Emotional capital and remote teams
Why do some teams seem to form great working relationships and use technology seamlessly to make work a pleasure and create great relationships? According to one writer, it has very little to do with the technology itself (although it’s hard to do without the tools), but with something called ‘emotional capital’. According to research, the reason some people readily adopt technology and tools like social media (both public tools like Twitter and internal tools like Slack and Yammer) is because they want to, and also because they are emotionally connected to the people with whom they work.
If everything is transactional at best, or seen as an annoyance at worst, it’s harder to get yourself motivated to put the effort into maintaining work relationships or even bothering to use the tools that drive it. This is particularly true when working remotely - because almost every interaction happens purposefully, we need to be motivated. A proven framework that has helped leaders manage long-distance employee relationships and build this storehouse of good will is the strengthening of the ‘four pillars’ of emotional capital building as discussed below –
People engage with authentic leaders and are repelled by phonies. Remote employees require frequent contact and interaction beyond the topic of work. It should be a mixture of serious work-related topics and lighter fare. When planning call-in meetings, factor in five minutes for light conversation and small talk. Initiate informal discussions that allow dispersed team members to get to know each other.
When people share their ‘wins’ with each other, we get a sense of what a quality team you really are. Never underestimate the role a healthy ego plays in motivating ourselves every day. Emphasize that the team is a single entity, regardless of locational, cultural or individual differences.
When we develop friendly and personal (okay and appropriate) working relationships, we are more likely to tolerate minor disappointments and take greater joy in our teammate’s successes. It also increases the odds of resisting entreaties from headhunters. People who like the people they work with tend to stay put and be productive as they enjoy both the work and the company – remote or local.
People will take part in activities, including social media ones, and participate actively in meetings if it’s not a total drag. Whenever possible, celebrate birthdays, team milestones, and company successes with get-togethers that help employees build relationships, even if these are done through web meetings online. Just because a team is virtual doesn’t mean the members can’t socialize with one another. Organizations just need to be more creative in figuring out how to do it. The data shows that team members who are friends, and not just work colleagues, are more likely to share strong social capital ties.
As with so much in life, if there is sufficient emotional incentive to participate, work becomes more enjoyable, no matter the distance. Remember, leaders need to intentionally create an environment banking on emotional resources that can be judiciously (and voluntarily) drawn upon when required. Avoiding talking about feelings, not sharing what is going on in our world, or keeping work purely transactional depletes those accounts.