How to Establish Integrity and Empathy in a Remote Environment
As virtual interactions continue to take place of face-to-face contact, it may feel like a challenge to give—or receive—empathy. Only so much can be communicated via Slack or a company-wide email.
For hybrid-work teams like our own, we’ve found new and efficient ways to connect with one another, no matter if we’re on-site at 90octane, at our home offices, or—let’s be honest—working from bed (WFB). Read on for our top 5 ways to create empathy in remote work.
We know, we know. Awkward, dreaded ice breakers. But we’ve found these to be a positive addition to our meetings, and they don’t need to follow the “one cool fact about yourself” paradigm. Some of our favorites of late:
“Red, yellow, or green: what’s your mood today?”
“What’s one thing that made you smile this morning?”
“What is one job you’d be terrible at?”
You’d be surprised at how many people answer that last one with “accountant.”
By taking a few minutes at the outset of a meeting to check in with one another, we create a compassionate atmosphere. It will loosen up the room, bring down the virtual walls and make way for connection.
Give a little extra
We all know colleagues who are (bravely!) juggling their professional lives and parenting. It’s easy to find ways to lighten their load—be it workload, or emotional burden. Let them know you are listening and empathizing. A simple statement like “I get it,” or “let me know how I can help,” or “dang, that sounds like a lot!” can go a long way.
As another example, if you know a colleague struggling with a project, you can go the extra mile by setting up a videoconference. Email or messenger apps may seem like the quicker option, but there’s a level of comfort and connection that comes with solving a problem face-to-face.
Open an online forum
A key to creating an empathetic, positive work environment is ensuring employees feel appreciated. To replicate the feeling of a big ol’ pat on the back, 90octane has implemented an online “Give-a-Damn” forum—a space where employees and senior staff alike can send and receive virtual kudos. This establishes a sense of community, an authentic connection in a world where we’re often separated by screens. Best of all, it just plain feels good.
To camera, or not to camera?
Some people are camera shy. Being on camera in your own home can amplify that anxiety. It’s giving others, even strangers, a glimpse inside of your previously private world. But many workers either feel the pressure, or are pressured, to appear on camera for meetings. Giving employees the option to remain off-camera gives them back some autonomy. If they’re feeling uncomfortable about having eyes on them, having a bad hair day, or are interfacing with their kids in the background, they don’t have to feel guilty about hitting that “camera off” icon.
Vulnerability can prove to be advantageous to relationship-building. It makes us more real to the person on the other side of the screen, whether they’re a client, a manager, or a teammate. Vulnerability can oftentimes feel raw, even scary. But you can start being more vulnerable in the workplace through small actions: Share details about yourself if you feel comfortable doing so. Be honest when you don’t have the answer to a question, and avoid making promises you can’t keep. All of this can help open lines of communication with those you’re sharing with.
“For hybrid-work teams like our own, we’ve found new and efficient ways to connect with one another, no matter if we’re on-site at 90octane, at our home offices, or—let’s be honest—working from bed (WFB). ”