How do you build water cooler relationships without the water cooler?
Remote employees often feel cut off from the day-to-day work friendships shared by those in the office. Sure, they’re on plenty of conference calls and email chains. But creating human connections that go beyond business can help engage employees and make them feel part of the workplace rather than an outsider looking in. Having friends at work matters. (Gallup finds it so important that “I have a best friend at work” is number 10 of its 12 questions.)
So how do you help build friendships with employees in their home offices? Here’s a range of ideas for making that happen.
- A strong social intranet is a great place to start: When the intranet serves as the Main Street of the company where associates can bump into each other, it transcends geography and connects people in office locations around the world — and in home offices. Many companies have active groups on their intranets that connect employees with shared interests ranging from tattoos to gaming to LGBTQ issues. Remote employees can build friendships on the intranet, the same way they’re accustomed to connecting on social medio.
- Video conferencing helps put a face to a name: Nobody loves how they look on a conference room video, but it is much easier to connect with people when you’re looking at them rather than just hearing their voice on a Polycom. Seeing people rather than just listening to them also allows us to read facial expressions and body language that provide important social cues. This helps counteract the disadvantage of being a remote employee who’s not physically in the room.
- Fitness competitions get beyond titles: If there’s one way to level the playing field, from the CEO to the interns, it’s to put everyone in running shorts. A fitness competition, whether it’s for race times or daily step counts, gives employees a chance to interact outside the arena of business. Engaging in friendly competition and lending support can both help employees relate to each other in ways that they might not in the workplace. When the competition is hosted online, remote employees can engage as easily as those in the office.
- Engage remote employees with each other: Look for ways to build relationships within this employee audience. They can offer each other best practices and support that’s tried and true for those working from home. This could be anything from an ERG-like group with an annual in-person event and quarterly video calls to just a casual group that communicates on TEAMS. (For thoughts on including remote employees in major office events, you might enjoy this post on taking the event to employees — wherever they are.)
Interested in doing a better job of engaging your remote employees? Tribe can help.