Creating an organizational culture of full engagement and nurturing a sense of community where people feel connected isn’t easy — especially when we’re working remotely.
National polls indicate about 67% of employees in white-collar jobs reported working from home in 2021. A majority of those migrated into a virtual environment within their current organization where they had established relationships. But how can we successfully integrate ourselves when we make a career pivot or change jobs?
Entering a hybrid or fully remote setting requires a shift from conventional practices for creating a good first impression and establishing meaningful working relationships.
Gone are the casual and spontaneous conversations in the hallway, elevator or cafeteria tables that enabled people to share interests, gauge enthusiasm, observe expressions and capture useful tips to better acclimate to the team and organizational culture.
These dynamics have been replaced with video call habits like turning your video on, unmuting and typing in the chat. Technical connectivity is the new pathway for getting to know others, establishing trust, building bonds and creating a sense of belonging.
Despite the benefits of remote work such as cost and time savings, working virtually may also trigger sentiments of isolation and disenfranchisement.
Those planning to change jobs must be mindful of the implications of integrating into the new culture remotely. Be mindful of your sources of emotional energy — for example, people who thrive on social interactions and interpersonal engagement may experience a lack of stimulation that can lead to dissatisfaction and burnout.
Engagement can’t merely be delegated to the onboarding process or the HR department. Being proactive will ignite your creative thinking and stimulate ways to seek and create engagement opportunities.
Those struggling to forge connections in an online work environment should consider these tips:
Small talk, big outcomes. Never underestimate the power of small talk. Create rituals before and after every meeting or remote gathering to foster openness. Sharing emotions, gratitude and vulnerabilities help remote relationships transcend transactional communications. The constancy of purpose and consistency of action builds the connective tissue that brings people together at an emotional level.
Lead forums of special interests. Start a forum to offer tips regarding hobbies or pastimes or book discussions. These help people have substantive conversations and allow their interests, values, experiences, perspectives, and beliefs to surface. You will attract people who share a common interest, and this creates comfort as you build your social network.
Facilitate ideation sessions. Invite people to brainstorming sessions about current issues in the workplace. You are not alone in navigating the ambiguity and emotions of working remotely. Gather a group of coworkers to address a prompt like, “How-Might-We create engaging working relationships while working remotely?” Promote innovative and even wild ideas. This will help participants share their views and at the same time collaborate and uncover initiatives that could benefit the entire organization.
More is not better. Monitor your connectivity and establish online routines. Create your “closed-door” moments for immersive work and establish your technical boundaries of accessibility. Working remotely dissolves the demarcations of availability and creates the pressure of responding to every communication. This is particularly taxing and intrusive when you have colleagues and clients in different time zones.
Busyness is not progress. In an interconnected world overstimulated by feeds, alarms, and reminders, it’s easy to confuse busyness with progress and high activity with advancement. As we seek efficiencies to cross out our list of things to do and respond immediately to everything without discerning its level of importance, we dangerously drift from effectiveness. Focus on doing the right thing, not just on doing things right.
This blog originally appeared in AZ Central.