When teams switch to working remotely, there’s lots of talk about setting up IT correctly, avoiding miscommunication, and staying productive. But working from home can bring another unexpected challenge: loneliness.
Granted, it can be difficult to create a community when your whole team are working remotely. But without everyone in an office, it’s arguably even more important that your team stay engaged.
It’s also important that employees recognise that their teammates and managers are there for them; if they need help with work, or they need someone to talk to.
Working to create a community, and maintaining a remote company culture, is a vital part of switching to remote work. Here are some of our tips to build a remote community.
Stay virtually connected
Each digital tool plays a key part in connecting your employees; so use them all – email or chat tools for sending a good morning, advice, updates and shout-outs, and video conferencing software for meetings and catch-ups.
When it comes to staying connected, a top-down approach is best; senior management should play a central role in encouraging conversations to happen (both work-related, and social catch-ups). Try to replicate what you’d do in the office; a quick chat over a coffee, a lunch hour natter, or a mid-afternoon tea break.
Face-to-face communication is most effective; so try to encourage video over phone. Not only is miscommunication less likely to happen, but video is a powerful tool for building and maintaining connections. Employees are able to make eye contact, and the conversation more closely mimics the office.
Share your calendars with your immediate team. It can be helpful to see what other people are up to and provide transparency.
According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, 46% of remote employees said that the most effective managers checked in frequently and regularly with remote employees.
When your team are working remotely, check-ins (not check-ups) are needed more often than usual; especially if you know that employees are alone, or need your support. Many remote teams will organise a weekly 30 minute catch up between employees and their managers, to run through their plans for the week. This can help employees get a sense of structure in their day and feel more connected.
You may already recognise great achievements in your business, but it’s even more important when your whole team are working remotely and it’s not quite so obvious what people are working on.
LinkedIn and online HR systems will often allow you to ‘thank your colleague’, ‘give kudos’, or shout out their great work for everyone in the team to see. It doesn’t take much for a manager to give their team member a shout-out and it can go a long way in helping them feel valued. Celebrate even the smallest wins – they can help to boost productivity and create a remote community.
Help team members adjust
Team members who aren’t used to working from home every day might find it difficult to adjust. Make sure they’re equipped with all the right tools and knowledge to work efficiently, and that they know who to go to with any issues.
Other employees may be surprised by a feeling of loneliness. Especially if remote work is happening for a long period of time, or even indefinitely, it’s vital that they keep communicating.
Whenever possible, encourage employees to spread out their conversations with others. A day filled with calls can be draining; then they might not speak to anyone for the rest of the week.
Employees often struggle with taking regular breaks at home. It’s natural that they want to avoid being seen as ‘slacking off’, but remind them that this will help them stay productive. Breaks at home should be as frequent as they are in office.
Take your company culture online
Company culture is important whether you’re a virtual team or not – but when you suddenly switch to working remotely, it can be difficult to keep it up.
At Work.Life, a lot of our company culture centres on our events, socials, and perks – including ‘Team Joy’, a monthly personal budget to encourage team members to go for lunch or coffee together, quarterly socials, trips away, fitness classes and access to lunch and learn events in our spaces. We’re also a very sociable company, who enjoy spending time with one another; and value a catch-up by the coffee machine.
So transitioning to a digital workforce was always going to be a challenge. To help us create a work from home culture, we’ve set up buddy groups to encourage team members to communicate, plus dedicated Slack channels to share funny updates, jokes, and to share what we’re doing each day.
There’s also lots of remote team building activities you can try out; from whole-team video calls, to company trivia sessions.
Reinforce your company’s values
Remote working is the ideal time to reinforce what you’re all about.
There may be difficulty adjusting to working from home, sorting out schedules, and using software efficiently – but ultimately, if your team all know your values, mission and what you’re working towards, they’ll feel part of your community.
If you have your values written down, send them to the whole team in an email. Or as a team leader, try sending your team a Slack message or two, reminding them of your company’s mission and the part they play within it.
In the office, you can make your colleagues a coffee, or offer to grab someone’s lunch – but it’s more difficult to show you care when working remotely. However, there are things you can do to show your team you’re thinking of them when you’re working remotely.
As a manager, checking in with team members first thing, and throughout the day can be really valuable – do they need any support from you? Could you help them schedule their day? Try to organise regular catch-ups to talk through any concerns or issues about work.
And showing thoughtfulness isn’t just for managers. Why not send your colleagues a quick email, text message or Slack to make sure they’re feeling OK? It takes a matter of seconds, and it could brighten someone’s day.
When your team are working remotely, positivity should be top priority. Encourage the whole team to take breaks, move around, and do the things that make them happy. Especially if working from home has been enforced, rather than planned, make sure everyone feels comfortable with their workload.
We know that happy workers are productive workers – so just like you would in the office, encourage mental and physical wellness to help maintain a productive and engaged team.
Need more support with remote team building? Our doors are always open and we’d love to chat – get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.