How To Engage Your Virtual Team in Stressful Times

leadership Mar 27, 2020
engaging your team on zoom

Part 2 of a 3-part series

     Leaders are stretched in unfamiliar ways as the coronavirus forces a “new” normal into our lives.

     Thousands of employees suddenly working from home or anxiously wondering about their employment status require a different leadership style. Leaders must rise to this new normal.

     The first tip from part 1 of this 3 article series, 3 Tips to Rally Your Team, is communication. Consistent communication can be the first thing to vanish as stress escalates. In my first article, I share several communication strategies to help rally and inform your team.

Social Isolation Kills Momentum

     Consider that coming to work and into an office center around the social connection. Even in challenging work environments, people are connected.

     Our new normal is “social distancing” with the COVID-29 pandemic. Imagine the employees, who in the matter of a few days, lost social connection with colleagues as companies started telework programs.

     Employees who have never worked from home for days on end may start to feel the effects of social isolation. Social isolation affects mental and emotional health. 

Meaningful Engagement

     Team member engagement is key to maintain a sense of belonging. Belonging lowers mental and emotional health impacts. Meaningful connections strengthen relationships, give team members opportunities to learn about each other, improves personal wellbeing, and builds trust. Positive, trusting relationships are the outgrowth of meaningful engagement.

Team Building Games

     If you’ve used team building games when in-person, you can adapt for telework use. The goal is to give people an opportunity to learn something about each other. There are tons of remote work team-building games online to use with your teams.

     Team building activities spark meaningful engagement and team bonding (and fun). A couple of key ideas to keep in mind. Schedule team bonding activities weekly (maybe kick-off meetings with a team-building activity). Ask for ideas from your team (you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting). Set clear expectations for appropriate talk and activities (don’t need HR called!).


     I wrote about communication in part 1 of this 3-part series. It is important to go beyond information sharing.

     Meaningful engagement involves asking for team member's ideas. If your goal is to strengthen team collaboration, you could divide people into solution-finding teams. Maybe there is a pressing problem your company needs to be solved. Start a team competition to find a great solution. Video meetings are a great way to allow people to connect. Teams can ideas or solutions during video meetings to increase interest, participation, and engagement.

Impact Opportunities

     Remote work can leave people feeling limited to just delivering on their tasks. There are a few things leaders can do to expand and grow engagement. I call these impact opportunities. A cross-training program can help individual contributors share specific expertise with the entire team or select team members.

     Another impact opportunity is for your various departments to do a short skit or fun presentation using just symbols or pictures to teach three important ideas for the department. We often believe everyone understands our respective departments, but they do not. This can be a great time to create meaningful engagement through department sharing. A note here: It can’t be a dry or dull PowerPoint presentation. Push creativity.

     You could consider rotating leadership for team meetings among staff members. The key idea is to identify ways that people can feel valued for their contributions outside their main role.

Inspired Engagement

     Meaningful engagement increases productivity, a sense of value, and reduces social isolation. Leaders must deliberately create fun, engaging experiences for team members. It increases confidence and a sense of belonging.

     When we work with clients to help build remote team engagement strategies, our clients discover real benefits in focusing on intentionally strengthening the relationships with remote teams.  Trust, genuine connections, strong relationships are important team dynamics that can be built with remote teams with a little creativity.

Jenny DuFresne is the CEO, Leaders Transform. Our mission is to develop leaders who grow, inspire, and evolve people, culture, and impact. Our team supports executive and mid-level leaders with executive coaching, leader, team, and culture development in mid-market companies. Learn more at

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