As someone working from home for many years, I can unequivocally say that it’s fantastic. Aside from the obvious benefits of no commute, no awkward elevator chat, and getting to hang out with my dog all day long, working remotely also allows me to schedule my day as I see fit— a real game changer for an insomniac like myself.
But with the good, always comes a bit of bad. And in the case of remote work, this happens to be isolation. As sad as it sounds, the majority of social interactions we do as adults are in the workplace. And by removing ourselves from that environment, we’re mostly cutting ourselves off from one of the central access points to the outside world.
How to Prevent Isolation and Loneliness in Remote Teams?
For remote employees, this absence of daily social interaction can sometimes leave us feeling isolated, anxious, and bogged down by negative thought patterns—a toxic combination that also carries consequences for employers in the way of productivity and turnover.
Put it simply, remote working loneliness and isolation isn’t just an individual issue, it’s a team issue. As such, the responsibility to fight and prevent this problem falls mostly to those at the top. For remote managers and team leaders, here are four strategies fight remote working loneliness:
Fighting Remote Work Isolation Best Tips
1. Don’t Just Encourage Employees To Get Out Of The House. Force Them.
On any given day, I can come up with thousands of excuses to justify why it’s easier for me to simply stay in and work from home all day. I put all my effort in finding these excuses as opposed to getting out and going to a cafe. It’s raining outside; it’s snowing, I have a big deadline, my fridge is packed full of delicious leftovers, World War II might break out, etc.
Unless remote workers have an excellent reason to leave the house, the chance of them doing so is exceptionally slim. This is a terrible and dangerous habit. Failing to get out of the house on a regular basis quickly leads to cabin fever which quickly leads to depression and anxiety.
This is where working-from-home-folks need bosses to step in. We need them to incentivize us to get up and out of the house. And this can be done in a variety of ways:
– Step Challenge
One of the best ways to force remote employees to get out is with a little healthy competition. As weird as it sounds, making your team compete for their health is a great way to fight isolation.
Have the members of your team track and report the number of steps they take each day on their Fitbit or smartphone’s built-in pedometer to see who can rack up the most miles over the course of a week, month, or quarter. These challenges are also a great way to encourage onsite and offsite employee bonding.
– Coffee shop vouchers
If your company can afford it, why not invite your remote employees a free coffee once a week or fortnight at Starbucks or their local coffee shop? This little freebie is sure to boost morale but, more importantly, will help force your virtual workers to shake up their environment every so often.
– Encourage meetups
If two or more of your remote employees live in the same area, encourage them to get together every once in a while for a work session – remember? Remote doesn’t mean lonely! This could be done at one of the employee’s homes, a coffee shop or if your company can afford it, a co-working space. If not, you can always encourage your employees to get together via virtual hangouts.
– Networking and industry events
Employers are often sending in-house employees along to conferences, training courses, and other industry events. Why should it be any different for remote teams? Your virtual employees will benefit from these activities for socialization and with professional growth opportunities. It is the best motivation to get dressed up and out from behind their laptop!’
2. Break Away From Email
Who doesn’t love email? We all do. It’s efficient, comfortable, and everyone knows how to use it. At the same time, email can be stilted and impersonal, making it difficult to connect with colleagues on a more human level. It’s for this reason that teams—especially virtual teams—should never rely solely on email as their modus operandi of communication.
If you haven’t already, transition your team on Slack, Trello, or one of the many other project management solutions. Like email, these platforms get the job done fast. But what’s more, they do it in a way that stimulates more collaboration and real-time interaction among virtual staff creating more occasion to bond and feel part of the same team.
Teams should also be integrating video conferencing into their workflows as much as possible. There’s loads of interactive software out there to facilitate these exchanges—you’re bound to find one that works for your company’s culture and budget.
Lastly, if your virtual team works in the same time zone, try schedule calls in the morning. This helps remote employees dial into work-mode first thing in the morning and helps them remain more engaged throughout the rest of the day.
What if you don’t have any reason to meet? Schedule one! A good idea is to celebrate wins in your remote team every time a project has been checked off – you are a team, why should you celebrate alone? All virtual teams should be meeting online at least once a week.
3. Let There Be Banter
Repeat after me: All work and no play makes my virtual employees isolated and lonely. Too much focus on goals and targets will make my remote team miserable and disengaged.
Workplace banter is essential for fostering connections between team members and this applies just as much in the virtual world as it does in the real one.
Team leaders, that’s your call! It’s up to you to be the example of your department and follow the best remote management practices. Learn to be open with staff about your life outside of work and where appropriate, ask them about theirs too. Also, allow meetings to organically trail off onto random subjects that enable your workers to bond over shared interests and playful banter.
4. Fight Isolation With Human Skills!
Finally, all managers should be keeping tabs on their virtual employees to make sure they’re coping with the mental burden of working from home. Every few months, check in with the members of your team to see what questions they have and ask if there’s anything they need.
Even if they consistently respond that it is all great, they will appreciate your care.This is still a significant exercise to carry out as it helps foster an environment in which employees will feel comfortable speaking up should a problem arise.
Another thing managers should always pay particular attention to is the living condition of your remote employees. By finding out which members of your team have spouses or roommates and which ones live alone, it helps inform which individuals might need to be supported that little bit more than others.
Remote Work is All About Team Spirit, not Isolation!
The reality is that for managers, keeping on top of both your employee needs and your company goals is never an easy task. And if times are busy and one of them needs to hit the back burner, it’s almost always the former. That’s why strategies to prevent isolation and support your team in a remote setting are so important. Once you have them integrated into your day-to-day workflow as a team, you can get back to focusing on the real job at hand.
We have been a remote recruitment agency for a decade. Our team changed, improved, and grew from a virtual setting. For us, remote doesn’t mean isolation; it means diversity and innovation.If you are looking for ways to scale your team with remote employees, contact us!