How These Companies Facilitate Real Human Connections in a Remote World

Flexible work shouldn’t come at the expense of company culture. These companies show how both can thrive

Published on May. 02, 2023
How These Companies Facilitate Real Human Connections in a Remote World
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Closing deals, conducting board meetings, interviewing prospective hires — so many critical parts of running a business are now done seamlessly over video calls. 

But forging genuine connections? It turns out this is the part of remote culture many companies still struggle with.

In a physical office, day-to-day interactions between colleagues are inevitable: There’s elevator small talk, lunchroom chats, a quick, “Hey, can you take a look at this?” between desks. These little moments of positive connection may seem inconsequential on their own, but they add up over time and can lead to employees feeling more engaged with their work and motivated to succeed. 

By contrast, according to a 2022 study published in the Journal of Organizational Effectiveness: People and Performance, when people feel lonely at work, they’re more likely to take off time due to stress or leave their jobs altogether. 

For remote and hybrid teams, opportunities for relationship-building have to be more intentional. If a manager’s only face time with their direct reports is during client meetings or performance evaluations, they may have difficulty building trust and loyalty. Social connections are a human imperative — and, by extension, a business one.

Without the proverbial water cooler to fall back on, companies have gotten creative with culture-building initiatives: hosting virtual events, carving out time for unstructured conversations, and bringing remote workers on-site when possible for team events.

Here, Outrider and Eventus Solutions Group two companies that are committed to creating more human remote cultures — tell Built In Colorado how they bring their people together even when they’re far apart.

 

Jeremy Thomas
Sr. Manager, Embedded Software • Outrider

Outrider automates distribution yards to make them safer, more efficient and more sustainable. 

 

What’s the key to creating real, human connection in the remote workplace?

While remote work offers several benefits, it also poses some challenges. Creating real, human connection is one such challenge. Fortunately, with the recent pandemic, companies and employees have developed some strategies. Among them are effective communication and trust-building. Both are essential for success in a remote work environment.

As a remote worker, it’s important to be proactive and outgoing. Regular and consistent exchanges of information using the most adapted communication tools are essential. Also, despite the physical distance, it’s important to be present and engaged by giving your full attention to your colleagues. Remember to be approachable and friendly, and strive to be a supportive and collaborative team member. Finally, try to bring your authentic self to the table by sharing personal experiences, joining fun groups or channels and scheduling virtual coffee chats. Don’t focus solely on work-related matters, but also make an effort to build social connections and engage in fun activities.

 

What’s the most successful strategy or initiative you’ve employed for actually facilitating those kinds of connections?

In my opinion, working from home is ideal for focused work and task completion. But for building relationships, nothing beats getting together in person. So I find it highly beneficial for remote employees to occasionally visit their company’s physical office and even onboard on-site in some cases. Thankfully, Outrider supports this, and we are fortunate to have company- and team-wide meetings and celebrations that facilitate building these strong connections.

When I travel to Colorado, I always prioritize activities best done in person, such as one-on-ones, retrospectives, happy hours and group runs or rides. I allocate time for fun team events, even if it means catching up on work when returning home. Last year, our team even organized a camping trip that included family members. It was a great bonding experience with long-lasting memories. I’m looking forward to our next one this summer and to many more in the future.

When I travel to Colorado, I always prioritize activities best done in person, such as one-on-ones, retrospectives, happy hours and group runs or rides.”

 

What impact has this initiative had on your workforce and/or culture? 

These types of initiatives are key to building trust and psychological safety, two essential ingredients for any successful organization. In addition, they enhance the effectiveness of remote work, providing an incredible competitive advantage. Thanks to this culture, Outrider has been able to successfully embrace the remote workplace, leading to several benefits such as improved productivity, employee satisfaction and work-life balance, as well as access to a wider talent pool.

Now, we’re geared for success! Whether local or remote, U.S.-based or not, we’re one team determined to automate yard operations.

 

 

Blair Austad
HR Business Partner • Eventus Solutions Group

Eventus Solutions Group is a strategy and consulting firm helping companies deliver best-in-class customer service across every touchpoint.

 

What’s the key to creating real, human connection in the remote workplace?

The key to creating real, human connections in a remote workplace is that it must be purposeful. If you think having a weekly virtual meeting to discuss projects and priorities is enough to build team connections, you are likely to be disappointed. Organizations need to have activities that have the goal of building culture and inclusion and not just think it will be an added benefit to an already-planned activity. Allow time for employees to enjoy interacting like they would if they were talking at the copier or going to lunch. 

 

What’s the most successful strategy or initiative you’ve employed for actually facilitating those kinds of connections?

One initiative we have implemented at Eventus is hosting a virtual Third Thursday event. This was an event that we used to do when we had more employees in the office, and we would use the time as a social happy hour. Now, with over 80 percent of our workforce being remote, we still want a way to connect and socialize with coworkers. On the third Thursday of every month, we have a meeting with the goal of building connections and having fun. We highlight various leaders and other people in the organization and have the participants engage by asking questions. We have done trivia questions, panel interviews, games, sharing personal pictures and other activities to keep the meeting fun and engaging.

Allow time for employees to enjoy interacting like they would if they were talking at the copier or going to lunch.”

 

What kind of response have you heard from your team? 

The feedback we have received on our Third Thursday events has been very positive. Employees enjoy learning about our leaders and having fun. One employee shared, “It was nice to have a conversation with our leadership team that wasn’t all business-related and reflected the personality and values of the people leading Eventus.” In addition, another employee shared that they like “the open dialogue and the free flow of interaction” and “getting to know people on a more personal level.” We will continue to host these events and look for ways to continuously improve our employee engagement.

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via Shutterstock and respective companies.

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