Effective communication is the antidote to isolation. Even more so when managing virtual teams and remote workers.
Feeling isolated may very quickly digress into apathy and disengagement from your team members. Being connected 24/7 via wifi or 5G, does by no means guaranteed team connectivity and cohesion.
Fortunately, there are steps you may implement straight away which may counteract the remote working isolation phenomenon.
Cultivate informal connections: RTM's (Remote Team Managers) solidify inclusion by scheduling informal team catch-ups where topics apart from work are discussed and previous office based rituals, for example morning Pow-Wows or recognition shout outs remain part of the remote working environment.
Establish a virtual company culture: Remote coffee catch ups where staff members get the opportunity to banter with each-other, discussing the latest Netflix Series or debating trending topics for the week is an excellent way to perpetuate a unified virtual company culture
Reduce Zoom Fatigue: Social isolation is a typical consequence of remote working and often managers try to compensate for over-scheduling face to face interactions for example zoom meetings. Unfortunately this may lead to Zoom fatigue especially if those meetings do not offer value but is a mere regurgitation of to do lists. Schedule interruptions into these sessions on purpose in the form of breaks to offer participants time to stretch their legs, have a snack break of mull over what has been discussed before returning to the zoom room.
Prioritize formal communication channels too: Experiment with a variety of channels and platforms to facilitate formal collaboration such as email, instant messaging, video conferencing and mobile apps for texting and voice calls. These tools allow remote workers to communicate via a variety of channels, but the key takeaway here is to ensure that the tools used are synced across devices. This facilitates easier communication for example a parent busy with at home teaching may not have their laptop in front of them, but they can quickly respond to a text via slack on their phone.
Shared Portals: Ensure that you have appropriate systems set up to enable sharing of data and have information available timeously. Think Dropbox, Google Drive, One Drive, One Note, Wiki's etc)
Mind the Generation Gap: Be mindful that your virtual team may include all four generations of employees (Boomers, GenX, Millennials, Nexters). The younger crowd are often wizards on mobile apps such as Slack, Snapchat and Whatsapp, where your more senior workers are comfortable with email and Skype. Choose your communication platforms carefully to compensate for communication preferences of your team.(Millennials were born in the swipe and tap era, GenX are in love with Gmail this day)
Clarify communication protocols: One of the downfalls in a digital realm is distraction. Too many pings, buzzers and notification will surely cause havoc with remote employee focus and attention spans. Therefore you need to implement clear communication protocols and procedures on how and when communication may take place to divulge information, request detail or handle issues.
Creating connectivity between you and your team, as well as between team members should be a constant work in progress. Team cohesion takes forever to build, but may be lost almost instantaneously without effective leaders continually feeding the communication furnace.