jump right into the meeting agendas and keep your interactions focused on work, but that will leave you with no time for non-work related conversations. The idea is to carve out time for informal communication and give your colleagues the chance to air all of their worries, stresses, and queries.
How to overcome it:
- Managers should understand that jumping right through the meeting agendas does not make up for a productive meeting. In fact, if all you talk about is work, you won’t get to understand the problems and roadblocks your team is facing every day
- Take some time out in your meetings and make space for employees to share their opinions and problems
- Managers should also schedule monthly 1:1 meetings with every team member to catch up with them, understand how they have been doing, and ask them about any problems that they might be facing.
4. No time for casual conversations
When you are a part of a remote team, every call requires the calendar to be blocked. You have to make sure your conversation is worth scheduling a separate meeting for, your colleagues are available during the meeting hours, and you aren’t taking a lot of their time.
As a direct result, most employees shy away from initiating casual conversations because nobody wants to take so much effort into just scheduling a casual catch up with their colleagues.
How to overcome it:
- Foster a culture which encourages employees to have more informal interactions and build a camaraderie with their colleagues
- Introduce virtual coffee dates by setting up casual meetings with no agendas just to catch up with coworkers. To encourage extra connections, you can also make these virtual coffee dates cross-departmental
Pick the right tools to improve remote team interactions
Just asking your remote team members to connect socially is not enough. You need to actively create opportunities and occasions in order to support impromptu social interactions. At the same time, you also need the right collaboration tools that can provide a platform for these interactions.
Introducing a whole new tool in your already expanding digital application suite just for employees to communicate socially will only end up making things more complicated. Moreover, employees might end up not using the application at all because it wouldn’t be a part of their actual work responsibilities.
Instead, you should incorporate all of the work-related data, applications, and communications into a centralized digital workplace platform. By taking a unified approach to communication, it can help you create a remote work culture that fosters interactions and communication among employees.