Empathy in the Workplace for Remote Teams

The new normal for today’s workplace is “no normal,” and every team member brings their own conditions with them, be it cooped-up kids, bottlenecked bandwidth, or a particularly disruptive dog. This template features tips on how to meet those challenges with a little proactive empathy.

Effective remote collaboration depends on having explicit discussions about empathy and team norms. Start the conversation with your teammates.

Video Transcript: Empathy in the Workplace

One third of boomers consider having kids in the background of video calls to be a violation of remote work etiquette. Gen X isn’t far behind with 30% of them agreeing, compared to 22% of millennials and 11% of Gen Zers.

Since more and more of us are working from home these days, it's important to recognize that we're all facing different challenges. The person who sat next to you in the office might be facing a completely different at-home reality than you're facing. 

How do we practice empathy in the remote workplace?

It starts with how we react to moments in everyday remote work life. We know that younger workers are challenged with separating their physical work environment from home life while older workers are struggling with feeling disconnected. There's also a gender divide when it comes to work life balance. And there are many other factors at play contributing to your colleagues' different experiences and adaptation to our remote work circumstances. 

Proactively acknowledge that your colleagues may be facing new challenges. Genuinely ask people how they're feeling. Try to understand their perspective and offer your support. Your recognition helps to build mutual empathy and create a healthy work environment. Even if you didn't have a close rapport with your colleagues when you worked together in the office, it isn't too late to start now.

Demonstrating compassion and empathy even digitally can go a long way. One area where you can practice more kindness is in your emails. With a thoughtful opening and closing to your emails, your communication can remain professional while conveying warmth and support. Whether or not you're a manager, if you can adjust your behavior to fit your colleagues' preferences, your flexibility will make you a pleasure to work with.

Ask how a colleague prefers to conduct a meeting. If they choose a phone call over a video conference and there's no real need to chat over video, then go with it. When you do have specific preferences, be consistent. If you feel it's important to conduct weekly team meetings as a video conference so that everyone can connect face-to-face, keep that structure predictable.

With so many of us needing to adjust to unfamiliar and erratic circumstances during these challenging times, it's best to keep to a stable and consistent pattern wherever possible. Your empathy promotes trust, respect, and loyalty with your colleagues. Following these tips will make you a better co-worker overall and make you more enjoyable to work with. 

Whether you're working remotely now or planning to be back in a physical office sometime soon.

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