Don’t let your team feel lonely

Don’t let your team feel lonely

Working from home will put a smile on your face

Recently I was asked how I help my remote team members from feeling isolated. This is part and parcel to the strategies involved with creating a company culture for work from home teams. After you get to the end of this gripping 3 minute article, check out my other articles for reasons why company culture is important for all companies with remote workforces and how to nurture it. 

Here’s how I help my team keep loneliness at bay.

Instant Messaging or Slack
Our entire team, from management to sales to developers to project managers all use Slack (but you can use many other solutions for the same result) where we can chat individually and create meeting rooms with specific themes. Most are company-oriented but we have others that are very popular such as MixTape (for listening suggestions), Apple (because a lot of the team members work on OS X), Memes (of course) and Random. We are in and out of these channels all day long and it really does create a sense of community.

Video Team Meetings with Comedy Intro
Our team meeting warmups via Google Hangouts (again, many other solutions) are worth showing up early for. We always have something to laugh and joke about. Our teams not only cross time zones but cultural divides as well which just adds to the potential humor topics.

Don’t get me wrong. We do have very serious meetings but daily standup meetings are intentionally raucous and act as a giant water cooler where even new remote team members instantly feel comfortable and anything but lonely.

Over time, these group interactions lead to solid one-to-one connections between people who reach out directly to each other via Slack and Google Hangouts when they need someone to talk to, often about things having nothing to do with the business at hand. It’s amazing how much you can get to know people without ever meeting them in person. There are a few people I work with that I can tell right away when they are feeling lonely or down and need to jump into a Hangout.

Whether you look at this through a cold management lens as team building or from the human lens as relationship building, it’s good for everyone involved.

Recommend Individual Strategies
Sometimes team members need extra help in dealing with working remotely from the rest of the team, especially when an important deadline looms and time feels squeezed. As a manager there are a few simple suggestions you can make to your team members that will help keep them in a positive mindset. None of these is groundbreaking but people forget the simple stuff when they get busy.

  • Get thee to a café – Remind your team member that working from home doesn’t mean they have to park their butt at home. Suggest they work a few hours from a café with WIFI or library where other people are having a life not spent staring at a screen. The tea and coffee will do them wonders as well.
  • Pair up – Purposely recommend that your team member pair up with another team member to work on the task using a co-working solution like ScreenHero (or many others). Even if they don’t technically need to work with another, the human interaction will help them feel less isolated and likely produce a better outcome for the task.
  • Shift the schedule – In a widely distributed workforce, some members work from timezones several hours shifted from where the majority of the team is based. Sometimes this puts them in front of their computer hours early than everyone else or working for hours after most people have logged off. For these employees, the solution may be for them to shift their work hours to more closely match their co-workers. Of course starting work at 5am Pacific Time is likely out of the question but even a one hour shift may make them feel more engaged with others on the team and less isolated.
  • Sound Therapy – Some people can’t work with any noise, music, people talking, etc. However, sometimes music or a podcast playing in the background helps team members feel less lonely. If the podcast has something to do with their job then all the better, so start with specific recommendations. I have found some types of techno trance music raise my spirits when I slip on the headphones to concentrate. Oddly, I feel less lonely even though it isolates me even more.

If you have additional strategies or ideas, please post them in the comments or head on over to the WFH Community.

Gregory Sherrow

Entrepreneur, nutjob runner and remote employment advisor/trainer for individuals, managers and entrepreneurs.

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