Creating Connection in a Virtual Working World
Wisetail | 3 min read
The pandemic left many employees feeling isolated in their suddenly, and unexpectedly, remote positions. At the time, connection and regular interaction were less critical than keeping things running, but in what has become an increasingly virtual “new world” of work, connection is essential to employee engagement, productivity, and well-being.
Authentic connection can be elusive in any workplace, but wise leaders understand the importance of regular, human interaction, especially for remote and hybrid employees. Connection means different things to different people. Some employees may feel a keen sense of connection to your company’s mission, values, and purpose. Others may connect with specific projects or concepts that give their work context and meaning. Most will find some of their strongest work-related connections lie in their relationships with team members and other colleagues. While it can be difficult to quantify the value of various workplace connections, each serves a vital purpose in creating and supporting a healthy, interactive company culture.
In a virtual business environment, cultivating a sense of connection can be a challenge. Pre-pandemic workspaces offered a lot of incidental interaction in addition to formal communication and connection tools. But remote and hybrid workspaces don’t have as many opportunities to “run into” coworkers in the break room, so interaction is less a matter of chance and more one of intention. Today, informal, interpersonal communication can include any combination of voice calls, video messages or meetings, email, text, and instant messaging platforms. Given the potential isolation of virtual workplaces, it’s essential for employees to get comfortable with digital communication channels for everything from regular status meetings to virtual team collaboration and daily social interactions.
The benefits of connection
Employees benefit from a connected workplace because humans crave contact with, and support from, other humans. Employees who find strong social connections at work are happier, physically healthier, and experience less job-related stress, and a low stress work environment reduces absenteeism, illness, and disengagement. In addition, employees who feel socially supported in the workplace feel less isolated by remote work and are more engaged, loyal, and creative.
Benefits of a connected workplace include improvements for:
- Collaboration. When teams or employees are siloed, innovation suffers. A connection strategy facilitates communication and creative collaboration among employees, teams, and leaders.
- Mobility. With a connection strategy and the right technology in place, employees can connect from anywhere. They can touch base with coworkers, complete collaborative tasks, brainstorm, and communicate as needed.
- Efficiency. Flexible, collaborative platforms make it easier for employees to work productively in the office and off-site.
- Engagement. Engagement is a benefit for everyone. Engaged employees are happier and more satisfied in their work, and organizations enjoy increased productivity, higher retention, and lower turnover.
Fostering social interaction and connection provides a boost to your business, and technology trends are increasingly designed to improve remote work for enhanced innovation, collaboration, and connection.
Getting and staying connected
Once remote and hybrid employees are connected to your company’s technology network, leaders can turn their attention to keeping employees engaged and connected to their colleagues and your company. Consider whether the following strategies are incorporated to their full potential in your remote or hybrid workplace:
- Intentional interaction. Create intentional opportunities for connection. Make meetings a chance to reflect on and encourage interaction and collaboration. Choose software platforms with built-in communication features, such as chat applications, message boards, or “virtual water cooler” channels for informal conversation.
- Continuous improvement. Survey employees for their feedback about improving or enhancing connection opportunities, and incorporate their ideas into your company’s connection strategy. Keep communication channels open between colleagues — remote, hybrid, and on-site — and offer regular interaction with team, department, and company leaders.
- Engaging L&D. Use group training sessions, whether in-person, virtual, or hybrid, to inspire connection, and keep interaction opportunities open with your company’s learning management system (LMS). An LMS with customizable social interaction capability leverages training technology as an everyday tool for learning and staying in touch, which inspires connection and contributes to a continuous learning culture.
Continuous communication and connection are essential to employee engagement, collaboration, and innovation — especially in an increasingly virtual working world. Use technology platforms and intentional interaction strategies to keep your employees connected to one another, engaged with their work, and invested in the success of your business.
Read more about the value of an engaged and connected workforce in our Case Study, Bagel Brands: Extraordinary Results With Essential LMS.