Overcoming Isolation for Remote Teams

(How to make your team feel connected)

“Unity is strength. . . when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.”

— Mattie Stepanek

These words ring true for any team, communication and collaboration are the essential catalysts to an effective team.

So you’ll be interested to know, while browsing the web, I came across a very interesting article from the teams at Buffer, Workform and Hubstaff, called the “State of remote work in 2018”.

The part of this report that really stood out to me was the biggest challenges of working remotely.

You know what the biggest struggles remote workers face?

Isolation and Communication

https://open.buffer.com/state-remote-work-2018/

Having looked at a number of other articles, including Zapier, Trello, Hubstaff etc. these two are on the majority of lists as issues with remote work in one way or another.

As you’re likely aware, we’re all for remote working here at PukkaTeam, and having the freedom to work from home (or place of your choosing).

We’ve written about overcoming common issues such as timezone challenges, distractions at home, staying motivated, and so on, we haven’t really hit up the isolation part.

So we’re going to give you some ideas about how to overcome isolation. We will be talking about how our app helps to bridge the gap between remote teams (that’s the reason we built it), as well as other methods too overcome the isolation and communication barrier.

So let’s take a look at how to overcome isolation and communication barriers for remote teams.

The problem — isolation & lack of communication

Let’s face it, isolation and communication go hand in hand, when we’re communicating with our team, we don’t feel so alone.

Much like in the hustle and bustle of a busy office, you have colleagues chatting round the water cooler, finding out that Tim went to see Shrek the musical in theatres over the weekend (this actually happened), or the latest release on Netflix release.

This is all part of the office lifestyle, you are surrounded by people, there’s a social componenet. Over lunch you can chat to people about their days or how their weeknds went.

When working from home however, you’re alone. When not on a video call there isn’t much of a social aspect, there’s no lunch with colleagues, or cathing up on how their weekends went.

This is one of the reasons we have music or the TV on, some background noise, because without it, there’s the rather obvious lack of sound — the nothingness making it very apparent that we are alone.

But background noise only a mask the problem, you’re still alone, cut off from the outside world, colleagues and your team and can end up being a distraction, making us less productive.

This is one of the key reasons why we built PukkaTeam — to help overcome the boundaries that we face from separation and bridge the visual and communication barriers.

Why seeing your team helps you feel less isolated

Let me ask you a question:

How often do you feel isolated from your colleagues when working in the same office as them?

Not very much, the team are there around, a simple tap on the shoulder away. Another question:

Who would you be more likely to go for a drink with after work?

  • The person who works in the same office as you, who you can see and talk to, or
  • The person who works on a different site, who you only hear from by email or phone call?

Would I be right in guessing the person person you work with everyday? Why — because we’re more familiar with them, have the chance to talk and get to know them, for them to become our.

As the saying goes — “seeing is believing”, we as humans are visual creatures.

The same is true for teams, by seeing your team, you know they are there, and simply being able to see they are there makes you feel less isolated from them.

When working remotely, it’s all very well knowing that your team is ‘in work’ from 9–5, but if you can’t see them, how do you know who’s working and if they’re actually there?

This is why we feel the visual presence of your team is so important, it not only lets you see their availability, but also makes you feel more connected, helps make the team feel more familiar and approachable.

How PukkaTeam helps teams feel less isolated

Imagine if you will, being on a video call with your team, but instead of a continually updating feed, it updates the image once every minute (or 30 seconds/5 minutes).

This gives a visual presence of your team, letting you know they are there.

Being able to see and turn to your colleagues is what we want, with the addition of simple, fluid communication it helps:

  1. Feel less isolated from your team.
  2. Simplifies communication (and collaboration).

Bringing the main benefits of the office, to working remotely —seeing your team so you don’t feel like you’re cut off from everyone else. It then also helps improve comunicating with everyone.

If you needed to call a colleague for example, you’d glance across at PukkaTeam, see if they’re available and use the integrated 1-click video calling to start a conversation with them.

It creates that feeling of ‘coming into the office’ when you start the work day and logging off at the end of it. It also makes it less daunting or frustrating to call or message someone and not get a response, you can see of they’re available or not.

But this isn’t the only method of reducing the feeling of being isolated from your team.

Use an instant messenger

Having tools like Slack (or your preferred IM) in place can let you chat with colleagues and catch up with what’s been happening, making you feel more connected and it does certainly help.

Instant messengers help overcome both the struggle with isolation and communication, it lets you talk to them, without being invasive. I’ve had a number of conversations, both work related and casual via IM. It helps ease the process of having conversations.

It does in some ways, feel a little impersonal, sort of like a continually updating email chain that you keep replying to, with some disconnection from the person you’re speaking to.

Don’t let that detract from using IM for remote work, we feel it’s a staple app for any remote or distributed team.

Coworking space/working elsewhere

Something like visiting a coworking space can help alleviate the isolation, meet other people working remotely, have other people around you, being able to socialise and work. This helps with reduce the feeling of isolation, but doesn’t do much for communication.

It also, might not be something you want to do everyday, but can be a nice change when working from home, to look to a new setting.

Meetup with a friend/colleague

Whether you meet up with a friend or work colleague, this can help and give you some real world interaction with someone. Arrange to meet up for lunch, relax, chat about life, the universe and everything (it’s 42 — bonus points to anyone who gets that reference XD).

It not only helps you feel less alone, but is also a nice pastime to catch up with a friend or colleague.

Source: Medium:Remote Working
Overcoming Isolation for Remote Teams

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