Ask Anna: How can our team bond from a distance?

For her latest column, our agony aunt Anna Higgs addresses a question so many of us are asking right now: how can you work successfully with your colleagues – or even start a new job – remotely?

Dear Anna,

Recent events have made us ­realise that the teams of the ­future need to be prepared to work virtually, without ever meeting colleagues and team members. Do you have any tips for helping a team bond, making new members feel welcomed, and working creatively in an online set-up when a job can’t be boiled down to a checklist of tasks?


Dear Anon,

Remote, or distributed, working has been growing in popularity, not only because technology has enabled it but because the way people want to work has changed. As you note in your question, recent global events have accelerated a shift towards ‘enforced’ remote working, but the great news is that this is ­nothing new. So we can choose to see this as perhaps a more intensive test-and-learn phase that can help us explore what does and doesn’t work.

In my day job, I work in a large global tech company that regularly interviews via phone screens and video conference, and some of my colleagues manage teams of people never based in the same office as them. Flexible working is the norm, and you can be in a meeting room waiting for someone to walk in the door to see you and instead they pop up on the screens, as they’re at ­another office or at home that day. This is mind-boggling if you come from a background or an ­organisation that values presenteeism more than productivity, but it is really liberating when you see it in action and are empowered to design working patterns that work for you.