Creating Belonging and Engagement for Your Remote Teams

Creating Belonging and Engagement for Your Remote Teams

Early in the year, I noticed that more of the HR leaders I spoke with were reporting pressure from the C-suite to require workers to return to the office. Executives were reluctant to offer remote working options for new hires and eager to phase out remote working for current employees.

That trend seems to have stalled. There’s a recognition that attracting top talent requires flexibility—and that flexibility includes offering remote or hybrid work opportunities. 

The tech sector demonstrates how this trend is impacting hiring. In May, 34% of open roles offered remote or hybrid flexibility. One month later, that number had increased to 40%.

For remote work to attract and retain top talent and be an element of a productive and collaborative culture, leaders must be intentional about how they onboard and engage their remote contributors—creating a sense of belonging matters.

As the CEO of one of the first fully remote workplaces in the 1990s, I’ve spent 30 years identifying the best practices to ensure that all Duffy Group’s contributors fully engage in our mission and our work. We’ve invested in building a cohesive, high-performing culture designed to equip and empower every team member.

This culture depends on creating a sense of belonging and is anchored by a few strategic practices that are designed to ensure that employees work remotely but not in isolation. 

These steps are vital to eliminate any loneliness employees might experience and build productive teams:

  1. Face-to-face meetings. Our managers schedule weekly or biweekly one-on-one video meetings, and we require cameras to be on. 
  2. Team huddles. Every Friday, we have 30-minute team meetings (with the cameras on) to build connection and collaboration. We switch up the teams every quarter so new members can meet. The discussion includes both work-related and non-work-related topics.
  3. Buddy system. Every new hire receives a welcome gift or company swag before their first day. They’re also assigned a “buddy” to answer questions and help them navigate their first days on the job.
  4. Celebrate successes. I’m a big believer in celebrating big and small wins. We use our weekly “Feel Good Friday” email to share shout-outs from the week. We also publicly celebrate three team members at the start of each quarterly company meeting.
  5. Lunch and learn. Every quarter, we have a virtual lunch and learn event, with breakout groups to help build connections.
  6. In-person meetups. We encourage teams in the same geographic area to schedule a meetup for lunch, coffee, dinner, or happy hour. Some of our teams meet to share a holiday meal. This year, I hosted a Friendsgiving dinner at my house.
  7. Create community impact. We schedule group volunteer activities to help the communities where we live and work.
  8. Be mindful. We talk about how we’re managing stress, decompressing, and battling the inevitable afternoon slump. In our “Mindful Moments” company group chat, team members are invited to post images of how they’re taking care of themselves, whether it’s spending time with a pet, taking a walk outside, or enjoying a fancy midday latte. 

These are just a few of the practices that have enabled us to create productive, collaborative teams across the country. Remote work should never translate into working in isolation. 

Building intentional systems to foster a positive culture can ensure that every member of the team, no matter where they are working, knows that their contributions are acknowledged and their successes celebrated.