Keep People in the Loop while Officing Apart

Source: Canva

The expression “people join companies but leave leaders” is prevalent because leaders play a key role in how people experience working with a company.

Do they feel a sense of camaraderie amongst their peers? Do they feel included? Do they feel a sense of belonging?

As the world of work opens up to new ways of working – hybrid, back to the office, or 100% work from home, it’s important for us to recognize that people are craving human-to-human connection. What’s equally important to recognize with hybrid or optional work arrangements is that people who work remotely are often at a disadvantage from their “in-person” colleagues.

  • They miss out on the spontaneous interactions (AKA water cooler chats) that often take place and strengthen their connections.
  • They may miss out on “let’s get a quick coffee or lunch” conversations that lead to having input into big decisions.
  • They may be forgotten about when sending out critical information or invitations to important meetings or events.

This can lead to greater feelings of isolation or worse yet, feeling ignored.  

Since working from home is likely here to stay in some form and fashion, what’s a leader to do? 

If you want to build and strengthen your remote work relationships, you need to think intentionally and strategically about how you will re-establish and maintain ongoing communication. 

  • How will you ensure “out of sight” doesn’t become “out of mind”?
  • How will you make a point to stay in touch, even when you have nothing relevant to share?
  • How will you keep your remote workers “in the loop” and actively involved with the rest of the team and organization?

Here’s a few self-coaching questions reflect on and use to create a plan to keep people in the loop, engaged, and having a strong sense of belonging.

  1. Gather Information. What information does your team need from you or others? How frequently? What type of meetings does your team need to have on a regular basis and on an infrequent basis? What’s the purpose and what topics are covered during those meetings? List all the ways you need to communicate with your team, for what purpose, and how frequently. 
  1.  Communication Method. What method is most effective for communicating the information? What information is best suited for in-person, video conference, phone, email, chat, or voicemail? Make a list of all the communication methods your company has available. Then match the communication method(s) to the list you made in #1.  
  1. Style Differences. How can you adapt the delivery of the information to meet individual work style differences and needs? How can you encourage the softer voices in the “Zoom Room” to speak up, and the louder voices to give the quieter ones time and space to speak up? Jot down the names of each team member you communicate with. Make a few notes of the different style needs or preferences of each individual. What can you do to match those needs? What will you say or do to encourage equal participation from all team members? 
  1.  Stay in Touch. How will you stay in touch formally with each team member? As an example, will you have a weekly 1:1 video chat? What will be the purpose, agenda, and cadence of those chats? How will you stay in touch informally with each team member? What specifically will you do or say during this information touch points? Jot down what you are doing already. Brainstorm other ideas. Ask your team what they need. Ask other leaders what they do. Then create a plan on what you will specifically do to stay in touch. 
  1. Team Camaraderie. How will you ensure your team connects both formally and informally in meetings and between meetings? What are you doing now that works? What no longer works? What else can you do? What types of In-person meetings and events will be optional or mandatory to attend? If optional, how will you ensure team members who opted out are kept in the loop and not kept “out of mind”? Brainstorm a list of ideas you can be doing. Get input from the team and ask them what ideas resonate most with them that they’d like to test out. One leader I coached decided to use a Thumb Ball to “break the ice” and get team members acquainted with each other on a more personal level. 

Every organization is different in the systems they use, and the ways in which they communicate. 

Every leader is different in the strengths they have to communicate with others. Some leaders gravitate to building relationships and have innate skills in doing so, while other leaders are more task oriented and need to spend extra time thinking about and planning out how to build relationships.

No matter what your leadership strengths, with an intentional communication plan, you’re more likely to keep people in the loop and engaged – no matter where they are working!

Lisa Holden Rovers, MSc, CPHR, PCC, is the Founder of Workplace Matters. Since 2005, Lisa has been coaching entrepreneurs and executives to grow as leaders and spark team cultures that thrive. She’s an award-winning human resources professional and a certified leadership and team coach who is passionate about helping people step into what is possible.  

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