6 Ways to Engage Your Virtual Team in 2021

Working on a virtual team continues to be the new “abnormal” in 2021.

Managers and leaders struggle to balance productivity goals and their team members’ general well-being, including low morale, loneliness, and job insecurity.

As a coach and facilitator, I’ve had conversations with employees who feel isolated and not part of a team.

Before the pandemic, you could casually walk by someone’s desk or meet in the breakroom to ask a question, have a chat, or discuss a project. Now, if you want to talk face-to-face, you have to set up a virtual meeting, which can formalize the interaction more than you intended.

So as a manager and leader, what are you to do?

Here are some ways to demonstrate care, create connection, and spark collaboration and results in authentic ways to support your team and achieve your larger business goals.

1. Sense of Belonging

A solid sense of belonging has a significant impact on employee morale, no matter the environment. To help your team maintain that sense of belonging, you can:

  • Plan regular team meetings to provide colleagues with the opportunity to connect and maintain relationships while being separated. Take a look at this article to keep your team focused and positive in 2021.
  • Consider how your team can enjoy each other’s company. What fun can you build into your regular staff meetings? Get creative. Ask team members to come up with ideas that they can facilitate. This can mitigate feelings of isolation and go a long way to energizing the team. For example, you could ask everyone to send you an unknown fact about them. At the meeting, you could read the fact and ask people to guess who it is. There are also online games such as Quiplash, Drawful, and Kahoot.

2. Show Appreciation

When employees are recognized for their contributions, it builds their confidence and motivates them to do more. Positive reinforcement means that someone who is noted for their excellent work will continue to do it. Some ways to do that virtually are:

  • Recognize the team and individuals for positive results, such as exceeding revenue projections or completing assignments before the deadline.
  • Create a Google doc with a grid of everyone’s name in a box. Ask everyone to point out something they did well in the last month. Ask team members to add positive comments in each other’s box.
  • Check out this article on creative appreciation ideas for 2021.

3. Communicate Constantly

Employees need to know what’s going on, especially during times of great uncertainty. To prevent rumors from surfacing, it’s critical to keep everyone on the same page simultaneously.

  • Create a space where team members feel safe discussing their concerns. Share thoughts and concerns as openly as possible. For example, when I’m facilitating meetings, I create a space where staff can talk openly and honestly about a significant reorganization that is shaking things up.
  • Communicate updates and guide priorities. Software like com or Slack are great ways to keep lines of communication open, organized, and accessible.
  • Clarify responsibilities and expectations.
  • Don’t take on the impossible task of having all the answers or having to find them all.
  • Make sure to co-create communication plans with employees, where employees are involved in how the information will be disseminated.
  • Plan for regular one-on-one meetings using video conferencing to keep critical lines of communication open. This is a great time to ask your staff how you can support them.
  • Continue to provide feedback on team members’ performance.

4. Set Boundaries

Not everyone has the same need for togetherness, even virtually. Some staff get energized by going to meetings while others would rather work alone much of the time. Pay attention to the different needs of your team.

  • Help staff establish boundaries that are both productive for the team and avoid costly burnout.
  • Recognize when some staff may feel overwhelmed. Stay curious and gently inquire.
  • Practice empathy and awareness. Listen and show you care.
  • Invite team members to share what has worked well virtually.
  • Share best-practice information about healthy and productive ways to work from home.

5. Take Care of Yourself

Don’t forget about yourself. You need to nourish yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually in order to be available for your staff.

  • Keep active. Take a walk. Meditate – practice mindfulness.
  • Keep yourself engaged and informed, too. Check-in with yourself. What do you need to get a better handle on?
  • What do you need to know from your manager that would help you better manage your team?
  • Check-in with your colleagues. What are other supervisors doing that is working well for their teams? Can you create a regular meeting with others working in similar roles?

6. Establish Guidelines for Remote Meetings

In this virtual meeting world, it’s essential to have norms for how you will interact so everyone can be on the same page.

  • Always mute yourself unless you are speaking.
  • Resist multi-tasking while in remote meetings
  • Be on the call before it begins to check equipment, slides, etc.
  • Have a facilitator and a note-taker for each meeting, as appropriate
  • When are we going to use video? (Is this required or optional?)
  • What is the dress code for our team meetings? (Is it different in meetings with non-team members?)
  • Is it OK for my pet to be in the background? On my lap? Walking across my desk?
  • Is it OK for kids or family members to be in the background?
  • Is it OK to eat while on the call?
  • What is acceptable/not acceptable in my background?

The world is changing, and businesses and organizations are changing along with it. If you are looking for extra support for your team, let me know, I’d be happy to talk about how Dialogue for Solutions can help you achieve your goals this year. Please contact me at slevin@dialogueforsolutions.com.