As telecommuting and remote working become increasingly common, the expectation that everyone heads off to a central workplace is quickly changing. In fact, many businesses have no office at all, creating teams dispersed across cities, countries, and the globe.
Advances in communications technology have made remote work options easier, more appealing, and more popular. Employees enjoy greater autonomy and independence, resulting in positive upticks in metrics like employee productivity, collaboration, and work satisfaction, and decreases in metrics like unscheduled work absenteeism.
Yet the benefits of remote teamwork often overshadow one of its greatest drawbacks. When employees and partners are dispersed, lack of communication and culture can result in feelings of isolation and unfounded concerns around the team, the work, and job security, leading to detrimental work behaviours.
The good news is that there are lots of ways to prevent this from happening. We’ve already talked a bit about what it takes to manage a remote team like a pro. This time we want to focus on what it takes to build a strong company culture – even when your team is dispersed.
So how can you create a positive team culture that promotes the behaviours you want to see?
Your company vision doesn’t depend on a building. It’s a part of every initiative, project, and action the business takes, no matter the location, and your remote team should be a part of it!
Taking time to define your company’s core values and desired culture not only provides you with direction but also serves as an important tent pole for clients, employees, and freelancers and sets behavioural expectations up front.
Just as you might have a beautifully etched plaque that displays your company values in the lobby, so can you showcase your core values and culture online for all to see, whether you have a physical lobby or not.
In fact, being transparent about your values and culture via a Slideshare deck or explainer video could become a useful marketing asset for recruiting clients, future employees, and even press.
Everyone has the same questions when starting a new role: Who are my colleagues? Where can I find the tools I need? What are the expectations here? Onboarding new remote team members as you would local people lets you get them up to speed quickly and loop them in with other team members.
An announcement in your team chat to introduce your newest member will give context about who they are and what their role is on the team. Add in some office-friendly icebreaker questions and encourage new recruits to connect with their colleagues one-on-one to help them feel at home.
Give them access to digital SOPs so they can quickly learn where to find the information and tools they’ll need. Add multimedia like video walkthroughs or voice-overs to personalize the process.
When you don’t see your team in person, it can be easy to forget how important daily chit-chat can be to forming colleague friendships. Yet it’s those friendships that lead to increased happiness, loyalty, and productivity. Make a point of asking about social plans, the latest TV shows, or news, and send around fun questions on a regular basis to help build camaraderie.
You can even create a channel specifically for #watercooler conversations so everyone can participate!
Recognizing special occasions and achievements can boost a remote worker’s sense of team and self-worth more than any pat on the back you could give them in person.
So go ahead and make a big deal out of wins! Make a team announcement when great results come in; ship a birthday card and cupcakes and get the team on a video call to sing “Happy Birthday”.
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