How to foster authentic connection between remote employees


The coronavirus pandemic has sent the majority of U.S. workers home, resulting in a massive and unprecedented transition to remote work. While remote work does offer plenty of benefits—comfy office ware and a non-existent commute—it can also strain connection and trust, two factors that are crucial to a well-functioning team. It’s easy for remote employees to feel disconnected when they can’t drop by a co-worker’s office or to misinterpret an email without vocal tones or facial expressions behind it.

As a manager, you can maintain an authentic connection with your remote employees. It just takes a little extra focus and a bit of creativity. Here are seven ways to help your remote employees stay connected even in these uncertain times.

1. Host video conferences

Your remote employees may quickly begin to feel isolated in their home offices, especially if their only connection to the rest of the team is through email, messaging apps, and posts on your team management platform. Don’t reduce your team members to text on a screen. By hosting video meetings, employees will get to see and hear from their team members, which will make it easier for them to feel connected. Here are all the tools you need to make the most of your virtual meetings.

2. Spend one-on-one time with your remote employees

To help alleviate feelings of isolation among your remote employee staff, schedule one-on-one meetings with each of your team members on a regular basis. Of course, we recommend using a video chat software for these meetings.

Use your one-on-one meetings to catch up on what your team member is working on, answer their questions, and learn about their concerns. This is an excellent chance for you to take the temperature of your team and to help your team members make the most of their time at home. Make sure to leave time for non-work-related conversation. A big part of connecting with your remote employees is learning about who they are outside the office.

On this note, Wade Foster, co-founder of the app connecting software, Zapier, suggests pairing employees for one-on-one calls. This is a great way for employees to learn more about each other and to recreate watercooler chats. At Zapier, Foster and his employees use a service called Donut to set up random chats.

3. Find creative ways to promote company culture

Just because you and your team are working from home doesn’t mean company culture has to fizzle. Sure, you can’t celebrate birthdays with shared cake in the breakroom at the moment, but there are lots of great ways to keep company culture alive in a remote environment.

Zapier employees have created hundreds of Slack channels devoted to socializing. Wade Foster explains, “The time people spend in these channels isn’t seen as slacking off—it’s a way to get to know the people you work with so you can trust them more when it comes time to get stuff done.”

How can you promote company culture? What about creating fun message channels dedicated to silly pet pictures, favorite flavor of ice cream, best song ever, embarrassing childhood photos, and more?

You could also post Happy Birthday memes on a team member’s birthday or serenade them on a video call. There are lots of ways to have fun even when you aren’t in the same room as your team.

4. Host events outside of work

Some of the best team bonding happens after hours, during employee appreciation events, team dinners, or happy hours with co-workers. Today’s social distancing guidelines and shelter-in-place orders mean you can’t exactly meet up for drinks or bowling, but here are a few great after-hours activities you can do together:

5. Trust your team

Trust promotes connection, and the best way to earn trust from your remote employees is to give it to them first. What does giving trust look like in a remote work environment? It means resisting the urge to micromanage. That can be difficult for managers who can’t see what their workers are doing or how they are managing their time. The key is to step back and focus on results and deliverables instead of trying to ensure that your team isn’t sneaking off to check Facebook or watch some TikToks.

The second key to developing trust is offering your remote employees transparency. These are challenging times for most businesses. Be honest with your team about what is happening, how your company plans to get through the next months, and how that will affect employees. Your workers will appreciate your honesty and will reward you with their trust.

6. Support your team

When your employees go the extra distance, hit a tough deadline, or nail a work assignment, give them the praise they deserve. Acknowledge their success publicly on your next video call and let them know how much you appreciate their effort.

Even a few kind words can go a long way toward making an employee feel seen and heard. It can also help them feel like they belong on the team. Check out these nine ways to celebrate remote wins.

7. Ask for feedback

In order to develop a strong connection among your remote employees, you need to know how they feel. Put together an anonymous survey focused on trust and connection and send it to your team. This your chance to ask things like:

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you trust your team?
  • Are there any company policies that you feel make it harder for you to connect with your coworkers?
  • Do you have any suggestions for ways we can improve connections between employees, including group bonding events you would like us to consider?

Take this feedback seriously and make an effort to implement reasonable suggestions. Don’t be shy about sending out this survey again or even issuing a poll with a single question to measure levels of trust and how they change over time. Ideally, as you implement more remote team-building strategies, levels of trust will increase among your workforce.

For more tips and best practices on managing a remote team, improving employee engagement, and scaling company culture, check out our remote resource guide