In recent years the world has turned on its head and it keeps getting more complex. Remote work has become the talk of the town and many people are finding themselves trying to adapt to the new normal.

Water cooler talks are now being switched with awkward Zoom meetings where entire teams participate in. Defining culture in the workplace feels like a job in itself. Many industries never considered remote work, but there is no doubt that adaptability is key here and people are entering this brave new world.

The internet provides a lot of resources and tools for managing the logistics of work-from-home that include: meeting facilitation, 1:1s, setting up a home office, and creating the rules and boundaries between work and play. During this time of change, at Peero, a lot of time is taken towards building a culture of appreciation and gratitude.

Many of our colleagues work from home at least once or twice per week, but we made sure to fully embrace remote work just in the nick of time as the COVID-19 crisis hit. Using this as an experience, here are some thoughts on how gratitude and recognition can help your remote teammates stay connected and engaged in their jobs.

A world of solitude

Buffer’s State of Remote Work report of 2019 discovered that 19% of remote workers report loneliness as their biggest professional struggle. Now if an individual is used to working in an office for the majority of the time, this issue might aggravate. Loneliness can pose a problem for a variety of reasons:

Burnout: there is a misconception that remote work means fewer working hours. On the contrary, a common trap of remote work is long(er) hours, especially if there are no boundaries between work life and home life. Suddenly becoming disconnected from your coworkers might disillusion one’s expectations of productivity and availability, a lot of times leading towards unsustainable hours.

Disconnect: a recent study found a link between loneliness and decreased performance at work, a disconnect caused by a lack of information sharing and personal investment. Detachment from social connections and organizational goals leads to unhappier employees.

Lacking spontaneous creativity bursts: the unplanned sudden bumps that lead to interactions at the water cooler or hallways are not the norm anymore. As a result, via the lack of this informal process, lots of knowledge sharing and spontaneous idea generation is removed, when the ability to connect with colleagues just isn’t there anymore.

Mental health issues: we are wired to be social, and lack of human interaction has tangible downsides. Mental health isn’t a tabu topic anymore and isolation has lots of times been linked to poor mental health, leading to higher morbidity and an increase in mortality rates. A lot of time is spent at the workplace work — make sure it’s not in full isolation.

It’s not a struggle you need to find yourself alone in. Even the most experienced and hard-wired remote workers feel lonely without human interactions, so first-time remote employees need to go the extra step to create meaningful connections, even if they are online. The next section will explore the topic of connectivity in the workplace.

Stay connected: The basics and rules of thumb

1. Over-Communicate

The tone and language we use in collaborating with others are one of the best ways to dish out information, so it is important that you over-communicate ideas (rather than under-communicate), when writing and video chatting. Be clear of your assumptions, cite and be diligent of your sources, and always consider outcomes that you desire. A good technique is called BLUF (bottom-line-up-front), where you open a conversation with the conclusion to make your intentions clear.

2. Video as default

Jump on a video call whenever possible, especially when you believe the issue is miscommunication. Having the visual cues of your coworkers’ facial expressions and listening to the tone of their voice, will make it easier to find common ground and establish win-win scenarios.

3. The extra step for empathy

With remote work a lot of us are facing new responsibilities, like being a more involved spouse, caring for family and loved ones. A simple rule that we follow at Peero is: “assume positive intent.” Try and do your best to be extra kind and patient with your coworkers, thus leading to the creation of a culture of trust and encouragement, not pressure and finger-pointing (shame).

4. Staying connected with Ideas

You might be wondering – “Yeah t’s important I connect with my co-workers intentionally, meaningfully, and in a kind-hearted way. But how do I go about it?”

The answer is – try to as explicit as possible about recognition and praise

At Peero, we believe that when great work is visible and transparent, it keeps everyone informed and inspired. This helps teammates understand why their contributions have meaning. Positive communication and dialogue help employees feel more connected to and engaged with their work. So try to thank your colleagues publicly and be detailed about it. Do it via email, on Slack or Microsoft Teams, or go with a specific employee recognition tool like Peero.

5. Create dedicated social spaces

Sometimes for the sole purpose of having fun and a good time Skype, Zoom, or Google meet is enough. It’s about bringing people together and catching up. Try creating virtual classes, like virtual happy hours, team lunches, or for the extra step employee-led yoga classes. These are great low-key ways to create options for meaningful connections. You’ll do much more than have a positive vibe going, it can dissipate the remote burnout that gets accumulated in employees.

Have fun with it!

Creative SQualians have helped our team invent all sorts of great and funky ways to have fun together via Slack. For example, we completed our first Starch Madness by pitting 16 forms of potatoes of various forms and sizes against another, leading to an unbelievable epic finale.

Or “guess this baby,” where you try to match baby pictures with teammates.

Start a remote lunch-and-learn, where coworkers share their passions, hobbies, and particular knowledge on a variety of topics.

As mentioned before, one of our coworkers started a weekly remote yoga class.

A good source of knowledge for culture-building activities for remote teams is- “10 Great Culture Building Activities for Remote Teams.”

You are not alone, we are in this together

At a time when more and more people are becoming isolated while trying to stay productive, it’s crucial that we meaningfully and with intent connect with our coworkers. For its benefits like freedom and flexibility, remote work highlights the importance of why you should take care of your coworkers’ wellbeing. Leaders across any level within an organization can nurture the company culture and encourage engagement by expanding meaningful relationships, acknowledging great work publicly, and setting up dedicated spaces for social connection.

Embrace remote and make it a strength!

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