It’s always great to have employees who feel comfortable working independently. Especially when you lead a remote sales team, it’s crucial to have that trust. You know they can do their own thing and churn out remarkable results.
But closing sales isn’t the only component necessary for a successful sales team. You must also build a culture that embraces connection and collaboration.
According to a recent survey from BetterUp, a high sense of belonging with one’s work team is linked to a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in used sick days.
No matter how great they are at independent work, your team members must have the opportunities to build relationships with colleagues.
Remote work doesn’t lend itself to that goal, but this modality is not going away. A study from the Best Practice Institute found that only 10% of employees wish to return to the office full-time. So now that you’re likely looking at a future of sales reps working from home at least part of the week, it’s necessary to discover how you can ensure your remote employees still feel like a team.
Here are three ways you can support your remote sales team’s independence while maintaining connectivity:
Morning routines are helpful to get a kickstart to the day, and they tell the brain that it’s time to jump into work mode.
Since adjusting to working from home, however, many have lost sight of that daily pattern. According to Indeed’s recent report, 37% of U.S. workers miss having a daily routine tied to going to the office.
There’s no way to replace something like a morning commute. But you can establish a rhythm that your remote sales team can share to ease into the day.
Maybe you have a goofy question at the end of a brief morning announcement via online chat. With this ritual, you share crucial information for the day so that everyone is on the same page, establish a way to confirm they’ve all seen the message, and initiate an interesting conversation.
You can establish similar rituals at the end of the workday as well. Ask everyone to sign off with a GIF or something that made them smile during the day before shutting down their computer. This habit will help you keep track of who’s hanging around and potentially overworking. It also ensures that each individual feels like a community member when the team wishes them a good night before they depart.
Initiate group coffee breaks
Despite not wanting to return to the office full-time, employees miss more than just the routine. According to the Indeed report, 73% miss socializing in person, 45% miss face-to-face meetings with co-workers, and 63% say they find themselves taking fewer breaks when they work from home.
Although there’s no remedy to missing in-person experiences when everyone is remote, you can improve socializing and taking breaks with one solution.
Make it customary in your remote sales team culture to invite others to join you virtually for a 10-minute coffee break. Drop the invite link in the chat saying you’d love to check in with anyone free to jump in the room for a couple of minutes.
Don’t panic if no one is available to come the first few times you put the offer out. It’s challenging to try something new when one isn’t expecting it and already in the middle of something. But once team members do make an appearance, do your best to keep things laid back and focused on non-work topics. Be clear that it’s optional, and anyone can send out a link for something similar if they wish.
Before you know it, your remote sales team full of independent workers will be inviting each other for quick hangouts throughout the day to say hi and stay connected.
Don’t underestimate small talk
Small talk has a terrible reputation. It’s short, surface-level, and distracting. But it just may be yet another key to pulling your remote sales team together.
Research published in the Academy of Management Journal confirmed that small talk could lead to employees feeling less focused and less engaged on their work tasks. But it also revealed benefits. According to the study, workers experience more positive emotions and are more willing to help co-workers when they make more small talk than usual. And the conversations didn’t have to be intimate or lengthy for these perks.
When team members feel lonely, it’s helpful that they can go to the chat and check out what they can add to a preexisting discussion. Even if it’s awkward or only about the weather, it is far better than nothing.
However, be sure these side conversations don’t turn into long-winded discussions. Practice shutting down conversations gently and returning to them later. Occasional small talk is essential for connecting with your remote sales team, but don’t let it get in the way of their independent work ethic. It’s when you can strike the balance that everything will become smoother.