How can teams stay more connected in a remote/hybrid environment?

connections hybrid work meaningfulconversations remote work team dynamic May 03, 2022

With many people working from home and/or some commuting into the office, remote and hybrid work has made it challenging for co-workers to remain connected.  Time and again I hear leaders share their frustration on how disconnected teams are, and how they struggle to feel the same level of camaraderie as in-person environments. 

While I fully understand and respect these feelings, I also challenge these leaders on how to think differently in how they are connecting and this also starts with how you are prioritizing connecting in a meaningful way.  I am not blinding stating this, and just passionately believe it is possible, I have seen it and had the pleasure to enable it, so I know with confidence that it is SO POSSIBLE to create strong, meaningful and consistent connectivity in a remote/hybrid world!!!  


Before I share some solutions, let me start by giving some context that will set the stage a bit.


Why does it matter to prioritize meaningFULL connection?


We are living in  a world where we have become simultaneously  virtually connected and emotionally disconnected.  Studies show that loneliness has become a true epidemic in the workplace.  People feel isolated and don’t have people at work they can trust and confide in which impacts their collaboration and productivity, and also disconnection outside of the office shows up in the energy they bring to work. 

Our work and personal lives are becoming more intertwined than ever.  So supporting an employee’s wellbeing and helping them learn tools for how they can strengthen relationships at work will not only support their team-building and bonding, but also filter over into their personal lives which in turn, will elevate their energy so they bring their best selves to work.  


A research study by Gallup showed that stronger connections not only significantly impacts what we do by increasing engagement and creativity in organizations and also impacts our well-being by helping you live longer and create more joy.  So, at work, the stronger your relationships are not only the happier you are but also the easier it is to work together and the more creative you are together.   


What does meaningFULL connection mean?


Most people think of connection in terms of how many people they engage/interact with on a daily basis - at home, at work, in their network. But the connection I’m talking about means being curious about the other person to deeply seeing and valuing the person in front of you, being invested in them, becoming comfortable with being open and vulnerable, and building trust. Until you have a foundation of trust, open communication, understanding, and build compassion for each other, you’ll never be able to truly address all the other challenging dynamics because you haven’t built the foundation of trust within a relationship or an ecosystem of strong relationships. 


How can we create more meaningFULL relationships in a remote/hybrid environment?



 The Challenge

The way we communicate with each other is the foundation for our relationships.  So often I see people rushing to answer or assert their opinion, judging someone else’s opinion, or not taking the time to truly listen to understand and learn from the other person.  This creates walls and prevents an inclusive and safe environment where employees can feel seen, heard, valued and understood. 

Research published by Harvard Business Review Article: The Surprising Power of Questions, shows that people don’t ask enough questions.  “Among the most common complaints people make after having a conversation, such as an interview...or a work meeting, is “I wish [s/he] had asked me more questions” and “I can’t believe [s/he] didn’t ask me any questions.” 


The Solution

Maximize your scheduled interactions by asking better, more insightful questions that create mini-connection moments:

  • Ask deeper questions in your regular 1:1 check ins to have more meaningful conversations that also go beyond the tasks at hand  to help you learn more about their well-being, perspectives, aspirations, and to feel comfortable being vulnerable by sharing where they may need support such as:
    • “What priority are you working on and do you feel stuck anywhere?  How can I help?” 
    • “What are we not talking about on our team?” 
    •  “If we could free up your time for 1 hour every week, what would you like to work on?”.
    • “What do you love doing and what do you loath?” 


  • Create space at the start of group meetings with powerful conversation starters that invite connected conversations:  Taking 5 minutes to connect before jumping into “doing the work” will significantly shift the energy of the group and open up more creativity and collaboration. Don’t think of it as taking away from the meeting time, think of it as critical to more effectively use the time! Ask questions such as:

    • “What is something that is exciting you today or you are looking forward to?”
    • “What’s a win that you are celebrating this week?”
    • “Who is someone you appreciate / that made you smile today?”


Asking questions that people want to answer, and listening, “unlocks learning and interpersonal bonding.” Why is this effective?  They feel more empowered and that their voice matters.  

Train your team on how to ask more insightful questions and be sure to role model this as a leader. 



The Challenge:

The absence of impromptu water cooler chats makes it harder for people to connect organically to get to know each other on a more personal, authentic and human level.  This can create a further divide amongst employees who are more natural at making the effort to connect and those who may feel less comfortable, confident and shy to proactively and intentionally reach out to people.  In turn, this may lead to more of a bias and lack of feeling of belonging, or a proximity bias for those who may be going into an office occasionally if their presence becomes more rewarded.


The Solution:

Create dedicated connection time by fostering virtual team bonding experiences that focus on relationship building conversations over project deliverables. 

  • Commit to consistent ongoing team building “connection experiences” (minimum 1x month) delivered virtually so everyone is equalized if you have a hybrid environment. Center these around some skill based learning so employees can also benefit from how to improve their communication skills which is the key to effective relationship building. If you are a leader, be a participant so you can get to know your team on a more initiate, personal level and they feel more connected to you. 

  • Create a virtual-friendly onboarding experience to get to know a new hire on a deeper level and then schedule follow up mini-connection chats for team members across departments and a buddy/mentor system.  Bring the group together and share personal stories while sharing 

    • What inspired you to be here?” and have existing team members share “what keeps you here?”

  •  Encourage and support purposeful “Connection Break” coffee chats with colleagues whom you  might not have the chance to work with on a regular basis where you aim to not talk about a current work project and instead something happening outside of work or something you are currently learning about that you may want to gain insights from someone else’s experience. 




The Challenge:

So often I hear people frustrated by team members not showing up to virtual meetings engaged, with their full presence, and complain that people aren’t on video and asking themselves…”is my team really being productive?”

The root cause of this is much deeper than the fact that we are remote. This can happen even in-person.  And a number of different factors may cause it.  Like anything in life, people don’t want to be told what to do, but instead asked and invited into something.  

The Solution:

First, assume positive intent. That people want to be and do their best. 
Second, engage the team in a consistent conversation about what creates the environment that they feel most connected and engaged in, and also learn from each other.  By unlocking their own collective wisdom, you can unlock more connected effervescence because they are engaged in the process which will also build more trust.


  • Hold a team communication/connected culture worksession.  Ask questions such as:

    • “When have you felt most connected to people you care about or work with?  Tell us a story about a situation and why you felt connected.”
    •  “How might we foster connection, community and collaboration in the midst of this remote hybrid work environment?” And then facilitate a virtual collaboration tool like MURAL to capture people’s ideas.


  • Leverage technology and systems to foster connection & steamline hybrid work.  ET Group is people-centric technology solutions company that builds hybrid collaboration ecosystems that bridge the gap between the different places teams work.  


I hope you take the time to create stronger connectivity in the workplace. Remember, the key with connecting in a remote/hybrid world is to be more intentional with how you connect, to maximize moments.  Yes, it takes a little more effort, but it is absolutely possible to connect deeply virtually!


I am personally honored to serve companies in enabling stronger connectivity and have heard from happy clients…

 “This is the most connected I have felt on Zoom all year!” 


“Wow, I learned so much from this experience, not just about myself, and my colleagues, but truly about the value of prioritizing these types of conversations.  It was a great reminder to not be so transactional with my interactions, that by connecting with more intention to build more of a personal relationships with my colleagues first, not only makes me enjoy my day more but also helps me be more productive when I need to call someone up to “get something done” because we have a stronger foundation built for our relationship.  I am now fully committed to prioritizing time to focus on my relationships with more curiosity, intention and presence.” 


So if you need a plug-and-play “connection experience” solution that has also has been proven to show 5-20% increases in engagement, trust, open communication and retention, I invite you to check out my signature Connection Hour™ experience, a team-building and personal growth experience that strengthens communication skills and ignites meaningful conversations, or book a Team Connection Breakthrough Call and together in 30 minutes we can outline a plan for you to take the next step to build a stronger foundation in your relationships to then maximize your business results the rest of the year!


Live & Work Connected!



This post was by Lisa Kalfus.  If you'd like to schedule a call to chat about your culture challenges or relationship opportunities to improve connectivity in a virtual world, book a complimentary call or email Lisa a quick note at [email protected].



About Lisa: Lisa Kalfus is a Human Connection Facilitator and Conversation Coach and the founder and Chief Connector of Firestart Connections. She is deeply passionate about helping people create meaningful, authentic relationships by quickly elevating conversations from small talk to real talk to ignite a more connected life and workplace culture.

As the creator of Connection Hour™, a powerful experience that ignites meaningful conversations to deepen relationships, she is on a mission to help teams and individuals have better conversations to connect better with anyone.  

Complimentary gift: To help you accelerate and strengthen your relationships click here to download a free toolkit on the 3 Simple Ways to Connect Better, including some of her favorite conversation starter questions!

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