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Tips for Keeping Teams Bonded and Employees Engaged in a Hybrid Workplace

When an athletic team wins a tournament or championship, team members often cite their relationships with each other as key to their success. The power of team cohesiveness is also true in the world of work. 

Teams aren’t just the result of hiring talented players (or employees). They are built through common bonds based on shared goals and experiences. The strength of these bonds can be seen in that many of us claim work colleagues among our best friends.

The work world has changed. Pre-pandemic, 60% of the American workforce spent 100% of their work time on company premises. By early 2022, nearly three-fourths (74%) of companies were using or planning to move to a permanent hybrid work model, and 16% had already gone fully remote.

The folks at Steelcase coined the term “presence disparity” to describe the reality that people who go through the same activity from different locations do not have the same experience. 

Even when employees spend time together, sharing an online meeting does not have the same bonding power as being together in person. A joke sent over chat is still funny, but not the same as a laugh shared in the office kitchen.

The move toward hybrid and remote work means companies must find better methods to help keep their teams bonded and their employees engaged.

The answer can be found in building a robust company culture of recognition.

Building a Culture of Recognition 

In today’s remote and hybrid work environment, companies need to go beyond the norm and offer experiences to their workers that address the human need for emotional connection, bonding, and fun that they used to get from in-person proximity. 

They also need to meet employee needs to feel appreciated and recognized for their efforts. Just take a look at these findings by Gallup in 2020:

  • Companies with high employee engagement are 21% more profitable and 22% more productive than their peers.
  • Highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their employer voluntarily.
  • 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt more appreciated.
  • 37% of employees say recognition is the most critical factor in job satisfaction.

One of the common denominators among Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For is their culture of recognition. Although a culture of recognition has to start at the top, managers are in an ideal position to implement program principles. Here are some methods to consider.

Instill Shared Expectations

In high-trust, high-performance teams, members commit to what can be expected of them so that others can support their efforts and hold them accountable. In a hybrid environment, this should include not just the usual metrics but where, when, and how team members will work individually and together.

Check In Regularly and Often

Managers must be more deliberate about creating opportunities for team members to share meaningful stories. For example, devote part of each team meeting to talking about anything but work or set up a dedicated Slack channel for sharing photos of off-hours activities.

And because meanings can get lost or misconstrued in a chat or email, don’t forget that hybrid working doesn’t prohibit picking up the phone once a week to say hello and see how people are doing. Managers who take the time to do this will find that it can pay enormous dividends in terms of employee enthusiasm, motivation, and engagement.

Meet in Person Regularly

Managers should schedule periodic in-person meetings so team members can anticipate them in advance. The frequency depends on your team, but once a month or every other month is an excellent place to start.

It doesn’t have to be elaborate – meeting for lunch or drinks after work is all you need. The point is to gain back some of the best aspects of interpersonal bonding, which are hard to capture outside physical proximity.

Make It Quick and Easy to Carry Out

Everyone in the company, from the CEO to the lowest entry-level staff member, must have an easy way to express appreciation. Recognition given months after the fact is far less meaningful than when immediately received. 

Maintain a mix of formal and informal recognition programs, including some carried out through social media, chat, and email. These simplify the ability of managers and peers to recognize good work more frequently.

The New KISS (Keep It Specific and Special)

A generic “atta boy!” is rarely wrong, but recognition must also be linked to specific behaviors with measurable results. Most employees particularly value the type of credit that memorializes their efforts in public venues.

Storytelling is Powerful

Stories evoke emotion that lingers long after being told. Create ways in which employees can tell and retell their stories of why and how they were recognized.

The Bottom Line

Rewarding employees for their contributions is highly beneficial to your bottom line and critical to the success of your business. This is especially true in hybrid and remote work environments – paradoxically, the same environments that create the most challenges in maintaining motivated and engaged employees.

Fortunately, companies that conduct well-structured recognition programs are 12X more likely to experience successful business outcomes, so you can be assured that all your efforts will be worthwhile in the long run.

The professionals of Xceleration are skilled in making hybrid and remote teams feel motivated, inspired, and appreciated. We’ve even created a patented, web-based recognition platform, RewardStation®, that’s used worldwide to provide employee recognition solutions.

Get in touch with our team today to learn more about how Xceleration can help you get the results you need in your workplace.

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