Creating a Culture of Empathy with Remote Teams
by Claudette Albers-Reid on November 4, 2022
We live in an age of smart, fast tools that help us manage our work and even our household with just a couple of clicks. Predictive analysis, artificial intelligence, and other technological advances have made it possible for countless people across the globe to work from home.
And to do so efficiently, to the extent that post-pandemic, many of us have not returned to the office (and possibly never will).
It’s obviously a great time to be a consultant or a project manager. We can travel. We can have more of a work-life balance. We can put in hours when it suits us due to the rise in asynchronous work.
However, there’s a big downside to the remote work environment. Loneliness and feelings of isolation are on the rise among remote workers in the US and Europe. With less face-to-face interaction at the office, many are suffering emotionally from the disconnect.
A fantastic remedy for feelings of disconnection is empathy, and it’s also a smart center from which you can build and promote your company culture. Remote agency workers, especially, can benefit from managers and owners creating a culture of empathy.
Weekly Briefs with the Team
Remote workers may spend hours or days on end without talking to another human. And no, Slack messages do not count as genuine human interaction. On remote teams, we can be in constant contact with one another but feel like we don’t know a thing about the other people we work with.
Weekly briefs with your team via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meets are a great antidote to the common disconnect we often feel as remote workers. Schedule a standing weekly brief with your team that lasts about 30-45 minutes (keep it under an hour).
Rather than a hardcore brainstorm or mind-meld, the weekly brief is more of a way to let everyone voice what they are working on and any problems or roadblocks they’re encountering. People will be able to put names on faces and learn more about what makes each person tick.
- Schedule a team brief 1x per week
- Keep it under an hour, so no one dreads it
- Ask each team member how they’re doing in work/life
- Encourage listening and laughter
Aside from weekly briefs, personal check-ins can provide project managers with critical info while also fostering empathy in remote work culture. The personal check-in does not have to be a therapy session, and you don’t even have to dig deep if the person is not up for it.
The point of the personal check-in is to show that you care and to gain more knowledge of the emotional state of your individual team members. You don’t have to call it a ‘personal’ check-in or even mention it under the umbrella of empathy. Simply having a one-on-one conversation (no messaging!) each month with your individual team members can do wonders for productivity and a more empathetic work environment.
- Schedule a personal check-in 1x per month or bi-monthly
- Prioritize listening over a meeting agenda
- Keep it brief (30 minutes is fine)
For thousands, if not millions, of years, the linchpin of human society has been the family. Families come in an untold amount of varieties, but they are the place where we first learn empathy. The emotional, mental, and spiritual safety of the family lets us decompress, relax, and discharge our emotions. Without the family, which by the way does not have to be biological, humans have difficulty with life at large.
To foster empathy in your organization, especially if you’re part of a remote team, a great starting place is simply to put family first. Let your team members and even your clients know that you operate with this mantra in mind. You can then take it even further, encouraging your team to treat one another like they would in a functional family unit.
- Let team members know that family comes first
- Create a work atmosphere of a (functional) family
In Sum: The Benefits of Empathy for the Remote Workplace
As we’ve discussed, fostering empathy among your remote team can help you avoid some of the pitfalls of the work-from-home environment, mainly feelings of isolation and disconnection. To close, here are some of the other benefits that come with putting empathy at the core of company culture:
- Prevent burnout
- Better job performance
- Increase effective communication
- Foster creativity and honesty
- And more!