Bridging the Distance for Remote Teams

Staying Connected as a Remote TeamChris-Coladonato-CPLP

This is the 2nd in a series from RISC blog contributor, Chris Coladonato, who shares her insightful knowledge on communication and connection for remote teams.

Chris is a learning and development consultant at Farmers Insurance and a rock star at helping remote teams connect and engage. With more than 15 years’ experience as a talent development professional, she specializes in virtual facilitation; developing employees through social and collaborative learning methods; and helping distributed teams connect and stay connected. Chris is a Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP). Connect with her via Twitter: @chriscola.

How do you stay connected to your colleagues when they don’t work in the same office as you? Or when they work from home? How do you stay connected as a TEAM when you are all working in different offices?

While it can be difficult to stay connected and engaged as a team when you are distanced from each other, it’s not impossible. You have to be intentional about staying connected with distanced colleagues and make it a regular practice. Once you get in the habit, it becomes second nature.

You have to be intentional about staying connected with distanced colleagues and make it a regular practice. Click To Tweet

Here are five tips to stay connected for remote teams:

  1. Focus on the people first, not the technology: One of the most important things to remember when connecting with colleagues from a distance is not to focus on the technology first. It’s about building a relationship and then using the technology to help you do that. So often, we focus on what technology to use that we lose sight of what we are really trying to do – build a relationship. OR, we focus on the fact that we don’t have all the latest tech such as video chat platforms. But guess what? You can easily connect with someone via a phone call.
  2. Build in regular connections points: You have to reach out to your distanced colleagues, don’t wait for them to come to you. This means you…whether you are the one who is remote or you are the one in the office. Each of you have to make time to connect on a personal basis. Why? Since we don’t bump in to each other in the office, we have to be intentional about bumping in to one another. This could mean a regular one on one check-in; quick instant message check-ins or even something more scheduled like these Pair Calls done at Buffer. As a team, you should have regular team gatherings that AREN’T all about business. It could be a quarterly virtual gathering focused on connecting personally or a small segment of your regular team meetings. Be sure to add these regular connections to your calendar so they aren’t forgotten.
  3. Use technology to engage and connect:  When used purposefully, technology can be a great way to stay connected and engaged as a distributed team. One idea is to use your enterprise social network to post pictures from your personal lives. Share pictures of your weekend outings or your kids and pets. I regularly share pictures of my cat Amber helping (or not helping!) me work from my home office. It gives your teammates a peek in to your whole self. Don’t have an enterprise social network? How about using Facebook Groups or a tool like Slack?
  4. Out of sight; out of mind:  Keep your distributed teammates top of mind since you don’t see them on a daily basis. I keep a card on my bulletin board that has a photo of my team on it. It was from an in-person gathering and having it in front of me keeps the people on my team top of mind – as people with their own unique personalities. Another idea is to post fun pictures of the remote team members in the office where the majority of your team is located and regularly updating them. Then do the same for your remote team members! Send them a collage of all the team members for them to post in their office or on desktop computer as a screensaver.
  5. Remember that your distanced team members are part of the team:  If you have a team where the majority are in one location and the rest are distributed, it can be hard to always remember your distanced team members. This can be on team meetings where the group is gathered in one room using one phone and the rest are dialed in separately or even when the co-located team is doing a team outing at their location. Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to have something scheduled for the distributed team members every time you do a team outing at your location. However, you should let them know about it and find a way for them to be involved (if it is a volunteer event) or give them an option to take some time off (if it is a long lunch or off-site team gathering). As for team meetings where a group is in one room and the rest are calling in? Use technology as much as possible and have an in-room advocate that can keep an eye on chat, ensure there are no side conversations and pause the conversation periodically so that the remote attendees have an opportunity to share their ideas and questions. And if you are the one who is distanced from your team, speak up. Most likely, your co-located team isn’t aware of what they are doing or how it impacts your engagement.

One thing to remember is that that you and your team have to work together to stay engaged as a distanced team. Bring this topic up in a team meeting and regularly revisit it so that you can change what isn’t working and continue doing what is working. There is no one right way to stay engaged as a distanced team. The key is to be intentional and do it consistently. There is no one right way to stay engaged as a distanced team. The key is to be intentional and do it consistently. Click To Tweet

What has worked at your organization for remote teams to maintain connection?

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