Staying Digitally Connected in the New Normal

by Jackie Circkirillo  |  August 5, 2021

There is a paradigm shift occurring in today’s workplace following the COVID-19 pandemic that’s changing the way employers and employees interact with each other—the virtual office.

According to Owl Labs’ 2020 State of Remote Work70% of full-time workers in the U.S. are working from home compared to 42% in 2019. And those who have made the switch don’t plan to return to the office. The reason? Apart from fear of getting sick, statistics have shown in the last year, working from home has given employees a better work-life balance, reduced stress, improved focus, and saved them valuable time and money. Employers win through cost savings, a happier and more productive workforce, and being able to choose the best and most talented employees—no matter where they live.

While a virtual workspace has many advantages, one downside is the lack of personal interaction with supervisors and peers. Because of this, business leaders are looking for innovative and creative ways to connect and stay connected with scattered employees. The good news is that there are tangible ways to increase connectivity between and among remote workers.

1. Embrace workplace technology.

Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype for Business, Slack, and a plethora of other software are making staying connected easier than ever. Screen-sharing tools or video calls help give mundane conference calls a more collaborative feel. With advances in smart phones, remote employees can respond to clients and requests quicker and more efficiently. The best part? Employees can interact in real time with their peers and supervisors.

2. Stay connected.

Something as easy as weekly check-ins or meetings can bring a sense of belonging to the organization. Setting aside one day each week for a meeting in a group or one-on-one setting can help keep workplace camaraderie up. If your team is hybrid, those who are too far to join in person can participate via video call.

If your team or company is small enough, try hosting a monthly informal company-wide video call where you go over company updates, participate in ice-breaker questions, or simply play a game together. As silly as it sounds, these are great ways to bring teams and people together who otherwise wouldn’t need to interact in their daily remote tasks, significantly helping to cultivate a feeling of connectedness and culture as a team of a common thread—the foundation of your company.

3. Celebrate and showcase your team.

Taking the time to let remote employees know they are part of a greater team is invaluable. Make sure to congratulate them on milestones via phone, email, video messaging, or social media. If you don’t have one already, establish a program for employee recognition. For example, set aside time at the beginning of each month to recognize employees celebrating a work anniversary that month by sending a thoughtful email and gift—think virtual gift cards—as a token of the company’s appreciation.

4. Craft a newsletter.

A newsletter is an inexpensive and fast way to improve internal communication and benefits both in-house and remote employees. Newsletters are a great way to highlight birthdays, anniversaries and company projects and help virtual employees stay up to date on the latest company news and changes. Add a personal touch by requesting any positive news, stories, tips, recipes, etc., that your employees may want to share to the group, as well. Getting everyone involved helps establish the feeling of a cohesive workplace culture that may be missing when your team is scattered and makes newsletter release day that much more exciting.

5. Accept that digital is the new normal.

For so many today, life is digital. And it had increasingly started becoming so well before COVID-19. Whether banking, shopping, or socializing, there’s very little that you can’t do via a smart phone or computer. Creating a digital culture that makes virtual work activities and interaction “normal” is more important now than ever to keep dispersed employees engaged and feeling valued. Internal channels, social media pages, and an employee intranet complete with employee profiles are great places to foster connectedness. Companies that embrace this new reality are much more likely to find success.

If you approach the digital work landscape in the right way, you can cultivate a workplace culture stronger than ever before. Pay attention and target challenges to your employees’ overall experience—the most prevalent being unplugging after work, loneliness, and communication. Championing a happier work environment will not only help reduce employee burnout, but also improve retention and turnover rates. It may take time to get it right, but you can make the most your virtual workforce, wherever it resides.