(2-minute read)

The current cycle of resignations and onboarding continues. At the same time, employees are negotiating working arrangements from fully remote to hybrid to in-person.

This leaves teams more fractionalized than ever and spending a lot of time thinking about;
Who is going next?
Who is coming onboard?
Will the new folks operate remotely, hybrid or in person?
And, who is responsible for the actual work?

Managers have to juggle all of these and other moving parts.

With a distributed workforce, managers spend a lot of time creating the right conditions for collaboration while simultaneously managing individual performance, budgets and workflow to keep projects on track.

Managers who prioritize the development of personal connections make their job easier.

It may seem antithetical to spend chunks of work time on non-work-related activities, but research from Connected Commons has quantified its importance.

Cultivating strong personal connections among team members creates predictability, making collaborating easier.

Collaborative teams are happier, more productive, and stay in their jobs longer.

Activities that deepen personal connections don’t have to take a lot of time and integrate easily into the everyday routine of your team.


1)   Virtual water coolers

Monday mornings are a great time to schedule a 10-minute water cooler for employees to drop in, say hello and talk about their weekend. A Monday water cooler kicks off the week positively and prepares your team for the work ahead.

2)    Shout-outs

If you have a weekly staff meeting, build in 5 minutes of appreciation and recognition time in the beginning. Recognition is a powerful motivator, best given by peers. To support future collaboration among your team, let staff lead this activity.

3)   Peer mentors

Regardless of tenure on a team, everyone needs a go-to person. There is a large body of evidence proving that mentoring improves staff retention. Mentors offer support and a sounding board in a safe environment. Allow your team to self-select their mentors to share information and experience. If this becomes a successful practice, consider rotating your mentors every six months to expand the scope of personal connections.

4)    Fewer meetings

Chances are your team goes to too many meetings. Look critically at your weekly calendar and eliminate report-out meetings better accomplished through Slack or email. Encourage your team to use that time as ideation sessions for collaborating on projects. Creating time to get work done rather than meet will also reduce deadline stress keeping burnout in check.

5)   Volunteering

Even on a distributed team, volunteering as a group deepens personal connections—the act of giving back ties directly into our social fabric and wiring as humans. On a distributed team, make virtual volunteering a quarterly activity. Allow team members to choose recipient organizations from their region. Your group can offer consulting advice to the nonprofit organization or support an organization by attending a virtual event.


Forging personal connections is not a top-down activity. Involve your team.

Allowing colleagues to choose how they connect further deepens their commitment to the organization and each other.

Connection builds loyalty. Loyalty builds investment in success, and that leads to employee retention.



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