Maybe it’s not a surprise that a returning theme for 2024 is employee wellbeing and work relationships as the demand for remote-work opportunities has continued to rise. Buffer reported that “significantly more respondents selected that career growth was easier for remote workers” increasing from 14% in 2022 to 36% in 2023. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the virtual office is here to stay, as are the challenges that leadership is facing around transitioning employee wellbeing and team building strategies—many are unsure about where to begin.

Team Building Responsibilities 

Most team socialization occured with little to no oversight in traditional office settings, probably due to a mixture of the structural environment and the nature of people, but it wasn’t always optimal. When open-plan offices gained popularity in 2005 as a way to increase team collaboration and innovation, the demand for higher levels of communication required updated landscapes. This is something that we can see happening within the remote-work movement, as the responsibilities of team building and socialization falling way side or becoming a burden to the one employee excited about the potential. 

We witness these challenges in our client base. The uncertainty of assigning responsibility for the company’s social activities is highly common for remote teams; no two people who take on the job of organizing Anywhere League at their companies have the same job title. This challenge is even more intensified when questions arise about the allocation of resources in the budget for remote-team socialization.

Employee Wellbeing Expectation

Happy hour, team lunch, and spontaneous gatherings seemed more commonplace in offices because of social pressure and workplace ambassadors (that one employee that just knows how to get everyone excited about the holiday party). While in person open-plan office spaces were great for extroverted employees to bring out introverted members from their shells, the expectation carries a much heavier burden in the virtual office space. Anticipating these same employees to continue facilitating social interaction for the entire team is likely to cause overwhelm and burn out; a risky strategy that is likely to chase off some of your most invested company talent. 

Protecting employee wellbeing and empowering genuine connection within remote-teams is achievable with the proper environmental adjustments. Expecting the company chat-channel or a yearly retreat to motivate internal networking is placing an undue amount of pressure on your most committed employees. To truly build strong relationships and cultivate a sense of team, deliberate efforts and resources are required.

Nurturing Remote-Teams 

Establishing systems for remote socialization involves addressing the invisible roles and expectations previously assumed by the most enthusiastic member of the team. Even before the pandemic, the concept of “office housework” and the quiet quitting movement highlighted the burden of additional responsibilities on certain individuals. Finding volunteers to organize events, in addition to their daily workload, has become increasingly challenging.

Waiting for someone to take the lead on managing your company’s virtual socialization strategy is a reactive approach that carries less pros than cons. Facilitating the time and space for regularly schedule team socialization is a way to recreate the open-plan office environment; empowering your most invested employees to celebrate company wins and colleagues without additional work overload.  

Nurturing employee wellbeing and team building in remote-work environments requires a proactive and strategic approach. By investing in resources that creates space for employees to connect in meaningful ways companies can thrive in a remote-work culture that enhances both individual satisfaction and team cohesion.