One tricky element of being on a team that works remotely is that all the incidental ways people can interact are stripped away. There are no chats by the coffeemaker or spontaneous lunches. You don’t catch up while you’re on the elevator or grab a couple of extra minutes to talk after a meeting while you walk back to your desk.
These opportunities can fill in the gaps of our relationships with each other. As leaders, these informal moments give us a chance to commend, appreciate, and applaud the people around us on a regular basis. Meeting remotely, at scheduled times, strips away some of the spontaneity of our connections and can make our interactions feel more transactional. At the same time, our workdays are expanding to fill every available moment, and we rush from one meeting to another.
If you’re leading people on a remote team, make sure to communicate that you see their contributions and hard work, and that you value them. There are a lot of ways to do this: I was talking to a leader this week who builds “shout-outs” to her team members into her weekly agenda. A quick IM or text to say, “Great idea” or “I loved how you spoke up for this initiative” lets people know that you’re noticing. Crediting the people on your team out loud, in front of others, also says, “Your work here matters.”
All of us want to know that we’re not just working away, unnoticed. Taking the time to appreciate the people on your team goes a long way towards nurturing connection and providing a sense of meaning in our work.