Team Engagement in a Virtual Setting
by Liesl Walser, Project Coordinator
Remote work became the norm in accounting firms and many other professions this year, and many people believe the trend will continue even after pandemic concerns go away. While working remotely has many benefits, it can also have downsides. When people aren’t in the office with their team, they may feel less engaged or connected to their coworkers. That can eventually hurt their productivity and the performance of the company.
Without participating in organic conversations in hallways and break rooms, it takes more effort to engage a remote team. Here are some ways we maintain company culture and make every virtual employee feel like they’re part of the team.
Communication is key
When your team can’t be together in person, it’s easy for communications and decisions to stay within small groups. This sometimes leads to people feeling out of the loop.
Company leaders need to ensure that every team member is included in communication, and team members should stay in touch through weekly, monthly, and quarterly meetings.
We use several tools to facilitate communication, including Workplace by Facebook, Microsoft Teams and Zoom. The particular platforms you use aren’t important. What is important is that everyone feels included so your team can continue moving in the same direction, even if they’re not in the same location.
Team building activities
Virtual get-togethers for non-work-related chats are important. They help keep people excited to be a part of the team.
Unfortunately, some people get “Zoom fatigue” from all of the other video conferences they’re participating in – both at work and in their personal lives. But it’s still possible to hold fun virtual events for your team.
Recently, our team took part in a virtual cocktail class. Our Marketing Manager, Heather Robinson, sent a box of supplies to every team member, and we met online to learn how to make fun cocktails as a group. It was a fun and interesting twist on the virtual happy hour idea. You could also meet virtually for morning coffee or just an afternoon catchup. Anything that fosters connection and allows your team to get to know each other on a more personal basis.
The members of your team might be dealing with a lot right now. They may have unemployed spouses, kids learning remotely, family members in retirement homes that they can’t visit – all sorts of scenarios that we may or may not be aware of.
It’s important to check in with people regularly to find out how they’re feeling and coping. One of the ways our team does this is through regular “pulse check” surveys. These are very quick, anonymous surveys with just a few questions to gauge how people feel on a particular topic.
If you’re considering reopening your office, you might take a pulse check to find out how people feel about returning to in-person work. You might ask how they’re feeling in general or whether they feel like their ideas are being heard. Getting their feedback and taking action will ensure people feel heard and valued.
Encourage health and wellness
The health and wellness of your team should be a top priority. At the end of the day, if people aren’t happy and healthy, they can’t perform at their highest level.
One of the ways we encourage health and wellness is through company-wide challenges. Some examples of challenges you might do are:
Meditating a certain number of minutes per week
Spending time reading for fun outside of work
Exercising a certain number of times or hours per week
Step or mileage challenges
These kinds of challenges encourage people to prioritize health and wellness and give people a chance to bond over certain activities and stay motivated.
Acknowledge and celebrate milestones
Human beings love to celebrate milestones. Anniversaries, birthdays, holidays – these special events give structure to our lives by standing out from the routines in between.
Don’t forget about these special milestones when your team is working remotely. Make sure you take a few minutes to send a congratulatory email or host a virtual celebration with your group. These acknowledgments help maintain a sense of togetherness while people are working remotely.