This month’s Dear Robin column addresses someone’s question about how to feel connected to work folks when you work remotely. You can find my reply here, but I’d like to explore this question more, particularly as we head into the winter and many of us will spend more time hunkering down against the cold.
What we Know About Connection and Related Topics
At this point in the grand work experiment that COVID wrought, we know quite a number of things related to connection. We know:
Almost half of employees surveyed don’t feel a connection to colleagues.
People working remotely tend to feel less engaged in their work and less connected to their colleagues, particularly employees who began working at their organization remotely.
People of color and women tend to have a more positive experience working remotely because they don’t have to “cover” as much and can be more authentic in their interactions.
Younger employees tend to want to spend less time working remotely so that they can be well-mentored and to feel more connected and engaged.
Managing hybrid or remote teams well, and fostering connection and engagement, tends to require different skills and actions for managers.
Weak social ties at work are more powerful than previously understood.
We may also have experienced, read about, or heard about the many suggestions to increase connection:
At the beginning of meetings, let people “socialize” a bit
Create structured opportunities for social interactions (e.g., books group meetings, virtual “lunches”)
Create structured opportunities for virtual or in-person team building exercises
Use the phone or video instead of written exchanges between and among colleagues some of the time
Here’s the bottom line, IMHO: even though it may take more time, reach out to colleagues and try to connect in some meaningful, or semi-meaningful way:
Find topics of interest to discuss, explore, or learn about together
Be vulnerable with colleagues who have proven themselves trustworthy
Give at least some colleagues a chance to prove themselves at least somewhat trustworthy
Make a point to laugh WITH (not at) and to convey your appreciation of your colleagues (genuinely and specifically)
Find areas of interest to discuss, explore, or learn about together
Create a study group or support group as you and a colleague learn a new skill or knowledge area together
Make a point to laugh and to convey your appreciation of your colleagues (genuinely and specifically)