How to Unleash the Power of Community in the Remote Workplace

June 8, 2023 | Diversity & Inclusion | 5 min read

When the U.S. Surgeon General unveiled a report exposing the wellness crisis plaguing our homes, communities, and workplaces, it served as a timely wakeup call for companies worldwide.

Particularly for organizations that have fully embraced remote work, the report highlighted the detrimental impact of loneliness, isolation, and a lack of connection. These factors have been identified as a public health crisis, with the potential to increase premature mortality rates noted as comparable to smoking.

The devastating effects are all too familiar to us, as we have witnessed the toll the pandemic has taken on our loved ones, colleagues, and communities. Beyond affecting individuals' mental and physical well-being, social isolation undermines productivity, increases stress, leads to withdrawal from the team, and weakens overall performance.

In the remote work landscape, the absence of meaningful connections erodes productivity and hampers team performance over time. This creates a heavy burden of physical and emotional stress on employees, often resulting in withdrawal from team discussions and an increase in absenteeism.

Several factors contribute to this isolation, including the nature of remote work itself, the dynamics of different personality types within teams, and the lack of social support within organizations. These circumstances stifle creativity, hinder decision-making, and leave employees mentally drained.

The consequences ripple throughout the organization, resulting in higher costs for sick leave and health insurance claims. However, there is hope on the horizon. Positive social relationships significantly enhance employee retention and productivity. A study published in the Journal of Management & Organization revealed that strong interpersonal relationships with co-workers result in higher levels of motivation. Remarkably, this finding holds true for employees across all positions within the organization.

5 Ways to Build Connection in the Workplace

  1. Be Intentional: Intentionally identify key moments throughout the employee experience to build connections. Incorporate community-building activities into onboarding processes, such as thoughtful pre-boarding, virtual workshops, one-on-one sessions with new teammates, and implementing a buddy system. It’s important not to overlook the offboarding experience either; conducting an exit interview, sending a heartfelt thank you card, and organizing a team send-off ensure departing employees feel valued and appreciated. Learn How Leaders Can Apply the Principles of Ethical Leadership to Remote Work.
  2. Give Time Together Purpose: When connecting individuals or groups who may be strangers, communicate the reason behind the pairing and include one or two starter questions that generate vulnerability. For group discussions, enlist skilled facilitators or coaches to guide the conversation with a clear focus. When learning together, share information, expectations, and desired outcomes in advance, empowering everyone to contribute their best ideas confidently and meaningfully. Check out chapter 8 in Daniel Coyle’s audiobook, “The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups.”
  3. Listen to Your People: Regularly conduct surveys, host listening sessions, and establish accessible feedback channels to gain insights into your employees' needs and aspirations. By actively seeking employee input and incorporating their ideas into your strategy, organizations can create an environment that truly fosters connection and community. Check out this related course, The Art and Science of Communication.
  4. Create Multiple Connection Points: Introduce cohort learning programs that include facilitated discussion groups, offering opportunities for peer support, collaborative learning, and expanding professional networks at pivotal points in their careers. Encourage employees to organize book clubs, encompassing a variety of interests and providing a platform for deep dialogue and intellectual growth. Establish Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) or similar communities based on shared identities or interests to offer immediate community support while actively working to improve the organization's diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Also see Susan McPherson’s book on audio, “The Lost Art of Connecting: The Gather, Ask, Do Method For Building Meaningful Business Relationships.”
  5. Be Consistent: Consistency is key in building and sustaining any culture shift. Make community-building rituals and activities a regular part of the organizational culture. Whether it's weekly team meetings, monthly virtual social events, or quarterly community service initiatives, maintaining a consistent schedule helps people engage more often, foster a sense of belonging and reinforces the value placed on human connection.

Subscribe to the Skillsoft Blog

We will email when we make a new post in your interest area.

Select which topics to subscribe to:

Unlock the Power of Your Team

When we intentionally create spaces that foster pro-social behavior and community, we provide individuals with an incredible opportunity to truly see and be seen by one another in a new light.

These spaces allow us to laugh together, listen to each other's stories, learn collaboratively, and form authentic bonds and friendships. This is crucial for global or fully remote organizations. By embracing and appreciating our differences, we can demonstrate genuine care for one another and unlock the power of our collective team potential.

Breaking down silos and nurturing cross-functional connections ignite collaborative synergies, fostering increased innovation and expedited problem-solving. When employees feel connected and valued, they contribute more passionately and productively.

The impact of fostering community connection in the workplace extends far beyond the individuals directly involved. Studies show that individuals who experience pro-social behavior are 278% more likely to exhibit similar behavior themselves, creating a beautiful cycle of connection and camaraderie.

In today’s hybrid world, nurturing connection and community within organizations is no longer a luxury but an imperative. It requires a collective commitment from leaders and employees, starting before a new colleague's first day.

Building intentional spaces for connection, consistency in delivery, the establishment of meaningful rituals, and active involvement of employees in community-building initiatives are pivotal steps.

By prioritizing connection, organizations can unlock the power of their people, resulting in heightened productivity, improved employee well-being, and overall success. Through purposeful efforts and a genuine desire to build communities, we can effectively combat the wellness crisis and cultivate a sense of belonging in the remote workplace.

The time to act is now. Together, we can nurture human connection and thrive in the new era of work.

Learn how to build an inclusive workplace culture

Read Next:Winning the Long Game: Coaching at Scale Takes the Field