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Lesson 1: Best ways to build connections in a remote work environment

13 MIN READ
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Aneta Kosinska

We've collected a ton of best practices for creating a high-performing team that can turn the challenges of distributed collaboration into a competitive advantage. In today's lesson you'll learn how to make your remote workers feel part of a wider community and set up the right strategy and tools to stay productive and connected.

 

Key Learnings

 

✓ How to build professional connections while working remotely.

✓ The three variables that remote workers can use to create connections with their colleagues.

 

Remote Work components

 

 

The power of connections

 

quote-brene.brownBuilding a connection to your coworkers creates resilient, trustful and energising working relationships! Brene Brown, a social psychology researcher who studies difficult topics like empathy, vulnerability and belonging in professional settings, defines connection as “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

 

With her definition in mind, it becomes clear why many employees are quickly filled with low spirits without it. 

The three variables of connection stem from Brene Brown’s definition and they are:

 

1) Acknowledgement: to feel seen, heard and valued.

2) Exchange: to give and receive without judgement.

3) Empowerment: to derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.

 

 

1) Start strong with the first connection builder: acknowledgement

 

kenjo-tip-bubble-01Have you ever worked hard on a deliverable, only to realise that no one noticed you or the effort it took to make it a success?! Would a simple “thank you” have been enough to energise you and make you feel connected to the process?

 

Because remote work tends to be more transactional than office work, implementing formats that enable teams to feel heard, seen and valued is very important  

 

To ensure employees are remembering to acknowledge one another, check out these three great formats: 

 

 

High Fives:


  • High Fives is a concept that Simon Sinek has implemented to stay connected with his teammates in a remote working environment.  
  • The idea is to take five minutes at the beginning of a weekly call to draw attention to the people that have moved a work deliverable forward or created a positive working environment.
  • An example from Simon himself is: “A big high five to Alyssa for doing all the research and development this week, it’s been an absolute joy working with her, what we’ve got is really really good. So thanks to Alyssa.” 

 

 

Celebration slack thread:

 

  • A celebration slack thread is used to share good news, work accomplishments  or meaningful progress about project deliverables with coworkers. 
  • It also allows individuals to receive immediate feedback in the form of ‘like  buttons’ and emojis from their coworkers, which is known to foster connection  👍🏻😍 
  • WebEx

 


kenjo-tool-tips

 

  • Kenjo's very Shout-out feature give colleagues a chance to tell each other they’re doing a great job. The shout-out is shared publicly across teams, making it easy to celebrate colleagues and show your support. It’s that easy to improve ownership and the quality of work. Give them some kudos via Kenjo’s thank you notes module. 
  • These are some examples to celebrate employees:
          • “Thank you for helping us find a better workaround for our customer.”
          • “Thank you for bringing that amazing attitude to the sales team - your results this quarter have landed you a spot in the company hall of fame!”
          • “She brings in customers, she brings in sales, she brings great energy. Thank you for being awesome!”

 

Try Kenjo's Shout-outs during a 14 day trial and see how it enhances employee enagement.

 

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2) 4 ways to build strong connections through exchange

 

kenjo-tip-bubble-02Do you have that one colleague who shares the same passion as you or someone who actively engages in what you’re interested in? You likely feel energised and inspired after speaking with them, right?

 

That’s because connection flourishes once we provide and receive valuable, non-judgemental information that’s relevant to us!

 

Work video conference

 

To foster stronger connections through the power of exchange, read about the following formats: 

 

Video Meetings 

  • According to Forbes, face-to-face communication is vital for developing real connections, and according to Psychology Today, it's commonly believed that 55% of communication is transmitted through body language and only 7% through the spoken word. 
  • If teams are distributed between countries or unable to meet in person due to Covid-19, the only way to exchange via face-to-face is through video. By using video meetings and seeing behaviours such as nodding, smiling and laughing, teammates actually create stronger connections with each other! Here are some popular video conferencing tools to get that informal communication exchange working for your colleagues: 

 

 

Have a Donut meeting

 

Donut is a free app that’s compatible with the messaging platform, Slack. Each week, Donut randomly pairs up the remote team and suggests you go for a virtual coffee, or get together for a chat. The app automatically creates a new conversation in Slack for paired colleagues to discuss plans for their “Donut date”.

 

 

Fifteen-minute mindfulness practice 

 

  • The fifteen-minute mindfulness break is a popular practice among Silicon Valley tech companies. 
  • The idea is to encourage colleagues to join a meditation session at the same time, every day for fifteen minutes. This meeting is optional to attend,  but is a great opportunity to connect with colleagues on a different level and exchange healthy practices 😊.
  • To organise it, simply send a recurring calendar invite to your teammates and turn on a fifteen-minute guided meditation to kick it off. Here are some popular mindfulness resources that have great company-wide discounts:



Facilitate get-togethers


HR managers should include a budget to bring remote employees into the office on a semi-regular basis for relationship-building and networking. You could organise a regular trip to a different location each year to socialise, celebrate their achievements and share their working from home productivity hacks. 

 

This way, employees feel more connected to their work community. If you're concerned about the budget involved with planning such an event, just think how it could improve productivity and minimise the miscommunication and lack of engagement that often arises when working from home.

 

HR Course: Work Connections

 

 

3) Secrets to increase empowerment in your remote team

 

Try to reflect on a time when a mentor gave you the tools, best practices and strategies to make your project even better. These experiences create an “I have your back” moment, which quickly empowers coworkers and moves projects forward with more oomph! 

 

Teammates can empower each other by using these two great formats:

 

 

Friday AND not BUT

 

  • “And not But” is a common format taught in CEMS, an international intercultural master in management programme. In “And not But” meetings, individuals have the opportunity to present a solution to a problem and solicit feedback from their coworkers. 
  • The only caveat is that the feedback must grow an idea/ make it stronger, rather than bring it down and criticise it.  
  • This format is very empowering because it invites all parties involved to think of stronger solutions together 😎 
  • Feedback is shared at the end of the presentation, using a form or through face-to-face conversation. 

 

 

Tip of the day

 

  • Tip of the day is a concept that Simon Sinek has implemented to stay connected with his teammates in a remote working environment.  
  • The format empowers individuals to share a useful piece of advice at the beginning of a weekly meeting that will benefit other members of the team professionally. 
  • For example, a tip of the day could be to share a yoga video and speak about the benefits movement can bring to workplace productivity! 



Encouraging employees to build connections  

 

quote-squared-colors-01Before you speak to your employees about these three variables and formats, try building a connection by acknowledging the challenges they're facing and empowering them to change it. 

 

  • To start, you can use the following (or similar) phrase: “Hi there, I understand that you’ve been experiencing some challenges since starting your new role and were especially looking forward to joining us at the headquarters. I admire your resilience in continuing to search for solutions in unprecedented times and I appreciate you approaching me for advice on this important and often overlooked topic.”
  • To empower them to improve his situation, you can use the following (or similar) phrase: “I can suggest a few formats that have worked for other teams who were facing similar challenges as you. I’d be happy to share them with you because I believe you’d be great at introducing them to your teammates and ultimately building stronger connections at work. What do you think? Do you want to try it out?”


By acknowledging their current situation and empowering them with strategies to change it, you will not only be creating more confident employees but also connecting with them in the process.  

 

🔑 Remember that, to build a strong remote working team, colleagues must build strong connections with each other. You can encourage your teammates to build connections with each other through formats catered to

 

1) acknowledgement,

2) exchange, and

3) empowerment. 

 

Making your remote workers feel part of the community, as well as building strong connections, is a great place to start. To kickstart your company to remote work success, however, you’ll need to establish the right processes. 

 

 

Learning from the best - Trello’s best practices

 

Atlassian, the company that created Trello and Jira, had all of its workforce working remotely for a year during their office relocation. And they learned some valuable lessons from this experience way ahead of everyone else in the game.

 

 

Elizabeth Hall, VP of People at Trello, shares how at Trello they maintain a cohesive company culture when employees are distributed across many locations. Trello’s  main takeaways are:

 

  • Buy-in from everyone in the company.
  • Policies and tools that support the system.
  • Constant evaluations and check-ins.
  • At least one all-company retreat a year.
  • An onboarding process that is functional regardless of location.
  • Invest in your people team.
  • Align your team with your company’s values.
  • Monitor performance through KPIs, rewards, etc.
  • Build memories, celebrate successes & failures, party, organise fun activities such as #fridaylunches, #gyms, #failchamp etc.

 

 

kenjo-checklist-01

 

check_9 Communication is key.

 

check_9 Choose the right communication tools such as Slack or Asana for working on shared projects.

 

check_9 Use cheeky icebreaker questions to kick off weekly meetings or insert it during morning stand-up meetings.

 

check_9 Over-emphasise onboarding to make your employees feel special and welcomed. 

 

check_9 Set your newbies up with different people in the team right from the beginning. That way they’ll have a reliable go-to-person for any questions that might arise. Learn 8 tips to effectively hire and manage remote employees here.

 

check_9 Build a buddy system to help new employees connect with their new environment.

 

check_9 Set scheduled video chats, this helps especially to overcome feelings of isolation when working from home.

 

check_9 Carve out a dedicated non-work chat channel where employees can talk about whatever’s on their mind. 

 

check_9 Define clear goals for remote workers to set them up for success so nothing gets lost in translation.

 

check_9 Invest in company retreats — and do 'em right.

 

➡️➡️ Print out your Kenjo connection checklist here to tick off what's most important: Download checklist. ⬅️⬅️

 

Connection

 

 

What’s coming next?


In tomorrow’s lecture, you’ll learn how to get organised and implement the right remote processes and strategies. Key learnings will include performance management, how employee engagement and satisfaction play key roles in any company, and how to run performance reviews.

 

Would you like to learn more about remote work? With Kenjo’s free remote work eBook, you’ll discover the superpower of managing remote teams, improving their productivity and making them feel part of a bigger cause.

 

To learn more about Kenjo’s solution to increase employee satisfaction, click here.

 

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