Scores of American companies continue to offer a hybrid work arrangement or a fully remote dynamic for their employees — and many believe remote work is here to stay for the long haul, at least in certain professions.
For those working remotely, the day-to-day schedule can be quite different than the in-person routine of the more traditional arrangement.
The different set-up requires a different approach — for everyone.
"The downsides of boundary-less work require employers to be intentional in making a connection to their workforce," said Alison Stevens, a Boston-based director of human resources services.
Stevens works for Paychex, a Rochester, N.Y.-based leading provider of integrated human capital management software solutions and services for HR, payroll, benefits and insurance solutions for America’s businesses.
The connections she's talking about include consistency of approach by managers — which can, in turn, help employees feel a sense of purpose toward their work, said Stevens.
Consistent feedback and skill-developing opportunities need to be offered, she indicated.
Also, managers can ensure that each person is contributing to the individual team’s success as well as to the overall company objectives.
As remote or hybrid work arrangements continue, here are other tips on building and maintaining rapport — and steps that managers, or any workers, for that matter, might consider taking to help foster strong teamwork and high productivity across their teams and work groups.
Strong communication should be a high priority for all.
"Companies must find creative ways to cultivate personal connections," said Sharawn Tipton, chief people officer at LiveRamp, a data connectivity platform based in San Francisco.
One way to build rapport among remote teams?
Centralize relationship-building tactics through communications.
"This can be achieved by hosting virtual gatherings that are not work-related," to help foster "human connection," said Tipton.
For example, holding "first Friday of the month" team coffee meetings or virtual game nights can help remote workers get to know their teams and co-workers, beyond their day-to-day work and meetings, said Tipton.
By the same token, employees should make sure to participate when such opportunities are offered to them or come up. It's to their benefit.
Employees are likely to be more productive when they feel a sense of belonging and appreciation.
"By continually nurturing an inclusive, high-belonging environment, employees are more likely to deliver exceptional work, champion innovative ideas and be their best selves," explained Tipton.
Managers can be sure to give kudos in team settings such as Zooms.
But if an employee doesn’t meet expectations, do make sure to have that discussion one-on-one.
"If someone on my team went above and beyond on a task, I like to give them praise publicly on our Slack channel, so they feel recognized and valued," said Zoe Biehl, head of content at VentureKite, a digital media company in Miami, Florida.
"Additionally, if they fell short, I will speak with them privately and never publicly call them out. This ensures they know I have their back and won’t put them in uncomfortable situations."
Avoid trying to kill time during video-conference calls or phone calls.
"We have a biweekly content call where we catch up on updates and progress, and tackle any outstanding issues or questions," said Biehl.
"But if we’ve finished our agenda and there’s still another half-hour left in the meeting, I let the team go. [People] are more productive when focusing on pertinent tasks rather than dilly-dallying during superfluous meeting time."
If you're a manager or team leader, make it known that you encourage feedback and suggestions from your remote staff.
If you're a team member — take your manager up on that request.
"It’s important [for managers] to be open to feedback and suggestions to smooth out your business processes," said Biehl.
"I invite my team to share ideas for improved productivity, expertise alignment and anything else."
In addition, she said her group regularly brainstorms "and shares ideas" via team messaging.
All of these steps can smooth the way for stronger remote work processes and results.