While the COVID-19 may have resulted in more people working from home, the truth is, working from home was already having its moment. In fact, between 2005 – 2017, there was a 159% increase in remote work. And, regardless of what happens when there’s hopefully a vaccine, the majority of people who have been working from home would like to continue doing so — even it’s just a couple of days per week.
And while there are flaws, those who work from home tend to be happier and more productive. However, if you want to take it up a notch, then you need to foster a “connected culture.” According to a survey from RingCentral, “58% of employees who said their companies are attempting to help them connect said they feel physically healthy.”
Furthermore, “75% of employees reporting high levels of emotional well-being said they feel more connected to their colleagues.” In short, if you and your team want to thrive in a remote world, then you need to make this a priority. And you can accomplish this feat by taking the following steps.
1. Culture is more than just ping-pong tables.
“The first thing to realize is that your culture has to be built around more than ping pong tables,” writes Wade Foster for Zapier. “Games and other group activities that lend themselves to being in person are simply not a possibility on a day-to-day basis for remote teams.” As such, “your culture has to be built around something more than playing table tennis to unite the team.”
Instead, Foster states that culture is about how you work. Specifically, it should be rewarding. And, most importantly, it should be built around your mission and values.
2. Promote clear, open, and frequent communication.
“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” — Paul J. Meyer
Communication is, without question, the cornerstone of any healthy and productive community. In addition to making collaboration possible, this helps everyone get to know each other better. And, more imperative, this is how you share your company’s values and expectations.
What’s more, you need communication to give and receive feedback and address conflicts. And, it’s the only way that you’re going to keep everyone in the loop.
Tried and true solutions, like email, project management software, and conference calls are a start. But, you should also think outside the box. Some ideas would be:
- Before your weekly Zoom team meeting, have everyone go around and recap their weekends.
- At Buffer, team members share an aspect of their personal life they want to improve on Hackpad. You could also kick off each event by acknowledging a team member’s work or give them a birthday shoutout.
- Host a weekly AMA (ask me anything) — make sure it’s the same time and day.
- Plan a virtual lunch or after-hour events, such as a movie or game night.
- Encourage virtual water coolers using tools Donut.
- Have different Slack channels, like #Pets or #Music, so that your team can connect over common interests.
- Create virtual clubs, like a book or film, for your peeps to bond over.
- Schedule one-on-ones to check-in with your people.
And, to recreate an open-door policy, set your status to available on platforms like Slack or Hangouts. If others see that you’re online, then that’s when they can ask you quick questions or share a concern. If this will be a long time commitment, then share your calendar with them, so schedule a one-on-one.
3. Save teams from information overload and burnout.
Information overload, as described by Calendar co-founder John Hall, “is exposure to excessive amounts of information or data.” While not exactly a new phenomenon, we use media for an average of 12 hours and 9 minutes per day. Moreover, since we’re working from home, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to unplug.
As if that’s not enough, we’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information being consumed. As a consequence, this is making us more stressed. It’s also negatively impacting our relationships and productivity.
While communication is critical, you also don’t want to over-communicate with your team. For instance, to avoid Zoom fatigue, you could replace video meetings with email, Slack, or whatever text method you prefer. Since this requires some extra effort, you’re more likely only to share relevant and essential information.
You could also follow in the footsteps of Help Scout. The company switched their weekly all-hands call with a video recap that’s sent every Monday.
“I love the Monday video updates,” states Nick Francis, Help Scout CEO. “They’re a great way to keep our remote team connected, celebrate accomplishments and update everyone on company news. The weekly team update has turned into something we all look forward to and talk about over the course of the week.”
4. Create psychological safety.
“A culture of psychological safety enables employees to be engaged,” writes Jake Herway for Gallup. “They can take risks and experiment. They can express themselves without the fear of failure or retribution.”
“Juxtapose this type of culture with one where employees feel too intimidated to speak up or share a new idea,” adds Herway. “It’s hard to imagine these employees can mentally allow themselves to be engaged at work.”
How can you cultivate psychological safety among remote teams? Start with the following techniques:
- Share your mistakes, struggles, and weaknesses with your team.
- Encourage feedback and ask for suggestions.
- Invite them to challenge your ideas.
- Rather than pointing fingers, use mistakes as learning opportunities.
- Find ways for quieter members to contribute. For example, if they’re not comfortable speaking in front of others, they can share their ideas with you through email or one-on-one.
- Let all team members be involved in the decision-making process.
- Grant autonomy by letting them work when and however is best for them.
5. Overcome a challenge together.
While this may seem impossible when apart, you and your team can still bond over a challenge remotely. At Calendar, we’ve set up health and fitness challenges over Slack. Groove HQ has also done this with a 30-day push-up challenge.
“It may sound a bit odd, but right away, it felt energizing,” noted CEO Alex Turnbull. “Like we had just developed a deeper relationship across the team in a matter of hours.” In fact, over the next month, “tackling a shared goal has helped us connect on a deeper level than we do in our regular day-to-day work.”
The challenge was also “another touchpoint for our team to communicate with each other on,” says Turnbull. And, it helped counter the dark side of working alone.
“Even those of us who prefer to work ‘alone’ can struggle with that isolation every now and then,” he writes. “That’s why it’s so important to take breaks, play, have a social life, or do whatever it is that keeps you sane.”
6. Create a mentorship program.
One study found that mentors were more satisfied with their jobs and committed to the organization. Additionally, mentoring programs can develop new leaders, increase diversity, and retain your top talent. Also, they create a learning culture, promote personal and professional development, and reduce stress and anxiety.
Best of all? You can use your existing communication methods. For example, you could pair a new sales team member with a seasoned vet. From there, they could have weekly video meetups or quick chats with instant messaging apps or MentorcliQ.
7. Listen to Bill and Ted.
Finally, as William “Bill” S. Preston Esq. famously said, “Be excellent to each other!” How you decide to be kind and show gratitude is totally up to you. It could be something as simple as letting a colleague vent or offering to help them solve a problem.
You could also randomly send them a handwritten note or text thanking them for all of their hard work. If you have the budget for it, you could also send them snack boxes or goodies for their families, like books or dog toys.
And, if your entire team knocked it out of the park this past month, throw a pizza party. Just pick a time and then order some pies from their local pizzerias. Once you arrived, you could hop on Zoom for your virtual celebration.