Creating Virtual Social Spaces: True Connections…Not Just Surface Collaborations

“Remote work isolates.”

This is one of the main critiques of work-from-home setups that some employers cite as the reason why they will never go for a remote workforce.

They believe that it stunts the interactions that naturally happen at the office

But this is true only to a certain point.

There is actually a set of strategies that remote team managers can employ to cultivate genuine and deep connections between virtual colleagues.

Deliberately practised and thoughtfully implemented, remote managers can create virtual workspaces that function just as well, if not, better than what happens in brick-and-mortar offices.

Let’s talk about how remote team managers can create meaningful virtual interactions at work.

#1 Create A Virtual Watercooler Culture

Physical offices have common areas where spontaneous small talks happen. The conversations here have very little to do with work. Instead, people talk about last night’s game, what’s new on Netflix, or where Sandra bought those cute shoes.

The interactions are quick and unplanned, and the banter serves as a welcome break from the office grind.

With platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams, you can create channels or rooms dedicated to hobbies, interests and other non-work related stuff—allowing your guys to connect on a personal level.

The conversations here don’t have to be long, involving threads. They can be hit-and-run interactions that are very informal and open-ended.

For example, you can create a Slack channel labelled “#WeekendAdvenures” where people can share photos and stories about their activities.

#2 Organise Virtual Social Events

Speaking of activities…

Don’t leave your guys to their own devices. Organise some of your own, internally.

Activities allow folks to interact more wholistically and strengthen a group’s camaraderie. It’s a time when they can let their hair down and know a different side to their colleagues.

You can rotate activities that take place weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, and they can include affairs like:

  • Virtual Happy Hours/Coffee Breaks
  • Online Game Nights
  • Theme Dress-up Days/ Formal Fridays
  • Fitness Challenges
  • Book Club Discussions
  • Virtual Movie Nights
  • Virtual Food Fiesta
  • Virtual Talent Show

The list goes on.

With technology, anything a group can do face-to-face can be done virtually. By being intentional about the process, you can help initiate friendships that span the globe, which comes with the added bonus of doing it in one’s own home.

We know how to do this. We’ve already proven it during the pandemic.

#3 Kindle The Fire

As a remote team manager, it is your job to draw people out.

Like face-to-face communications, people will initially be hesitant to mix their personal and professional lives. Many professionals who work remotely are happy and perfectly content not knowing their colleagues on a personal level. They see a bright line between the two and are happy to keep them separate.

Let them know how rewarding it is to have warm and friendly relationships at work.

Lead by example and open up. Actively participate in virtual coffee breaks and share your anecdotes.

Ask for personal stories as part of virtual team meetings. Throw them icebreaker questions like:

  • What book/movie/show would you want to live in right now?
  • If you had the power to change anything in history or the past, what would it be? And why?
  • Share a conspiracy theory you think is true and convince us to believe it.
  • What is the stupidest purchase you’ve made in your life?

Kindle that fire and be supportive of any brave soul who opens up.

This is a whole process and do not expect a group of battle-hardened computer programmers to suddenly open up and be vulnerable. Just work at making the space a friendly place to for people to be themselves.

#4 Create Mentorship & Buddy Systems

This is again one of the nudges you have to do as a remote team manager. Left to their own devices, your team would happily work on their assigned tasks and clock out at the end of the shift. The communication between team members would be minimal at best, and it would be about the tasks.

Many would see this as efficient.

It can also be cold and not conducive to creativity in the long run.

Imagine what your team would be like when they’re actively helping and encouraging each other.

So provide your guys with plenty of opportunities to create bonds. One way of doing that is by assigning mentors and buddies. In a way, you are giving people license to talk, teach, ask questions and communicate.

You’re making people accountable to each other. It’s not just your job to check in on people. It becomes their buddy’s job, or their mentor’s job. And when you provide access to that line of communication, people start talking not just about the job, but about other things, like family and other challenges outside work.

#5 Create Cross-Functional Bonds

What usually happens in a group of, say 30 people, is that guys who already know each other sit together. And they tend to stick together most of the time, to the exclusion of others. This doesn’t just happen in face-to-face interactions but also virtually.

This natural tendency limits the interactions and bonds built in teams. So, as a remote team manager, you need to provide avenues that induce cross-functional interactions, allowing people who would otherwise not interact, to get together.

One way of doing that is with project collaboration. Create opportunities for members from different departments or regions to work on some project or initiative.

The project can be related to work, or some fun activity you’re planning. For example, you might want to launch a “task force” comprised of members from your marketing, legal, and design teams.

Always make it a point to get personnel mixed up. This not only has a team-building function, but it also ups your team’s creativity by exposing people to diverse perspectives and lines of thinking.

#6 Celebrate Milestones & Achievements

People often bring down their communication barriers at the office when somebody is celebrating something. For example, they sing and greet “Happy birthday!” colleagues they haven’t talked to in months. (We also see this in social media where people suddenly come out of the woodwork to say, “Congratulations on the promotion!”)

Celebrations, it seems, not only bring people together but encourage them to interact with one another. They facilitate conversations and banter that would otherwise not happen.

As a remote team manager, find every excuse to have a cause for celebration. Any milestone, achievement or event in your people’s life, find a simple way to acknowledge and celebrate it.

This is actually hitting three birds with one stone because, in addition to sparking interactions and providing material for those interactions, you also make team members feel seen and recognized. And, the celebration itself provides people insights into the life of the person.

For example, congratulating somebody whose daughter just graduated highlights the person as a family man or as a father. Announcing to people that Jane’s cat just gave birth to four cute kitties not only makes Jane feel seen, but it also gives others a look into Jane as a “fur mama.” And so others might want to bond with her over that.

Remote team managers can do a lot to spark, build and strengthen the bonds between team members. Distance and busyness never stopped anyone from connecting with others. Provide your guys with plenty of opportunities, and see them slowly take you up.


Kinetic Innovative Staffing helps companies take advantage of today’s technology to build remote teams. We help businesses find top-notch remote professionals for their organisations.

With our candidate database of over 4 million vetted professionals, Kinetic can fill a broad range of roles and positions from virtual assistants, social media managers, and graphic artists to lawyers, engineers and accountants.

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If this is something you would like to explore for your company, do not hesitate to contact us.

Kinetic Innovative Staffing has been providing hundreds of companies in the Asia Pacific, North America, the Middle East, and Europe with professionals working remotely from the Philippines since 2013. Get in touch to know more.

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