Rebuilding Team Connection

How to reconnect with your hybrid or remote team members

As we continue to navigate the hybrid work world, many of us finding something missing. While we may appreciate the opportunities of a more flexible working environment and the convenience of working from home, many of us are missing the closeness we once had with our co-workers. The sense of togetherness. That warm feeling of being part of a team. The all-important human connection.

We miss the water cooler chats, seeing pictures of a new grandchild, or sharing what we did last weekend. We miss the small things like looking over to your co-worker’s desk and sharing a suppressed smile (or eyeroll) from an inside joke. We miss those thoughtful little encounters like when your colleague grabs you a fresh cup of tea while she’s refilling her coffee or puts a smiley face post-it on your desk to cheer you up. We miss the small nuances that can only be picked up on in person, like noticing the colleague who sits next to you rapidly tap their foot under their desk which they only do when they are really trying to focus. Or that telltale vein on a manager’s forehead that only pops up when they’re stressed. We miss the closeness and connection we get from spending time in person with our co-workers.

The gradual loss of the human connection can impact the cohesiveness of your team. The pillars of team connection – trust, collaboration, mutual respect – can be difficult to sustain when your connection is mostly or entirely virtual. When those connective tissues between the team members begin to erode, the strength of the team can also begin to deteriorate. And when teams begin to lose strength, it can begin to impact your business.

Team connection is a crucial ingredient for organizational success. Connected teams communicate better with one another. They are more collaborative and supportive of one another. They are more productive and efficient. They are more likely to work together effectively to achieve common goals.

So, what can you do to begin to rebuild the trust and unity of your team? We have ideas for bringing together hybrid teams and remote teams. Try these tips to reconnect your team:

For hybrid teams:

  1. Schedule time to reconnect. Consider having your team block off their calendars for the day of the week when you are all together and utilize that day for team meetings and one-on-one meetings with members of your team.
  2. Make the most of your time together. Many hybrid teams are now coming into the office once a week. If that’s the case for your team, plan to make the most of the time you are together, even if it’s only one day a week.
  3. Take the first step. As your team’s leader, be sure you are connecting with your team members particularly on the days when you are in the office. These days are ideal for your one-on-one meetings with your team. Be sure to spend some time chatting with each person before getting down to business.
  4. Take some time for sharing in team meetings. Consider starting the meeting with a fun icebreaker question that allows your team to talk about themselves so that you can all get to know each other again. Or just ask everyone to share what they did over the weekend.
  5. Be flexible. Allow time and flexibility for water cooler chats and impromptu office pop-ins. Let your team have some time to reconnect with each other, talk about what’s new with their family or what they’re streaming on Netflix. Even if productivity declines slightly on in-office days, those brief human connections go a long way in building team unity.
  6. Show your appreciation. Make an extra effort to let your team know you value them, especially when you are together. Encourage them to find ways to show appreciate to each other as well.
  7. Do something fun! For large teams, consider hiring a food truck for a team lunch in the company parking lot. For smaller teams, plan a potluck breakfast where each team member brings in their favorite breakfast dish. One small team we know does yoga together one hour a week at their company’s onsite gym. Another large team arranges periodic outings with their team with the focus of helping a local charity, such as serving a meal together at a homeless shelter or helping to build a neighborhood playground.

If your team is entirely remote, here are some ideas to come together:

  1. Break the ice. Start your Zoom team meetings with a fun icebreaker to get your team to interact on a topic other than work. If icebreakers are awkward, simply ask “what did everyone do last weekend?” or “what are you looking forward to next weekend?”. You’ll find your team getting caught up on each other’s personal lives and learning more about one another, which can help to strengthen their connection with each other.
  2. Take the first step. As the leader of your team, be sure you are connecting with your team. Engage one-on-one, not only as a group. Send a quick note about the last night’s game to a team member that you would normally have talked to about it in person, or a quick chat to another to check if they’re feeling better after an illness. Send an email thanking a team member for their contribution on a project. Or pick up the phone and have a conversation. However you can, let them know you are thinking about them.
  3. Encourage chat. Have your team use the chat feature available through common work platforms such as Asana and Teams. One team we know of uses this extensively and “talks” with each other throughout the day just as they would if they were sitting next to each other.
  4. Know your team. Introverted team members may be less inclined to speak up during team meetings so be sure to engage with them through chat or one-on-one. Extroverted team members may unintentionally dominate a meeting so do your best to gently redirect. Find ways to understand and engage with the entire team.
  5. Cameras on. For most meetings with your team, encourage cameras on and pay attention to each of your team members. Do they seem tired, discouraged, frustrated, or stressed? Perhaps follow up with them offline to check that everything is ok.
  6. Cameras off. Have some “cameras off” sessions. Many remote workers spend a large portion of their workday sitting in the same spot, staring into their laptop camera on Zoom. Allow your team to have some internal meetings with cameras off, or on their phones. For some team members, just being able to take a walk while brainstorming enhances their creativity. For others, it can be a relief not having to worry about clothes or makeup or whether there are dirty dishes in the background while they are meeting.
  7. Do something fun! Host a Zoom gathering. One team we know of hosted a team cooking session on Zoom. A simple recipe was sent in advance, and they all cooked and ate a meal together while on Zoom, with the experts offering helpful tips to the less experienced cooks on the team. Another team has a Zoom cocktail hour once a month at the end of the workday. Everyone takes turns sending a small package to each team member containing all the ingredients for a cocktail for that month, often themed to align with the season. Via Zoom, the team members make and consume the cocktail, socialize, and talk about anything and everything except work.

More helpful ideas here:

Watch: CONNECTION in the Remote Work Era | Simon Sinek

Listen: Trust: Building, Maintaining, and Restoring It | Brené Brown Podcast

Listen: How to Rebuild Trust on a Team | David Burkus Podcast

Read: HBR: Rebuilding Relationships Across Teams in a Hybrid Workplace

Read: Forbes: 14 Ways Leaders Can Rebuild Trust Among Siloed Team Members

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