For leaders with virtual teams, ensuring your employees stay happy and healthy means not only ensuring they have the right tools for their work but that you commit to regular communication to promote a sense of belonging to the company culture and community for your virtual employees.
Wellbeing for virtual teams comes with its own set of unique challenges. For remote teams who don’t work in close collaboration, many of the wellbeing clues that are clear in face to face communication can be lost.
For example, indications that might usually inform a leader of their team’s mental health are not available. And where often colleagues might notice if a team member seems down or withdrawn, if someone fails to join in the lunchtime group or is absent from coffee catch-ups – it’s more challenging with virtual workers.
Virtual teams can impact some of the protective or preventative factors that we know support wellbeing in face to face settings. They can cause social isolation from the workplace and other team members – a virtual team member can believe they are the only one struggling without a support network. A sense of disconnection can result in a decrease in wellbeing, and an isolated team member can soon struggle with their mental health.
Studies have shown that over 200 million workdays are lost due to mental health conditions each year. So, in this article, I‘d like to offer six easy-to-implement strategies for you to employ to keep your team engaged, motivated and mentally healthy in their virtual workplace.
Create a Wellbeing Plan
Firstly, it’s critical to agree on a plan for ensuring wellbeing in your virtual team. For the best results, do this in collaboration with the team, and ideally when the group is first formed.
As a leader, it falls to you to be specific and transparent about wellbeing concerns so that your virtual team know how to look out for their own and others health, how to combat mental health problems and how to offer and seek support for wellbeing.
Be aware that each individual will have a different situation and may, therefore, require different levels of support.
Acknowledge the potential difficulties faced by your remote team, make sure to thank each member for being on your team, and confirm that you will aim to identify and deal with any wellbeing issues that arise in a timely fashion before they become a more severe problem.
Hold Regular Reviews
Once you have a plan in place, be sure to embed it in your virtual team’s culture and review it regularly. At times when the workload is lower, you can establish a baseline against which to notice changes and the stress that can creep in when workloads increase.
We are all programmed to have connections with others, so check in with each employee regularly. Remembering to do this when you are busy is even more critical: having frequent conversations when the team is under pressure will keep everyone on board and motivated.
Before your check-ins, take some time to prepare and reflect. Clear your desk and your mind so you can give your full attention to the individual.
Empathise and trust in your instincts when having the conversation. Ask yourself, are they engaged in their work? Are they enthusiastic?
Wellbeing can come from enjoying what we do, so take time to ensure your team are focused and involved in rewarding tasks where they can see tangible results.
Keep Everyone Informed
As a busy professional, it’s easy to forget to keep your virtual team up to date with company procedures, policies and general news. But being out of the loop – intentionally or otherwise – can lead to feelings of isolation and disengagement. It can also cause a feeling of being ambushed if unexpected news is suddenly announced.
So, make sure you communicate regularly with your team and keep them updated with what is going on across your organisation. This way, they will know they are part of something bigger, and that you place value in their involvement by keeping them informed. Which leads me on to my next point, which is all about networking…
Connect all your virtual employees to broaden their network, and enable inclusion and a sense of ‘team’.
An excellent ice breaker is to have each individual upload a vlog of themselves at work. This helps create a visual for everyone – everyone can see the person at their desk, tapping away on their laptop, in whatever part of the world they live.
Perhaps include the view from their window or a quick tour of their hometown to make individuals more ‘real’ to other team members.
You might even find some team members have places or experiences in common, strengthening bonds and connections.
Schedule Virtual Gatherings
From coffee breaks to business lunches, even virtual teams need a break from work.
Why not consider organising a ‘virtual break’ or lunch where everyone can log onto a conferencing session and enjoy their sandwich and a chat together?
Of course, time zones can make this tricky – but it‘s possible that while it may be lunch for some, it could be breakfast or dinner for others! The point is to establish an informal chat group that meets regularly.
Perhaps sending your team a company-branded mug, biscuits or your favourite brand of teabags could encourage everyone to participate?
Encourage Team Challenges
Finally, with mental health and wellbeing high on everyone’s agenda for 2020, you could consider asking your team to sign up for a team challenge.
It could be to eat healthier or commit to taking up some form of regular exercise. Be mindful that not everyone wants to go to the gym seven days a week, and you’re not running a competition, so perhaps mindfulness, yoga, meditation or some form of relaxing creative activity could also be encouraged.
Offering mutual support and inspiration can help relieve isolation, build team morale – and strengthen wellbeing for your virtual team.
Setting wellbeing goals will help embed and encourage shared support and collaboration in your virtual team. Take time to plan a strategy, reflect on your team and increase a sense of camaraderie. Regular interactions are significant in developing a framework that supports and promotes team morale, creates connections and trust, and inspires an ethos of working together.
Remember, there‘s no ‘one size fits all’ to ensuring wellbeing in virtual teams, but implementing these strategies will help you understand what will work best for your organisation.
Zestfor has created a White Paper looking at ‘Mastering Successful Leadership in a Virtual World’, focused on not only how to support your virtual team but also on how to connect with and motivate them.
For more information on how we can support you to support your team, call 0845 548 0833 or email us.
Until next time,
Zestfor specialises in developing Training programmes and resources scientifically tailored for technical markets – including Pharmaceutical, IT, and Life Sciences.
Our blend of in-classroom, online, and virtual live-stream delivery methods will engage and assure even the most introverted team members from the first meeting – whether face-to-face or virtually. To have a brief chat, call us on 0845 548 0833. Alternatively, please email our team here.