by | Apr 26, 2024

Building Connection and Engagement in Virtual Teams

Building Connection and Engagement in Virtual Teams

Humans are social beings

In this episode, we’re joined by Erin Shrimpton to explore the profound role of social connection and engagement in remote and hybrid work environments. Drawing from Erin’s extensive experience as an organisational psychologist, our conversation dives deep into the importance of building relationships and maintaining wellbeing among remote teams. Here’s a summary of the key insights and practical strategies discussed in the episode.

The episode highlights that the human brain is fundamentally a social organ. Social interactions activate neural pathways that promote healing and wellbeing, underscoring the need for consistent socialising in our daily lives. Studies suggest that socialising for at least four to five hours a day, whether through casual chats or structured meetings, is vital for mental health and engagement. This is especially significant in remote work settings where physical isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness and disconnection.

Practical example:
  • Personalising your zoom box: Erin highlights possibly the most efficient way you can drive connection and engagement in remote teams, which is to add things in the background of your virtual meeting screen – whether that’s Zoom, Teams, Google Meet… it doesn’t matter, the important thing to remember is that when you e-meet people, you don’t get the full picture like you would when meeting in person. So, you need to make an extra effort to show people who you are, which will help to facilitate the kinds of conversations that drive personal connection.

Strategies for building connection

To combat social isolation and enhance engagement, Erin touches on several practical strategies for building connection within remote teams:

Strategies:
  • Redesigning work: Encourage teams to craft their roles in ways that foster interaction and engagement. This could include collaborative projects or cross-functional teams that bring diverse perspectives together.
  • Wellbeing check-ins: Regularly scheduled check-ins focused on employee wellbeing can help leaders stay attuned to their team’s needs and create a supportive work environment.

The role of leadership in driving connection

Effective leadership in remote environments goes beyond managing tasks; it involves authentic care and active listening. Leaders who show genuine concern for their team members’ wellbeing and who actively listen to their concerns can create a culture of trust and engagement.

Leadership qualities:
  • Authentic care: Leaders should demonstrate genuine interest in their team members’ personal and professional lives, building stronger, more resilient relationships.
  • Active listening: Effective communication involves not just hearing but understanding and responding thoughtfully to what others are saying.

Enhancing collaboration with technology

Erin underlines how leveraging technology tools can enhance collaboration and problem-solving among remote teams. Tools like Google Docs for collaborative editing and WhatsApp voice notes for quick communication can bridge the gap created by physical distance.

Tech tools for collaboration:
  • Google Docs: Facilitates real-time collaboration on documents, allowing multiple team members to contribute simultaneously.
  • WhatsApp voice notes: Provide a personal touch to communication, making it easier to convey tone and urgency in messages.

Psychological safety and engagement

Creating an environment where employees feel safe to express their ideas and concerns is critical for maintaining psychological safety. Erin emphasises that psychological safety is the foundation for open and honest communication, leading to more innovative and engaged teams.

Creating psychological safety:
  • Encouraging open dialogue: Leaders should foster an atmosphere where team members feel comfortable sharing their thoughts without fear of criticism.
  • Inclusive meetings: Ensure that all voices are heard during meetings, and encourage participation from everyone, regardless of their position or role.

The power of human connection

The conversation concludes with a reflection on The Beatles, whose collaborative spirit and psychological safety allowed them to create timeless music. Erin draws parallels between their creative process and the need for human connection and collaboration in today’s workplaces.

Lessons from The Beatles:
  • Collaboration and creativity: The Beatles exemplified how deep connections and psychological safety can fuel creative processes and lead to extraordinary outcomes.
  • Power of relationships: Their ability to leverage each member’s strengths and support each other through challenges highlights the importance of strong, trusting relationships in any team.

In a world where remote and hybrid work are becoming the norm, fostering connection and engagement within teams is more crucial than ever. From leveraging technology to maintaining psychological safety, the strategies discussed during this episode offer valuable insights into building a supportive and dynamic remote work environment. By prioritising social connection and effective communication, organisations can ensure that their teams remain engaged, innovative, and resilient.

Key takeaways:
  • Socialise regularly: Aim for four to five hours of socialising daily to maintain wellbeing and engagement.
  • Create psychological safety: Build an environment where team members feel safe to share their thoughts and ideas.
  • Leverage technology: Use tools like Google Docs and WhatsApp to enhance collaboration and communication.
  • Authentic leadership: Show genuine care and practise active listening to build strong team relationships.
  • Reflect and be intentional: Incorporate reflection and intentionality in meetings to foster creativity and productivity.

Tune in wherever you get your podcasts: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts and many more… 

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