One of the ironies of living in a perpetually connected digital world is how easy it is to feel disconnected.
As we wave goodbye to the traditional nine to five working day and office base, we’re now saying hello to the new flexible, virtual workplace – interacting online through digital channels, from Skype to Microsoft Teams and more.
On the surface, a digital world might seem like a fantastic solution but it can mean feeling connected is difficult, especially if you only see colleagues in person perhaps, once or twice a year.
So, how can you strengthen the connection and engagement of a dispersed workforce?
Harness the power of technology
As a leader, water cooler moments might be a subject of contention however, instead of seeing it as an unscheduled break, it’s important to consider the benefits of these interactions and the discussion they prompt:
“Did you see that new documentary last night?”
“Unfortunately not I was reading my notes for my meeting this afternoon with [company].”
“You’re meeting with [company]? Fantastic! I also wanted to speak to them about… Perhaps I could join for 5-10 minutes?”
While it can be difficult to have water cooler moments with a virtual team, harnessing the power of technology can allow you to create water cooler moments pretty much anywhere. Video conferencing, instant messenger chats and online team platforms are just a few of the ways we can connect quickly, easily and informally.
Sharing information with a dispersed workforce can easily become a game of Chinese whispers if not managed carefully. One message, passed along through several people, can be subconsciously distorted with different people hearing different versions, or with added information.
Maintaining consistency is key – from sharing information directly with every team member, in the benefits and incentive packages, in training and onboarding processes and in how each team member is treated.
Make it more than just a job
High performing employees are engaged by work that give them a sense of accomplishment and encourages them to feel like they’re contributing to the overall goals of the organisation.
It’s therefore important to delegate projects and tasks which stretch and positively challenge employees, explaining how these tasks complement the wider organisational goals and objectives so that employees feel that they are making a meaningful difference.
When managing a dispersed team it can be easy to involve yourself in every project and to control the situation however, this can also slow down efficiency and create barriers.
Step back where possible from projects and encourage team members to collaborate and discuss with each other. Through this approach employees can share ideas and best practice, all the while boosting engagement and ownership of projects.