Tips for Keeping Your Remote Team Connected

Lessons from a Community Bank on How to Stay Connected

A New Experience for Everyone

In a matter of days, many of us went from spending 40+ hours per week with our co-workers in the office to not seeing anyone in person during the workday (with the exception of maybe our pets). Employees were feeling as if nobody was noticing their work accomplishments while supervisors were trying to come up with new ways to evaluate staff performance. Both of which were leaving business owners and Human Resources departments struggling to creatively ensure all team members feel engaged and connected while working remotely.

Here are five concepts we have been focusing on at Mars Bank:

  1. Keeping our Employees Informed
    We quickly recognized communication would be key to the success of our employees feeling connected. We started off by sending weekly emails and intranet posts to keep employees updated on all policy and operational changes. We added monthly calls for officers and supervisors of the bank to keep them current with bank strategies. We also started All-Staff Zoom calls on a quarterly basis to give an overview of what each area of the bank is working on. Not only are the calls informative for all employees, but the Zoom events are a great way to “see” one another.
  2. Listening to our Employees
    As important as it has been to communicate to our employees, we also realized we need to listen. We needed to find out how people were feeling about working remotely, returning to the office, productivity levels and more. In addition to information gleaned from team meetings and supervisor discussions, we found the best way to listen was to conduct several employee surveys. The candid responses from our staff has been one of the top sources in guiding our management team through the pandemic. We discovered what technology was most needed to increase productivity at home as well as what protocols need to be in place when staff begins to return to the office.
    Another way to listen is for our CEO, Jim Dionise, to visit departments by joining their staff meetings on occasion via Zoom calls. With a limited number of people on the calls, it provides a more comfortable environment and creates an open forum for all.
  3. Encourage Growth Opportunities
    Just because we are not physically in the office, does not mean career paths should come to a halt. We have continued development of our staff by encouraging virtual training sessions or internal training amongst piers. More importantly, we have been recognizing hard work by promoting employees who have demonstrated dedication and improved skills to move further along in their careers.
  4. Create an Outlet for Watercooler Talk
    We quickly realized we were able to handle the day-to-day operations of the bank, even from our separated locations. However, we knew we were missing the fun spontaneous interaction that occurs in the office. We called upon the bank’s Social Committee to create a private group Facebook page for our current active employees. The main rule of the page is – no formal work communication! The page has daily posts used to stir up conversations strictly for fun. Employees are encouraged to posts pictures of their home workspace, pets, children or anything else they may want to chat about with their coworkers.
  5. (and most importantly) Have Fun!
    Mars Bank was a fun place to work before the pandemic so why shouldn’t it be now? We typically would have had a group tailgating/Pirates game this summer for our employees and their families which, like most other events, could not happen. One way to let our employees know we appreciate all of their hard work was to send a box of cookies to their homes. We also asked employees to send in their baby pictures for others to try to guess in a contest. The employee with the most correct guesses won a gift card.
    Our most recent event was a virtual Trivia Night sponsored by Heinz History Center. It was a fun one-hour event which allowed us to team up to answer trivia questions about the Pittsburgh region and Mars in particular. And course, the prize packs from the History Center were all Pittsburgh themed!

Try Different Ideas

For us, none of the activities listed above were a single solution. We recognized each employee had different feelings on social isolation and we found a combination of big and small gestures appealed to our staff of hard-working and dedicated employees. The mixture of important work communication with fun and games has been well-received. As we continue navigating through this new way of operating, we find it important to not become complacent and know we continually have to put forth an extra effort to keep our staff well-connected.

Any questions or comments can be directed to Mars Bank’s Human Resources department via this link.

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