Remote work presents as many advantages as risks. A lot of people enjoy working remotely as it reduces commuting fatigue, allows them to spend more time around their family, and to easily maneuver between personal and professional life. On the other hand, it’s been widely observed how remote work can lead to serious stress and a fairly deep sense of loneliness.
How can we as leaders and colleagues keep ourselves engaged, support others and watch out for everyone’s wellbeing while working remotely?
Having in mind that keeping yourself and your team engaged is a day-to-day job and an ongoing process, here are some suggestions to cultivate fulfilling relationships at work which will foster participation and collaboration.
1/ Create a virtual “Safe space” for you and your collaborators.
We feel psychologically safe when we:
Are not afraid to share ideas and doubts
Do not fear to say we have made a mistake or that we don’t know something
Are likely to ask for help before it’s too late
Don’t need to pretend to know when we don’t
Feel free to speak if we think something is wrong.
To help you build it, follow the “ARE” technique:
ACKNOWLEDGE what your team members say, even if you don’t agree. Listen fully until the end.
RECOGNIZE yours and their efforts: you have been working remotely for a long time now, it’s normal if you are tired of it. Acknowledge everyone’s commitment and dedication.
EMPATHY: show it, when you and others look tired, or the work is not as good as usual. Maybe it’s time to have a break from the screens.
2/ Create a Virtual Community
In this “safe space,” we are building a sense of community by encouraging the sharing of ideas and issues to be solved together with everyone’s contribution. Group discussion and collective problem solving is key to fostering a sense of understanding of others’ perspectives, needs, and challenges. It promotes real interest and cares for one another as well as a sense of engagement and community as we listen to somebody else’s difficulties and actively participate in finding a solution.
In this context activities like Group Coaching are extremely helpful to reinforce collaboration and interconnection. Individuals of the same team at the same company meet together to solve or to share ideas about a common issue: they find a solution together. When coaching a group coaching member, participants better understand their point of view. This ultimately brings a more efficient dialogue when they collaborate together since they better understand each other.
3/ Constantly check your collaborators’ state of mind.
Take PERSONALIZED actions with each of your team members to decide together the frequency of your one-on-one meetings and how to address their needs.
When you work remotely, this contact should be more frequent and shorter, like two/three times a week for a maximum of half an hour. Do it by video call or phone call rather than email, to get some face-to-face time and reinforce the connection. It’s up to the manager to organize this, even if your collaborators do not specifically request it.
Use these meetings to:
Understand your collaborators’ state of mind and check on their morale. As we mentioned, loneliness can quickly become a trap.
Talk about something important to them, like a success or a challenge.
Get regular feedback on their progress.
And don’t forget to listen, listen, listen!
4/ Be mindful about work/life balance
As human beings we need social interactions to thrive, and no screen time can make up for that in-person connection. Consequently, remote working is emotionally and physically draining in the long run. To cope with it, constantly check on your wellbeing and the well-being of your collaborators. Try to practice some activities that can help recharge and nourish you throughout your day, so that you can feel more balanced and grounded during your working hours:
In the morning, do something that helps to clear your mind: like meditation, physical exercise, listening to music, journaling or reading. Anything that makes you feel settled in your skin and gives you a sense of openness to the day ahead.
Pause from screens from time to time. Screen fatigue is a thing: participate in just the absolutely necessary meetings and, even during those, don’t be afraid to announce that you need to switch off the video.
During the day, check your level of energy and take the time for a regenerating activity like a walk, breathing exercises, listening to a podcast etc.
Engage in social activities in person outside of work.
Stop screening activity at least one hour before going to bed.
We are social animals, and we need human connection to be happy. No tips will be a substitute for that, but let’s also acknowledge how technology helped us stay in touch during an incredibly challenging time. We had to learn how to use it and now we can progressively master the art of employing it to our advantage, without being controlled by it, by taking care of ourselves and putting down some healthy boundaries.