“Connected people are people who inherently are curious about others, themselves and the world around them. People who are connected to others are people who delight in seeing others thrive and know that when others thrive, they, in turn, thrive. This is community.”
Nwabisa Mayema, Strategic Partnerships Director
The development of the ‘Work From Home’ movement has brought with it both positive aspects such as the freedom and flexibility to design your own workday and more challenging ones, perhaps trying to create a sense of belonging and community in teams that are located in different living rooms across the globe. Here are a few ways to bring teams together from afar:
Defining team values and vision
Some say that if we don’t stand for something, we’ll fall for anything. Defining the team values and vision provides a strong foundation for community by creating a shared purpose, aligning goals, fostering a cohesive culture and promoting open communication and trust among members. When team members can align with clearly defined guiding principles, a sense of identity and working towards a common goal is formed.
Like long distance relationships, long distance teams can also be tricky to navigate. What remains quintessential in both is regular and effective communication. This can take the form of video calls, emails or less formal channels of communication like instant messaging platforms for teams. A quick check-in can go a long way in dissipating the sense of isolation that often comes with working remotely. Holding team meetings that dare to explore not only the daily tasks at hand, but also perhaps what team members find energising, what they find challenging and where they need support.
A ‘shared’ workspace
To make remote working a practical feasibility, using collaborative platforms and shared document spaces can be excellent ways of developing a sense of community within the team. This leads to a feeling of working from the same foundation, despite being geographically dispersed. Making use of inclusive decision-making helps team members to feel their input is important and that they are a valued part of the team, an integral cog within the professional machine.
Recognition and appreciation
“Sometimes, the challenge isn’t just to manage a team… it’s to unite it” (Chris Clevenger). A well-functioning team is measured not only by its productivity, but also by how it strives to embody its chosen values and goals. Recognition and appreciation are paramount ingredients in the recipe not only for unity, but also for motivation. Each individual brings something unique and valuable to the team, a smorgasbord of talent as it were, and leveraging these qualities and skills can allow a business to go from, in the words of Jim Collins, “good to great”. Recognising effort and appreciating hard work need not only come from the top down but can also be incredibly valuable coming from one’s peers and colleagues.
Innovation, creativity and inspiration
Work is not always only about work. Innovation and creativity begin when members share with their team the ideas and experiences that have sparked inspiration and joy within them. Engaging in an external awareness of the broader context of what fosters an interest within their field of work can help to create a sense of cohesive thinking within the team. This could be as simple as a TEDTalk, article, book or podcast that triggered interest or inspiration.
While our occupations bring us together, getting to know the person behind the face on your video cam, helps to build rapport and strengthen professional relationships. Opportunities for social interaction and fun with your team can be created by ‘having coffee’ together on a video call or through more structured virtual team-building activities like quizzes or games.
Support and empower
Lastly, the whole is only as strong as the sum of its parts. Looking back to Nwabisa Mayema’s words, she defines community as individuals creating a sense of connection through supporting each other and watching each other thrive. To transform a team into a community, it’s vital to support and empower each other, so that each individual is able to live out what their best looks like, and know that, at the end of the day, their job isn’t just a job but their potential made visible.
- House & Leisure, Volume 10, Spring 2023.
- How can you create a sense of community in a remote work environment? LinkedIn, November 2023.