With today’s increasingly digital and dispersed teams, it can be challenging for leaders to maintain strong connections with their teams. Yet feeling disconnected at work has been linked to lower engagement, productivity, and retention rates. In my work with executives it is increasingly clear that building rapport and community amidst dispersed teams is a huge leadership challenge. 

Whether your organization is implementing a return to the office, hybrid or remote working, teams still need to connect, communicate and collaborate. Yes, it can be hard to prioritize team connection, but there are compelling reasons to do so. A Gallup study found that teams with strong bonds had 21% greater profitability, 20% higher productivity, and 41% lower absenteeism. Engaged teams also saw 24% less turnover.

The good news is there are tangible ways leaders can prioritize connection, even from afar. 

Here are 5 ways you can create and keep connection:

  1. Set aside dedicated time for 1:1s. Don’t let busy schedules push these conversations to the bottom of the pile. Dedicate 30-60 minutes every 1-2 weeks for a video chat to check in on how each person is doing, discuss current projects, and provide coaching. Make it a recurring meeting so it stays top of mind.
  2. Send personalized messages. A quick Slack message, voice note, email or handwritten note shows you’re thinking of your people as individuals. Simple gestures go a long way.  
  3. Overcommunicate context. With less hallway chatter and impromptu conversations, ensure your team has ample background on priorities, goals, and “the why” behind decisions. Connect their work to the bigger picture. Providing these ‘behind the curtain’ insights also helps to build trust in the team. 
  4. Encourage camaraderie. Organize virtual coffee breaks, trivia hours, or “lunch and learn” sessions where people can socialize and have fun. Bring back that watercooler feel.
  5. Check in emotionally. Explicitly ask how people are coping with stress, changes, workload. Listen without judgment and validate their experience. Show you care on a human level.

The upheaval of the past few years has stretched work relationships thin. But by being proactive and creative, leaders can foster communities where people feel valued, supported, and inspired. The payoff for organizations will be immense.

When you transcend connection you have created a community. Communities are resilient, adaptable to change, and perform at high levels over the long haul. Nurturing team community pays dividends. So, are you a catalyst for connection?