The global work environment is undergoing a massive shift, and with recent events forcing the acceleration of remote work, leaders everywhere are scrambling to find ways to maintain and continue building a strong team culture within their organizations during this abrupt transition. Luckily, thanks to modern technology, there are many ways to create an environment of positive behavior, togetherness and productivity even in a remote team.
Of course, with any types of changes, there are a few adjustments that need to be made. Here are some of the ways to not only maintain, but to build a strong culture while transitioning to a remote team:
1. Ensure that your team is equipped with the right tools that match your culture and encourage collaboration
The concept of “the path of least resistance” comes into play in all aspects of life, and building a strong team culture in a remote environment is no different. When I think about some of the work friendships I’ve made in my career, many of those friendships were forged with people who were in the same “new-hire onboarding” class as I was. Those friendships were strengthened if they happened to be on the same team, and even more so if we became deskmates. The same concept applies to remote work. Work relationships are built with those we communicate with often.
When it comes to building culture in the context of a remote environment, the easier it is to communicate and collaborate, the more those behaviors will be reinforced. It is especially important in a remote setting to err on the side of over-communication as opposed to under-communication, as rampant miscommunication and missing information can dismantle trust and culture fast. With a wide variety of instant messaging and video conferencing platforms, along with the internal notes and comments sections of your customer management platform, an environment of open communication and collaboration in remote teams is no longer just a dream, it is a very achievable reality.
2. Create opportunities for remote social interactions
In a remote work environment it can feel as if you should only reach out to a colleague when problems arise or help is needed. During those times, stress levels are high and there can be a buildup of negative emotions towards an individual, especially when all interactions with them are stressful, demanding and require deep thought. Without a foundation of trust and camaraderie, it’s much easier to misinterpret the intention of an e-mail or message.
This problem is often alleviated in an in-office environment since colleagues will inevitably bump into each other during coffee or lunch breaks. In a remote work environment, not so much. This is why it’s smart to have fully optional, but regularly scheduled, virtual coffee and lunch breaks. By encouraging remote team members to bond virtually, and foster a “remote office social life”, teammates can feel much more comfortable asking each other questions and giving honest feedback when it comes to business.
3. Setting clear goals and expectations
While setting clear goals and expectations is important in any environment, dysfunction from a lack of direction becomes more apparent in a remote team. While some remote employees may disappear into the abyss when there is a lack of direction, others may overcompensate and overwork to appear productive, which could potentially lead to burnout. Neither of these scenarios are beneficial for the employee or the employer. It is up to leadership and the managers to set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time Bound) and hold employees accountable, giving direct feedback if expectations aren’t being met. This allows remote employees to stay connected to the overall mission and goals of the company as well as empower the employee to engage in their work. The happiest employees have a deeper sense of meaning to their work than to simply clock in and clock out for a paycheck.
4. Foster an environment that celebrates wins
While it is important to see reality for what it is and to find gaps and weaknesses in the business, it is equally, if not more important, to find strengths and reasons to celebrate. In an in-office environment, it’s easy to celebrate all sorts of “wins”. Whether you just brought a promising new hire on board, ran a smooth implementation of new software, or helped turn an angry customer into a happy one, news will get around. In a remote environment, employees may often feel isolated and lonely. Negative and urgent news may travel faster than the small wins, but it is crucial to to emphasize the wins. By fostering an environment that celebrates all the wins and allows the cheers to reverberate across communication channels, you encourage a culture of positivity that lifts employees up.
Want more practical tips for working remotely? Check out our latest infographic on how to stay sane and productive while working from home.