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With more and more people working remotely, the challenges of creating company culture and a team-centric environment are evident.
In 2016, 43% of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely , according to a survey of more than 15,000 adults. That’s why it’s critical for employers to offer alternative methods of team building and integrating the company’s values into the solo workdays.
Create virtual hangout spaces.
In lieu of team members seeing each other everyday and spending time together in meetings or over lunch hours, companies can create bonds by utilizing technology to allow employees to spend time with each other.
“We recommend that companies create virtual hangout spaces via Slack where remote employees can live chat, share files, post photos and collaborate throughout the day to mimic everyday office life,” says Erin Halper, CEO and Founder of The Upside, a growth platform for independent contractors. “We also encourage companies to promote the sharing of personal stories and photos on their Slack channel to replace traditional ‘water cooler’ bonding.”
Halper has received the most positive feedback from clients who create a mandatory weekly virtual meeting through a video chat platform like Zoom, discussing the typical business topics, combined with a weekly theme to encourage employees to share personal goals as well.
Megan Berry, VP of Product at Octane AI, a messenger marketing platform for e-commerce, has also had success with this strategy. She points out that remote workers are typically frequent travelers, and it’s important to take that fact into consideration. “Remote work makes it easier to travel so a lot of the people on our team are passionate about traveling. That’s why we have a channel specifically for sharing travel tips and photos. It’s important to create spaces to talk about things other than work,” says Berry.
Master the art of conversation.
It’s easy to get right to the point when chatting over email or text, but it’s important to remember that the absence of tone in virtual conversations can create a negative experience for some people. Always remember to talk to people in a friendly and conversational manner.
“Ask them how they’re doing or how their weekend was, and generally interact the same way you would in person,” says Berry. She emphasizes the importance of first asking how someone is doing and not just reaching out to them and immediately asking for the status of a project or email, as people wouldn’t respond favorably to that conversation style in person, and the same applies when working with a remote team. “When you’re just typing to each other it’s too easy for tone to be interpreted negatively so you need to be extra careful to be positive,” she adds. Whether you achieve that by using emojis, gifs, or simply making small talk, it’s important to convey a positive tone in all of your interactions.
Think of it this way, you need to put an emphasis on positivity in your written communication to replace the smile coworkers would’ve seen had you been working in the same office.
Offer perks and in-person opportunities.
At Studio 15 I make it a point to research events related to our industry in each of the cities that our team members live and work in, and offer them tickets to events and parties that not only give them access to do things they may not otherwise have access to, but also immerse them into the industry, which is a win-win for everyone.
Jamie Lieberman, Founder and Owner of Hashtag Legal, a law firm specializing in online businesses, offers her team a yearly in-person retreat and invests in their continuing education. “I talk to my employees about their goals and I invest in continuing education in subjects that will help them develop skills they are interested in and can benefit the business,” says Lieberman.
Utilize time zones to maximize productivity.
Being very clear about work expectations, deadlines and management style will go a long way in creating a productive work environment for a remote team. In addition, not only is it important to be considerate of everyone’s time zones, it can actually work in your favor if you line up certain tasks to maximize productivity. For example, my web development team is overseas and therefore they work the opposite hours from those of us in the U.S. So I always ensure our web developers have all new artwork, images, and copy they need for new launches or website updates the day before the roll out. When we get into work the next day, the projects the web team worked on are complete, allowing us to do all the testing and launch the initiative much quicker than if the entire team worked in the same time zone.
While it can be challenging to not have the entire team available at the same times, a little preparation can turn this into a positive for both the business and the team.
“A huge benefit of remote work is the potential to work your own schedule and have great quality of life. This only works when the rest of your coworkers respect your working hours. Don’t ask someone to handle something when it’s after hours for them,” adds Berry.
December 30, 2018 at 09:27PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs