Woman working from home on a video call

4 Ways Businesses Can Keep Their Teams Connected

With remote work booming, tech can keep teams together

You answer a call from your daughter’s number. A woman can be heard screaming for help in the background. You yell out your daughter’s name. A forceful voice repeats the name and says she has been kidnapped, and if you don’t pay, she will be killed. A terrifying panic sets in. But according to the FBI, the threat is more than likely fake.

U.S. law enforcement agencies have been dealing with virtual kidnapping schemes for more than 20 years, but the problem is spreading, helped by new technology.

Technology aided extortion
Hackers obtain mobile phone contact lists, then use “spoofing,” technology to disguise an incoming call to appear as if it is coming from the kidnapping victim’s phone. One might answer a call thinking it is coming from their child or grandchild, when it is actually from an extortionist.

Remote work is surging as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though remote work has been made immeasurably easier with high speed internet and digital technology, allowing employees to work remotely is sure to create new challenges for businesses.

One of the greatest challenges to creating successful remote teams is cultivating strong relationships among team members who don’t see each other daily. More than two-thirds of remote employees aren’t engaged in their work, and more than one-third never get face to face time with team members. These statistics are potentially detrimental to employers with remote employers and can lead to high employee attrition if not taken into consideration.

Healthy relationships increase trust, efficiency while improving company culture and creating positive vibes among employees. The greater the trust employees have in one another, the more they enjoy their work and feel valued.

Unfortunately, creating a connected remote team isn’t always as easy as we would like. Here are five tips to make the process easier.

Desk at home

1. Update Your Teams Regularly
Remote employees are not physically in the office every day, but they still want to know of changes and announcements. When policies or procedures change, don’t just rely on having internal conversations. If you do, remote employees will quickly feel left out and unimportant. Even if a decision is made on the fly, make sure you send an email or video announcement that explains changes to all team members.

2. Use A Real-Time Communication Tool
Whether a team member is 500 feet down the hall or 500 miles away, there are times throughout the day they have questions for other team members. Relying on email or phone calls can be tricky because employees can’t always answer or respond immediately and remote employees might question why their peers are ignoring them. Using a real-time communication tool such as Slack is an excellent way for team members to chat with another, ask questions and get the answers they need more quickly.

3. Use Virtual Conferencing
Set the expectation that video conferencing and discussions is a must for all employees as early as the interview or day one of the individual working at home. Install video equipment in conference rooms so remote employees can easily join in on live weekly or monthly meetings. It is also a good idea to schedule monthly virtual hangouts so co-workers can learn more about one another and find common interests. Once employees feel like they know others, it is easier for them to initiate conversations about work projects and concerns.

+ Video Conferencing Tip 1: Pick the Right Program
For smaller, in-house team meetings, you can test the video conferencing waters for free with platforms like join.me, CyberLink U, and Skype’s group video chat. When big pitches or high-stakes meetings are on the line, it may be worth investing in paid software instead. Topping the list of PC Magazine’s Best Video Conferencing Software are RingCentral Meetings, Intermedia AnyMeeting and Zoho Meeting. (Pro Tip: Even the paid software platforms often have free plans with limited capabilities, so compare the options to find the best one for your needs and budget.)

+ Video Conferencing Tip 2: Get Good Video Conferencing Equipment
Your laptop’s built-in webcam might work, but you should consider using a camera with a resolution of 1080p and speed from 30 to 60 frames per second. Business Insider’s top choice is the Logitech C920. It’s an Amazon bestseller that you can purchase for $79.99. If you’re interested in ultra HD, Business Insider also recommends the Logitech Brio 4K. Though it’s a bit pricey—offered at $199—Brio is capable of 60-frames-per-second image quality.

Because audio is also important and you certainly don’t want any awkward “Can you hear me now?” moments, you’ll probably want to invest in a noise-canceling headset that delivers clear sound. Windows Central recommends the Plantronics Voyager, a wireless headset that’s compatible across PCs and mobile devices.

+ Video Conferencing Tip 3: Consider Your Filming Area and Dress for Success
Pay attention to lights, camera and action. Unless you wish to appear as a spooky silhouette, follow these final tips:

+ Position yourself in front of a light source with no illumination at your back.
+ Natural light is best, but a lamp will do.
+ Clear clutter from the background and look at the camera lens to convey eye contact.
+ Keep body movements to a minimum.

And what about your wardrobe? Well, plaid may be great for weekends, but make sure to stick to solid colors while you’re in front of the camera.

4. Ask For Feedback
It is easy to check in with employees that you see daily. Don’t forget to schedule one-on-one chats and conversations with remote employees and directly ask them if they feel like part of the team. If they don’t, ask for suggestions on how to make them feel more connected with the rest of the team. And then be sure to implement some of their ideas, so they see they are valued.

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