How to Strengthen Connections with Your Nonprofit Team Until “In-Person” Is an Option Again
At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations around the globe were faced with navigating a newly remote world. With vaccine rollouts underway, the idea of returning to the office seems increasingly attainable. But with lingering uncertainty around when—and to what extent—in-person gatherings will be safe again, now is a good opportunity to reexamine the ways you communicate online.
After almost a year of meeting via video conferencing tools and chatting through instant messages, your team has probably fallen into a routine that’s comfortable enough. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t areas where you could improve or times when employees feel isolated. Taking steps to bridge these gaps can not only support your team today, but can better position your organization to adopt a hybrid or fully remote model in the future, should you decide to go down this path.
With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you foster the strongest bonds possible with your team.
Learn from experience
This time last year, many people had minimal experience of working from home. That’s all changed. Now that your team has had time to not only get accustomed to remote work but master it, consider the lessons you’ve learned over the past year and apply them to make your communication practices better.
Start by gathering feedback about what’s working and what isn’t. Are you holding enough meetings and check-ins? Too many? How do people feel about the amount of time they’re on camera—would they feel happier, for example, if they had the option to switch to audio-only after the first few minutes of an internal call? Do they have any preferences when it comes to receiving urgent updates (e.g. text v.s. call)? Learning insights like this, either through one-on-one discussions or anonymous surveys, can help you tweak the ways you communicate in line with what your team wants and needs—not what you assume about them.
Go back to basics
When you first went remote, you likely looked up information about how to hold a successful virtual meeting and followed some best practices. Over time, though, your team probably dropped certain tactics and started doing its own thing. In some instances, this may have been because the tactics didn’t work for you, which is understandable—but in other cases, you may just have fallen out of the habit.
Now that some time has passed, it’s worth revisiting these best practices to ensure you’re getting the most out of every virtual meeting. For example, are you:
- Providing a dial-in option in case of tech troubles?
- Sending an agenda to participants ahead of time?
- Sticking to a clear and simplified meeting structure?
- Minimizing presentation length to avoid zone-outs?
- Assigning a facilitator to guide the conversation and keep things on track?
- Going “round the table” before finalizing decisions to ensure everyone has a chance to speak?
These small steps can drastically boost engagement levels and minimize disruptions. So, if your meetings have felt low-energy or highly chaotic lately, go back to the basics before investing in any bigger changes.
Revisit team-building activities
In the early days of the pandemic, many organizations experimented with virtual happy hours to keep their teams connected and help them blow off some steam. Those began to fall out of favor as employees developed video fatigue, so it might have been a while since you last held one. Now that enough time has passed, it may feel like a novelty again, so it doesn’t hurt to gauge whether your team is interested in a one-off, low-pressure gathering.
Alternatively, consider hosting a virtual movie night. Many streaming platforms offer group-watch features that make it easy to sync up everybody’s screens, and since employees don’t have to worry about being on camera, they can just kick back and enjoy themselves. You could even stream a film or documentary that relates to your cause (though an old classic or lighthearted animated movie is a good choice, too!).
Whatever you decide, make it clear that attendance is optional. It’s nice to reconnect, but employees may still be facing challenges and demands at home that can make mandatory activities feel more like an obligation than a good time.
Remote work might not be forever—but you can make the most of it now
Regardless of what the future of work holds, it’s critical to keep your team connected during this particular moment. Even as you start transitioning back to an on-site environment, some employees may need or choose to remain remote a little longer, so refining your remote work practices now will continue to pay off for months or even years to come.