by | Aug 13, 2020

Although so much about the pandemic work-from-home situation has been a surprisingly smooth transition, collaboration is more difficult for remote employees. Especially that sort of spontaneous collaboration that happens when people stand around at the office having conversations that aren’t about work.

Even when we have specific issues or challenges that employees need to collaborate on remotely, those human connections provide important groundwork. In a Tribe survey with employees of large companies across the US, respondents told us they feel much more comfortable sharing ideas when they already have a relationship with their collaborative partners.

Here are three tactics to help build those sorts of human connections that could make remote collaboration easier down the road:

TACTIC 1: Make time for virtual social events

Human connections are built one conversation at a time, so you might want to give team members more opportunities to connect socially. While everyone’s remote, try virtual coffee meetings, happy hours, trivia games and other activities that connect people both within and across teams. Although these online get togethers may not seem like an efficient use of time, they’re helping employees build important connections that can facilitate future collaboration.

TACTIC 2: Highlight the expertise of different teams

One of the disadvantages of highly specialized work functions is that employees may not have a line of sight into other teams in the organization. Showcasing the expertise and accomplishments of a range of employees, not just leaders, helps build visibility across the organization for those who could potentially be collaborative partners. Include these sorts of articles in your internal publications, on your intranet, even on your outward-facing social media. When you make celebrities of employees in different functional areas, you plant seeds for future collaboration. (For more on building respect for other team’s expertise, try this Ragan Communications article.)

TACTIC 3: Share employees’ personal stories

People are more comfortable collaborating with people they feel like they know, but remote work leaves employees limited opportunities to get to know new people. By telling the back stories of employees’ lives, you help other employees feel a personal connection to them. When you demonstrate that sort of appreciation for individual experiences and perspectives, you also help to build a culture that’s more accepting and human.

You could develop a series of articles featuring the personal stories of individual employees who are celebrating an anniversary milestone with the company or have just been promoted. You could introduce new hires to the company by a Q&A on their life journey. Or you might just randomly choose employees to feature, based on their willingness to share.

You also could try approaching the content from an Inclusion & Diversity perspective. For instance, for Hispanic Heritage Month in September, you might ask one or more employees who identify as Hispanic to tell their life stories. For Deaf History Month in April, you might feature employees who are hearing challenged. (For more on how more diversity in your company leads to benefits in collaboration, try this article.)

Interested in more ways to promote collaboration while employees are working from home? Tribe can help.

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