By Syed Balkhi, founder of WPBeginner

The days of working from an office are quickly coming to an end. Remote teams are here to stay, and many business owners struggle with the idea of keeping a global team connected. According to Global Workplace Analytics, remote work has grown by 159 percent between 2005 and 2018. It’s no surprise that leaders of these businesses want to build a personal bond with their employees, but that poses a challenge when you work in different cities around the world.

If you’re thinking about hiring a remote team, or already have staff members working around the world, building rapport is essential. We are going to explore several ways you can foster connections with your team for increased productivity and improved communication. 

Hold weekly video meetings. 

Meetings are the backbone of all businesses. We collaborate with our managers, communicate with employees and get everyone together for group meetings. Normally, we communicate using our tone of voice, words and body language. When you’re working with a remote team via chat, two of those three crucial communication cues are off the table.

According to a study in the Journal of Consulting Psychology, communication is 55 percent visual, which means seeing your staff is vital for building strong connections. 

When you’re working remotely, meetings are not just critical for communication information, but for building rapport. Weekly video calls are the best way to talk to your team when being there in person isn’t an option. Video conferences are much more personal than a private chat channel. It’s easier to pick up on body language and tone when you can see and hear your employees. Similarly, you’ll build trust with your team when they can see and talk to you every week. 

Create a digital break room.

If you’ve worked in an office, you know there are plenty of conversations outside of work while on the job. These conversations help build rapport and allow you to better understand the people you’re working with daily. It’s hard to replicate that same environment when your team is remote, but it’s still possible. 

Create a digital break room in your favorite chat application where employees can talk when they are on break. You can title the chat channel anything you like, such as “family” or “break room.” These channels will give your employees the chance to communicate with you and other team members. The result is people begin to discover common interests and hobbies, which helps build rapport. 

Building rapport using this method can have tremendous results in employee engagement. If your staff feels they can talk to you about personal interests and hobbies, I’ve found that they are far more likely to come to you when they have a work issue. 

Harness the power of emojis.

Emojis are one of the newest ways to communicate our thoughts and ideas. Earlier, I mentioned that communication is 55 percent visual, and that is partially what makes emojis so effective. When you get done saying something and add an expression at the end, it helps deliver a clear message and tone. 

For example, one message could elicit two entirely different responses if you put a sarcastic emoji at the end. Studies back up this idea, making the idea of using emojis regularly appealing to a majority of business owners. You can set the tone by using emojis in your digital break room. Before long, other employees will follow suit (if they hadn’t been using them already).

According to a study published on Prifysgol Bangor University, 72 percent of adults between the ages of 18-25 feel that emojis make it easier to express their emotions. Considering that millennials and Gen-Zers are entering and are poised to enter the workforce in increasing numbers, this is a preference you can’t ignore.

Over to you. 

As businesses continue down the path of creating a remote workforce, they have to consider how they will communicate with their employees. Visual meetings, digital break rooms and text-based messages with emojis are excellent ways to bridge the gap between business owners and their employees, even if oceans separate them. 

Syed Balkhi is the founder of WPBeginner, the largest free WordPress resource site that helps small businesses start their website.