The Slice

20 Ways That Leaders Can Connect With Their Employees

June 16, 2023

There are many great ways to connect with your employees, many of which also offer additional benefits in building teamwork skills, bringing teams closer together, and helping to create a healthy workplace culture. Let's take a closer look at twenty ways you can start to really connect with your employees, no matter how far apart you are IRL.

A pre-pandemic study conducted by the Institute of Leadership and Management found that most respondents' most important factor in determining job satisfaction was building close relationships with colleagues. Another study a year later found that more than 97 million U.S. workers are lonely, with the publishers going so far as to say that America is suffering from a loneliness epidemic.

The rapid shift to remote work for many employees worldwide only deepened the disconnection they feel from their coworkers as individuals don't receive the same benefits of in-person, in-office interaction. At the same time, employees don't just need to feel a connection to their colleagues– they also need to feel seen, heard, and valued by their managers and leaders.

Connecting with employees has always been something of a challenge for managers, as it can be difficult to toe the line between being a leader and being a pal. Managing a team remotely can make it more difficult to get to know one's employees on top of that, as you can't simply stop by their desks to check in from time to time.

All that being said, though, all of this isn't meant to leave you feeling helpless. There are many great ways to connect with your employees, many of which also offer additional benefits in building teamwork skills, bringing teams closer together, and helping to create a healthy workplace culture. Without further ado, let's take a closer look at twenty ways you can start to really connect with your employees, no matter how far apart you are IRL.

1. Schedule Regular Team-Building Activities

You know what they say about all work and no play– if you really want to build connections with your employees, you're going to schedule regular opportunities to have fun, get to know each other better, and work on some essential teamwork skills.

Engaging in team-building activities is well worth the time away from business as usual. You'll likely find that treating your team to a competitive live trivia game or an exhilarating virtual escape room ultimately helps to increase productivity, encourage creativity, enhance communication, boost morale, build trust, and so much more.

It's hard for people to make connections when they feel like all they do is message each other back and forth about the nitty-gritty details of a project. By changing the scenery and allowing everyone to stretch their problem-solving, communication, and teamwork skills in a lighthearted and fun way, relationships can really start to blossom both between team members and between the team and leadership.

2. Make Time to Socialize

In a traditional office, coworkers have time throughout the day to chat about nonwork-related topics. Whether it's at the water cooler, in the breakroom, or grabbing some beers after work, relationships tend to organically form when people work together day in and day out. Managers and leaders aren't necessarily excluded from this, either– even if there is a fairly firm hierarchy in a company, working together in a physical location really lends itself to building connections.

For remote teams, though, you have to deliberately set up opportunities for teams to spend some social time together. Otherwise, people can work together for months or even years without knowing anything about their coworkers and managers beyond what time zone they log in from.

Leaders can connect with their employees by scheduling regular opportunities to socialize casually. Some classic options are hosting a virtual happy hour or a team pizza party. You might even consider having a nice coffee break every week with your employees to check in on a more personal level. Whether you play games with your team or just have a weekly chat over a cup of coffee, you'll be amazed at how far a little social time will go when it comes to creating connections, building relationships, and increasing a culture of camaraderie.

3. Make Transparency the Norm

It can be tempting to try and maintain a pristine image at all times as a manager– both personally and for the brand.

The truth is, though, that keeping your employees in the loop about positive and negative business happenings can help foster connections and build trust.

4. Do the Rounds

Just because you're not in an office anymore doesn't mean you can't metaphorically stop by your employees' desks from time to time.

Come up with a strategy to check in with your team on a one-on-one basis with some regularity just to see how they're doing.

5. Don't Forget to Celebrate!

Celebrating team successes or individual milestones can be a great way to ensure your employees know that they're appreciated and valued.

Whether you have a special lunch shindig to shine some light on a recent win for your team or throw a farewell bash for an employee that's moving on to new opportunities, don't hesitate to take any chance you can to bring everyone together in the merry spirit of celebration.

6. Listen, Listen, Listen

If you really want to connect with your employees, one of the most important things you can do is listen and make sure that your team knows you are listening. Regularly check in with your team collectively and individually, even to drop a simple "How's it going?"

Listening is one of the most powerful tools when it comes to building relationships. Encourage your employees to be honest in their feedback, even if it is critical (constructively critical, of course,) and take the initiative to make changes when it's clear that your team would benefit from them.

7. Promote Work-Life Balance

If you want to connect with your employees, it's essential to recognize the importance of having a healthy balance between one's personal and professional life.

When you make it clear that employee wellness is important to you, you help break down some barriers between managers and employees.

8. Implement a Feedback System

Letting your employees share ideas and potential improvements can help ensure that they feel heard.

By implementing a feedback or suggestion system, you're giving them an avenue to connect to the company and its leadership with a bigger-picture perspective.

9. Nurture an Environment of Employee Recognition

Working tirelessly day in and day out certainly gets old when you feel like no one is even noticing all of your efforts.

Create and nurture an environment of employee recognition to help boost connections between you and your team and within your team!

10. Encourage Professional and Personal Development

Another great way to build connections with your employees is to actively encourage them to develop their skills, knowledge, and abilities. While this is something you'll want to encourage in their professional lives, you don't need to shy away from promoting their personal development.

Employees appreciate when it's clear that their leaders recognize they are people beyond their roles at an organization, and a little bit of encouragement can go a long way when it comes to showing that you care about them.

11. Give Your Team Room to Explore (and Fail!)

If you want to build connections and trust with your team, you'll want to extend a little trust their way.

Giving your employees some room to take responsibility for a project, task, or idea, as well as accountability for the results, is an excellent way to bring the team closer together and encourage a culture of trust.

12. Take Time to Play Games

Remember, all work and no play make Jack a dull boy!

Though stepping away from the task at hand can be hard, there's always time to play a quick five-minute game before your meeting begins.

13. Give Honest, Positive Feedback

In a remote setting, we miss out on a lot of the nonverbal cues and other indications that the people around us are generally pleased with our work.

For this reason, it's more important than ever to regularly provide your employees with positive (but honest!) feedback to let them know where they're succeeding.

14. Recreate the Break Room Experience

If you're interested in creating more opportunities to connect with your employees and create a sense of belonging and camaraderie within your team, consider taking some steps to recreate the break room experience.

Whether you host a weekly casual lunch or take a fifteen-minute coffee break on Mondays, these low-pressure events can do wonders for building connections within your team.

15. Invest Your Time

Your time is one of the most valuable resources you can contribute to your team in a way that results in real connections.

Your employees need to know that you are right there with them, in the trenches working to achieve the same goals they are setting out to achieve. Beyond that, taking the time to check in with people personally and ask them about their family, hobbies, children, etc., can go a long way.

16. Lead By Example

When crunch time hits, you'll want to jump into the mess and get your hands dirty with your team.

There are few more effective ways to build connections with other people than to have to work together to get something done within a short period of time– don't waste these valuable opportunities sitting back and watching your team do all the work.

17. Embrace the Need to Recharge

Yes, time is money, and your business isn't going to succeed if every day at work is like a trip to the spa for your employees. That being said, it's more important now than ever before to recognize the importance of reducing employee stress and how it relates to the overall success of an organization.

This is particularly true for employers that are managing remote teams. Having your employees work from home can save your business a ton of money in overhead, but one of the places that you might want to invest that extra dough is toward employee wellness.

Working from home has countless benefits, but one of the things that can be difficult for even the most independent of workers is the isolation and loneliness that can result. On top of that, workers can end up dealing with Zoom fatigue when they spend their days in back-to-back video conference calls.

According to one study, employees have a 50% higher level of health and well-being when they take a break every hour and a half, as well as a 50% higher "capacity for creative thinking." Beyond that, their level of focus was also found to be 30% higher.

If you want your employees to feel like you appreciate them, make sure they can step back and recharge and spend some time together in a more relaxed way. For some ideas on how to help your team stay balanced and healthy, check out our guide to reducing stress among remote teams.

18. Make the Most of Your Meetings

Many organizations fall into holding meetings far too often, which can exhaust employees and leave them in a position where they simply can't take meetings seriously. Rather than getting too meeting-happy, always consider whether the information you need to convey is best served by the meeting format or if another communication method would be just as appropriate, if not more suitable.

Additionally, make sure that you're incorporating some team building and opportunities to connect when you and your team are virtually face-to-face. If you're all work and no play during meetings, you're missing a valuable chance to bond with your employees, get to know them better, and provide an opportunity for them to get to know you, too.

19. Prioritize a Positive Onboarding Experience

You only get one chance to make a first impression, which makes the onboarding process a key opportunity to build connections with new hires.

Taking the time to design a great onboarding program has always been important, but it is particularly essential when your team is remote. Remember, your employees may never even meet each other in person, and without some deliberate effort, teams can feel like they're working with strangers even when they've been collaborating for months or even years.

20. Make Sure Your "Door" Is Always Open

Of course, you don't just want to try and connect with your employees when it fits within your schedule. To really create bonds that help to strengthen the team and boost performance, make sure that you're readily available and accessible to your employees. Communication is a two-way street, and it's important to show your team that your door is always open no matter what questions, concerns, or issues they may have.

If you're eager to build connections with your employees, you've come to the right place. At PizzaTime, we specialize in creating team bonding opportunities using the power of food, drinks, and virtual experiences.

Are you ready to bring your team together? If so, start your catering or experience order today.

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