The onset of remote and hybrid work has made life easier and more flexible, but it has also broken ties between teams and departments. There is confusion where cooperation should be; disagreement where there used to be teamwork; silos and disconnections where teams once thrived.
As a leader, you’re probably starting to feel that disconnect. You know you need to find a way to break down those silos and make sure everyone in your organization feels connected and connected to the same collective goal. But with the pressure of deadlines and the frenetic pace at which your organization moves, you might feel that even you are losing touch with your own team members. What are you doing?
Bring balance back to the workspace
Take action! Set up a meeting with your team and discuss the idea of introducing time for connection and collaboration. With these tips you can get started to regain that indescribable feeling of working together towards a common goal:
1. Be more aware of connecting and communicating.
Everyone needs to feel connected and understand how their work fits into the bigger picture. Many organizations have embraced the idea of daily check-ins, weekly group activities, and regular one-on-one meetings. Make sure these meetings are meaningful and relevant rather than just another task on your list. Bob Marsh, chief revenue officer at design-forward technology company Bluewater, has found that when the team can see what everyone else is working on, alignment and synergy happen. He integrated daily 15-minute check-ins and weekly group activities, such as virtual games or discussions, and found that it instantly strengthened and merged bonds between employees.
“As I said, there are simply fewer opportunities for informal conversations in remote and hybrid teams,” Marsh wrote. “Your employees should intentionally connect, follow up, and ask for updates on projects or issues that need to be addressed outside of scheduled meetings.”
2. Encourage transparency around work practices.
As colleagues clock in and out of the same office, they soon get to know each other’s daily habits. Who checks email twice a day? Who likes to receive requests via text or chat? When distant team members don’t know these preferences, minor irritations can easily turn into bigger frustrations.
Encourage your team to set aside time to focus on specific tasks and share that information with everyone.
It’s also useful for employees to share their time zones and working hours in their email signatures or pin relevant details to messaging profiles. HR can create an easily accessible schedule of national and team holidays. Not only does this prevent confusion when an office suddenly disappears from digital view, but it also fosters an environment of openness where your people feel free to ask questions about work culture and team practices.
3. Find ways to provide feedback and recognition.
Historically, the strength of asynchronous teams has been their ability to function without managers scrutinizing them. You may find that your employees can build rapport with each other and respond freely because they are not afraid of their comments or work being judged. But to do this, you need to make sure that recognition and feedback flow freely.
“The ability to build deeper, more emotional connections is often lacking in a remote work environment,” Marsh wrote. “Encourage employees who work remotely to make more time to check in and connect with people on other teams.”
In other words, find ways to actively keep communication open while still making time for face-to-face meetings. Tools like instant messaging can encourage open dialogue when meetings don’t work. If they don’t, AI tools can take notes so team members never lose touch with what’s happening in the company.
Tsedal Neeley, senior associate dean of faculty and research at Harvard Business School and author, thinks so must convey three things: “Who we are, what we do, and I’m here for you.” These messages solidify your organization’s identity and reassure teams that they are seen and supported.
“It is important to remind team members that they share a common goal and to focus their energies on the goals of the business unit or company,” Neeley wrote.. “The leader should periodically emphasize how everyone’s work fits into the company’s overall strategy and how it improves its position in the market.”
4. Get the right tools.
It’s best to use a suite of tools designed for collaboration: an online workspace where people can collaborate. The less complicated the system is, the better. When several colleagues edit the same document or project, it can be confusing: who has the latest version? Are different people working on different versions at the same time? Fortunately, tools are available that enable real-time updates and improved visibility, eliminating potential problems and ensuring teams can collaborate seamlessly and easily.
Breaking down silos and connecting remote and hybrid teams may seem daunting, considering how profoundly remote working has invaded the world, but there’s no shortage of ways to bridge the gap. Simple methods like introducing regular check-ins or encouraging transparency around work will help your team members feel connected, even if they’re not in the same building. Using a range of tools that allow for real-time updates can also help keep everyone on the same page. An environment where everyone within their organization feels supported, seen and heard should be every leader’s goal – and it becomes much easier with deliberate effort and the right tools.