The onset of remote and hybrid work, while making life easier and more flexible, has also broken down bonds between teams and departments. There’s confusion where there should be collaboration; discord where there used to be teamwork; silos and disconnections where teams once thrived.
As a leader, you’ve probably started to feel that disconnect. You know you need to figure out a way to break down those silos and make sure that everyone in your organization feels connected and plugged into the same collective goal. But with the pressure of deadlines and the hectic pace at which your organization moves, you might feel that even you’re losing touch with your own team members. What do you do?
Bring balance back into the workspace
Take action! Call a meeting with your team and discuss the idea of introducing time for connection and collaboration. These tips can get you started on bringing back that indescribable feeling of working together toward a common goal:
1. Be more intentional about 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. Ensure that these meetings are meaningful and relevant rather than just another task on your list. Bob Marsh, chief revenue officer at design-forward technology firm Bluewater, has found that when the team can see what everyone else is working on, it creates alignment and synergy. He incorporated 15-minute check-ins each day and weekly group activities, such as virtual games or discussions, and found that it immediately strengthened and synthesized bonds between employees.
“As I’ve mentioned, there are simply fewer opportunities for casual conversations in remote and hybrid teams,” Marsh wrote. “Your employees must be intentional about connecting, following up, and asking for updates about 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 learn 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, small irritations can easily become bigger frustrations.
Encourage your team to block out chunks of time to focus on specific tasks and share that information with everyone.
It’s also helpful for employees to share their time zones and working hours in their email signatures or pin pertinent details on messaging profiles. HR can prepare an easily accessible schedule of national and team holidays. Not only will this prevent confusion when one office suddenly vanishes from digital view, but it also will encourage an environment of openness where your people feel free to ask about work culture and team practices.
3. Find ways to give feedback and recognition.
The power of asynchronous teams has historically been their ability to function without managers keeping tabs on them. You might find that your employees can build rapport with one another and respond freely because they aren’t afraid of their comments or work being judged. But to do this, you need to ensure that recognition and feedback flow freely.
“The ability to build deeper, more emotional connections is often missing 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 such as instant messaging can help encourage open dialogue when meetings might not work. If they don’t, AI tools can take notes so team members are never out of touch with what’s happening in the company.
Tsedal Neeley, senior associate dean of faculty and research at Harvard Business School and author, thinks you should convey three things: “Who we are, what we do, and I am there for you.” These messages solidify your organization’s identity while reassuring teams that they’re seen and supported.
“It’s important to remind team members that they share a common purpose and to direct their energy toward business-unit or corporate goals,” Neeley wrote. “The leader should periodically highlight how everyone’s work fits into the company’s overall strategy and advances its position in the market.”
4. Have the right tools.
It’s best to adopt a suite of tools designed to work together—an online working space where people can collaborate. The less complicated the system is, the better. When multiple co-workers are editing the same document or project, it can be confusing: Who has the latest version? Are different people working on various versions at once? Fortunately, there are tools available that enable real-time updates and improved oversight, eliminating potential problems and ensuring teams can seamlessly and easily work together.
Breaking down silos and connecting remote and hybrid teams might seem daunting, considering how thoroughly remote work has infiltrated the world, but there is no shortage of ways to bridge the gap. Simple methods, such as introducing regular check-ins or encouraging transparency around work, will help your team members feel connected even when they aren’t in the same building. Adopting a suite of tools that enable real-time updates can also help keep everyone on the same page. An environment where everyone feels supported, seen, and heard within their organization should be every leader’s goal—and it becomes much easier with intentional effort and the right tools.
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