Writing to Build Community

Maybe you've heard the stories from your family and friends too, or maybe you're feeling it yourselves: Many of us remote workers are getting lonely.

  • A friend told me her son's in his first career job but works at home with little guidance or sense of belonging.

  • A manager told me his team all works from home and some feel like they don't fit in or understand the culture.

Can writing itself—say, emailing a team—bring people together? How can a one-way communication like an email make readers feel like we're all a community?

Building a Community Through Writing

Here's the good news: We can actually create a sense of community through writing, even if that writing is one-directional.

Whether you're a manager emailing your team with updates or check-ins, or you're a team member trying to help yourself and others feel like they belong, these writing strategies can help you bring people together emotionally, even while we're all physically apart.

Umm... Cool, but how?

To support teamwork and build a community within a remote team, we often need to bring focus to our teams and reduce focus on ourselves. I've tried the following strategies, and recommended them to the team leads I meet in workshops. If you know your colleagues feel left out at times, try out some of these strategies to bring them back into a sense of belonging:

1. Use names with intent. Instead of talking about something you figured out, talk about who helped you get there:

  • Based on Jaclyn’s suggestion from last week’s huddle, we will now meet at 9:30.

  • Reflecting on Tim and Layla’s emails yesterday, I’m rethinking this idea.

2. Call out team members' expertise. Focus on team members' contributions, especially if they are shy, new, unsure, or less likely to speak up.

  • Perhaps Sasha can take IT-related questions since she’s experienced in that area.

  • Dwayne, can you please reply with more info on what you learned in your training?

3. Shift focus from yourself to team members through intentional word choice. Reduce the amount of sentences that start with “I.” Use more "we" or "our team."

  • Instead of: “I’d like to follow up on Sara’s idea,” try “Let’s follow up on Sara’s idea.”

  • Instead of “I’ve been thinking about our last metrics discussion,” try, “When we discussed our metrics last week…”

By helping bring recognition to one another through intentional word choice, we can reduce feelings of loneliness, confusion, or alienation in some of our friends and colleagues. Please let me know if you try any of these ideas, and how it goes!

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