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Mar 19, 2020 | 4 min read

10 things you can do right now to create connection for your remote teams

A strong remote strategy is a strength for your company. Period. It’s a major indicator that you can be agile and continue to grow, no matter what curveballs are thrown at you – whether that’s unexpected environmental factors like Coronavirus or simply the inability to find talent in competitive markets. 

But the quickest thing to go out the window with remote work is also the thing that makes us the happiest – human connection. In a recent Terminal survey, 35% of engineers globally say it’s harder to collaborate and feel part of the team when working remotely, with another 22 percent reporting feelings of loneliness and isolation. Even for the most introverted among us, connection is a powerful force that motivates us and puts meaning behind the work we do. 

Our Chief People Officer Jennifer Farris and Gitlab’s Head of Remote Darren Murph recently joined Range on a webinar about preparing for remote work. Take a look at the tips they shared on how to find a path to maintain human connection through intentional actions that bring people together.

How to start driving better connection with your remote team:

  1. Start from a place of trust. If you’re a manager, you’ve probably had a moment of fear that your remote employees are taking some extra Netflix time on the job. It’s common for management to worry, but research shows remote workers can be nearly 40% more productive than office counterparts. So give your team the benefit of the doubt, and think instead about how to solve for the real challenges of remote work, things like isolation and lack of visibility. 
  2. Set measurable objectives. Trust can also be created by knowing your team is meeting their goals. “So, take a step back,” says Terminal Chief People Officer Jenn Farris, “and ensure the team can be successful in the way you’re set up – align on how are we going to hold everyone accountable, and communicate that information out.”  That starts with documented goals and project plans that everyone can get behind. 
  3. Don’t copy-and-paste “in-person” into “remote.” Darren Murph, Head of Remote at Gitlab, says that this can be a common pitfall. “If you have an upcoming meeting…consider is that meeting necessary? Is there a different way to approach this now that we’re working from home? Could this be done asynchronously? Are there new ways or new tools we can look at that would make our life more efficient?” 
  4. Consider a virtual off-site for the team. “We do this at Terminal,” says Farris, “we’re all in our preferred location and it’s all about human connection. It doesn’t have to be physical. It’s all about the emotional touch points you can create for people to make sure they feel included.”
  5. Embrace asynchronous communication. While at first glance this may seem like the antithesis of connection, it can actually create a place for people to communicate and provide updates on projects no matter when in the day they do it. Gitlab takes this a step further, says Murph. “We have a bias toward asynch. Meetings are a last resort. We have a tool at the center of our workflows…that enables people to have whatever working hours suit them best.” 
  6. Create a remote culture using communication tools such as Slack or Notion. Document decisions, celebrate successes and share company news digitally and consistently.
  7. Onboard remote employees in person, or promote travel between locations. It’s recommended to bring remote hires to HQ at the start of their employment for a minimum of 2 weeks to help them build a strong relationship with the team. [Though, of course, not currently an option due to COVID-19.] 
  8. Make sure there’s access to leadership (not just direct management). From blocking off office hours for remote teams to virtual Q&A sessions, company leaders need to be equally accessible for both internal and external employees.
  9. Consider creating a remote team “champion.” At Gitlab, Murph says having a remote function has been really critical to success. “It’s important to put the onus on someone driving this,” he says. “This lies somewhere between HR and operations. As you enter a remote space you’ll have a lot of communication gaps that pop up.” 
  10. Don’t forget mental health. Remember the person behind the screen. “The manager should be proactively checking in. If remote is new for your team, do more frequent quick check-ins, that are without structure, and just there to support people as individuals,” says Farris.

If you’d like to hear more insights from Jenn Farris and Darren Murph, listen to the recording here. If you’re an engineering leader looking to build-out of a remote team, we can help you get started.

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