February 7, 2022
Employing people remotely isn’t a new concept. Long before the pandemic, companies have realized that they don’t need to have a physical presence in a given location to hire local talent. Thanks to modern technologies, we can connect with people from around the world easier than ever before.
Virtual work benefits not only the company but the employee as well. In fact, remote employees demonstrate higher engagement rates and demonstrate greater productivity.
However, keeping your distributed team engaged and connected can be a challenge. This article will help you understand those challenges and provide five tips for improving engagement rates among remote employees.
Benefits and Struggles of Distributed Teams
Distributed teams consist of employees who are not located in the same city or country as the company’s headquarters. These employees work from their hometown virtually or, in some cases, from the company’s local offices.
Some of the benefits of having a distributed team include:
- Ability to fill critical vacancies faster
- Access to a more diverse pool of candidates
- Lower overhead costs
For the employee, working in a distributed team provides more flexibility, lower commute costs, and higher salaries. However, this is not without its downsides.
Remote employees working in distributed teams often struggle to overcome challenges related to poor communication, lack of company culture, and the absence of personal interactions.
Loneliness is one of the biggest struggles among remote workers. In a study conducted by Buffer, which included more than 3,500 remote workers, loneliness (20%) comes up as a major challenge along with communication issues (20%) and the inability to unplug (17%).
Best Practices for Engaging and Connecting Distributed Teams
Here are our five tips that will help you make a more comprehensive employee engagement strategy for your distributed team.
1. Foster Open Communication
If you want to keep a team connected and engaged, it’s vital for all members to feel heard. This is a common issue in a remote environment where employees are not able to meet face-to-face.
To mitigate these issues, keep communication open so your employees don’t feel left out or overlooked. Staying in touch with your team as often as possible demonstrates that you value their opinion and care about their well-being.
In addition to that, take proactive steps to ensure your employees can speak their minds freely and express concerns without being judged. Stay transparent in your communication and include employees in the decision-making process.
2. Make Sure Everyone Is Heard
Your team wants to know if their work brings meaningful results. Giving actionable feedback that employees can use to improve their performance and output is essential to maintaining an engaged team. According to Gallup, remote employees are three times more likely to stay engaged if they receive feedback at least a few times a month.
Similarly, allow employees to provide feedback about the company, projects, or the overall company culture. However, don’t let their feedback fall on deaf ears. Take steps to address their concerns and make appropriate changes.
Create a continuous feedback loop for gathering or providing feedback in a timely manner. You can do this by setting up recurring one-on-one calls with each employee or asking them to fill out our surveys.
For employees who are exceeding expectations, make sure to highlight their achievements. Download our free Show Me the Love survey which can help you find out how your employees prefer to be appreciated.
3. Stay Flexible
Give your employees the freedom to schedule their working hours around other commitments such as caring for a child or university classes. If your company has offices in the employees’ city or country, offer a combination of in-house and remote work.
Don’t worry about decreased productivity because the same Gallup study found that up to 80% of workers say they are more engaged while working from home. Remote employees also report making more progress the less time they have to spend at the office.
4. Give Employees the Right Tools
Distributed employees depend on technology to get their job done. Things such as outdated apps, slow computers, or poor internet connectivity can make employees frustrated because they can’t complete their tasks on time. This in turn can have a negative effect on their engagement and productivity.
Make sure your distributed team is working with technologies that make their lives easier. If your employee doesn’t have a fast computer, give them a company laptop or offer to buy them a new one.
This isn’t limited only to hardware or software. Allow your employees to develop their skills by offering to pay for courses or providing additional in-house training.
5. Encourage Social Interactions
Even though distributed teams work remotely, social interactions play a big role in keeping employees satisfied and engaged. With video conferencing tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet, socializing online is more convenient than ever.
By fostering virtual social interactions, you can help your distributed team overcome one of the major challenges of remote work – loneliness.
Team building activities are a great way to help people develop a sense of belonging, learn something new about other members of the team, and maintain healthy relationships.
Team Building Activities for Distributed Teams
Before deciding on a team building activity, make sure you have a clear goal in mind. For example, some activities are designed to develop employees’ leadership skills. Other activities are ideal for encouraging social interactions, improving communication, or just having fun.
Here are some excellent examples of team building activities for distributed teams.
Amazing Race Around the World
This team building activity helps virtual teams improve collaboration, develop better communication skills, and enhance their remote problem-solving.
Racing against the clock, your team will have to work together to complete various challenges. Communication is key here, as your teammates will depend on each other to piece together solutions to interactive puzzles.
Amazing Race Around the World can be played by up to 450 people at once.
Storytelling is one of the most compelling ways to engage people in a conversation. Our Cookie Tales team building activity encourages brainstorming and a friendly exchange of ideas.
For this event, each participant will receive a kit with real cookies, icing bags, and sprinkles in order to tell a captivating story through cookie decorations. All your team members need to bring is their artistic skills, a pinch of creativity, and a positive attitude.
If things don’t go according to plan, everyone can always just eat the evidence, and no one will ever know.
It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere: Margaritaville Murder Mystery
Another fantastic team building activity for distributed teams looking to improve their virtual communication skills is one that combines problem-solving and having fun.
It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere: Margaritaville Murder Mystery requires your team to collaborate closely and think analytically to solve a fictional murder that’s full of unexpected plot twists.
To uncover the identity of the murdered, your team will have to gather the facts, question witnesses, and work together to figure out how the evidence fits together.
Engaging and connecting distributed teams is a major challenge for many companies. But with the right strategy and some creativity, you can make your employees feel welcomed, appreciated, and happy to come to work each day.
Loneliness, poor communication, and not being able to unplug are the three most common issues remote employees struggle to overcome. Team building activities that focus on developing communication skills, promoting diversity and understanding, and enhancing remote problem-solving can help you create a more positive work environment.
Explore our Virtual Events page for more interactive and engaging team building activities for distributed remote teams.