Remote Workers Need Cohesion Too

Remote workers seem to have it all! The flexible hours, a casual work environment, no boss looking over their shoulder and, of course, every day is casual Friday. But do they really have it all?

According to a 2018 State of Remote Work Report by Buffer, one in five participants claimed loneliness as an increasing issue with productivity, confidence, and general frame of mind toward work.

The results come as no surprise when we think people who want to work from home espouse the famous Greta Garbo sound bite, “I want to be alone!” It’s simply not true.

My research into social theories that support cohesion and its impact on teams has led me to assert “people want to be part of something.”

Therefore, it is equally as crucial for remote workers to have a cohesive culture, whether working from home or in a virtual location. Remote workers want to belong and feel needed.

How does cohesion work?

When leaders create a Cohesion Culture™, they foster an environment for all employees that includes:

  1. a sense of belonging
  2. value
  3. commitment to self and the organization

Cohesion is an important strategic objective for leaders because when cohesion is present, it positively impacts performance for individuals in all stages of the work and group cycle. Meaning cohesion is causal. And with cohesion comes increased performance.

Each leader will establish cohesion differently depending upon the nature of the work. However, it’s crucial to remember that cohesive teams are necessary for consistent performance.

What can leaders do to create cohesion for remote workers?

A vital part of today’s HR Strategies needs to include remote workers, in addition to those who are physically present. Conversations, activities, and coaching should be directed to support and meet the needs of belonging, valued work, and personal and organizational success.

For instance, organizations must find ways to allow the remote worker to connect in meaningful ways with other teammates. Quarterly gatherings on-site or a visit to the worker’s remote location on a semi-annual basis may be what’s needed to create this sense of connection. Or, maybe even more face-to-face time through a “visual” presence for meetings and coaching.

To help workers feel valued, the organization needs to utilize a continuous performance feedback loop that allows the individual to feel connected to their teams and supervisors. During these feedback sessions, part of what the leader does it help the remote worker understand the value of their contributions. Some organizations have enacted a “buddy system” to ensure these remote workers have healthy communication that may involve sharing stories and laughter. This form of comradery is essential to the ongoing human relations we all seek and desire.

When it comes to the commitment aspect of cohesion, the most critical activity is for the supervisor to invest in developing the employee. An article, written by Matthew DeCarlo (May 2019), suggests that remote workers can feel disconnected or out of the loop as a result of poor leadership between the supervisor and the worker. In other words, supervisors must overcome this disconnection barrier and can do so when they commit to the person first, then ask the worker to commit to the organization.

Whether the worker is remote or on-site or not, leadership needs to direct attention toward creating a cohesive environment that prioritizes “people first, task second.” After all, tasks don’t require cohesion, people do.