There are multiple pros to working remotely. From greater work/life balance, flexibility in schedule, cost-savings from a commute (and less lunches out) and the ability to focus with less in-person distractions, it’s why so many people in today’s work force who are taking advantage for remote policies that their companies may have.  

Between 2005 and 2017 there was a 159% increase in remote work, and that doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon since 90 % of employees say that flexible arrangements increase morale and reduces job stress that, in turn, lowers turnover. Studies also show that remote workers earn more, are more productive and, in general, healthier than their in-office counterparts. 

But that doesn’t mean that remote work forces don’t face their own unique challenges, especially when they are still adjusting to the office-to- home office shift. Morale can sometimes slump, it may feel isolating and may require some patience with yourself and others whilst you adapt. But—as technology empowers and enables remote workers accomplish tasks for their jobs—it can also act as the tool set to bring people together and keep morale rolling so that, even when you’re apart, you can still feel connected.   

Here are my tips to stay engaged with your colleagues across the distance: 

  • Use Video!
    While it seems obvious that many meetings within Microsoft Teams (or similar) utilize video, many meeting participants choose to disable the video function, especially when they are new the remote world. Video can cause nerves for those who have a more shy or introverted personality, or people may worry how they or their office space (especially if its makeshift or temporary) will appear. TIP: If your company does leverage Teams, there are a host of useful features to combat video fears. From blurring your background and the new noise suppression feature coming on, everyone can feel comfortable turning on their video and creating a more human approach through the power of technology.  
  • Virtual Happy Hours and Chat Sessions
    To piggyback on my push for video, I can vouch for the fun and effectiveness of virtual happy hours, coffee meet-ups and chit chat sessions. You don’t have to skip morning coffee with your office pals; just brew a cup and ask a coworker for a 30-minute virtual meeting to catch up about non-work related topics. New Signature groups are known to hop on a call at the end of a workday and have a happy hour from across the miles. From talking about weather and kids and sports to impromptu music performances from some of our more talented team members, it’s a great way to end a day of hard work. Video conferencing software is obviously meant primarily to be productive for work purposes, but it’s also a collaboration tool and should support of your organization’s overall culture. Don’t be afraid to use Teams or the like to connect with your coworkers because a professional team that knows each other well works together with greater ease. 
     
  • Connect Over Niches and Interests
    It’s great when you can talk to your colleagues about sports, exchange recipes or discuss great outing ideas for your families, and that doesn’t need to stop when you work separately. In the Microsoft world, Yammer is the perfect way to maintain a consistent connection to other co-workers who may share interests with you. At New Signature, we have groups for movie buffs, book clubs, parenting groups, healthy living and even a general “water cooler” group for catch-all topics. 
     
  • Be Patient 
    When working remotely, replies may not be as quick, and it may feel difficult throughout a busy workday to find time to make an effort and connect, or it may feel more difficult to break into groups. Perhaps you may feel guilty taking the time to stop and chat online with a coworker or post about that new recipe you made, but don’t. Human connection is vital to a productive and healthy work life. Use the tools you were given to make connections and get to know your coworkers who will—in time—be your friends and work family.