Businesses — from small start-ups to large enterprises — are embracing the benefits of a remote workforce. According to a recent Global State of Remote Work report by Owl Labs, 52% of employees work from home at least once a week. Globally, 18% of employees work remotely full-time.
There are many benefits inherent in remote work, from improved employee retention and lower costs to a greater talent pool from which to choose. Managing a remote team, however, requires a bit of extra care. To realize all the benefit in flexible workplaces, you need to devote more attention to teambuilding and relationships and avoid feelings of isolation and disconnectedness.
Include Plenty of “Face” Time
The same technology that allows your team to work from, well, anywhere, can also help you nurture interpersonal relationships among your staff. Create your own virtual office space on Slack. Connect over text and messaging apps. Encourage your teams to use these channels, not just for a quick task-related tête-à-tête, but also for the same comradery-building chatter that would take place in the office if they sat across a cubical wall from one another.
You can lay the groundwork for the office small talk by creating a dedicated channel for such conversations and then use it. Wish your team members a happy birthday. Ask about weekend plans or any of the other general chatter you’d hear around a physical office on a regular basis.
See You, See Me
When videoconferencing first debuted, it came with a big price tag and demanded a ton of bandwidth. Today’s tech has caught up to the demand. A decent wi-fi connection and an internet-enabled device with a camera is all you need to launch a video call. Make use of the tech with your remote teams. Schedule performance reviews, status updates and other important meetings as video calls.
If geography allows, schedule quarterly in-person gatherings. These can be purely teambuilding social type events, or they can include a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-work-together components. Regardless of what angle you take, create an environment that encourages dialogue and collaboration. Simple things like sitting around a table during a presentation instead of rows like a theater can help build connections and invite conversation.
Communicate Like It’s Your Job
When you don’t know what’s going on, it’s hard to feel connected. Make sure you keep your remote staff in the loop. Email, text, or call with important updates and news. Make a point to use those aforementioned virtual office platforms to share regular updates on projects, company news, and industry tidbits.
Call ‘Em Out
When you’re working outside the parameters of a traditional office setting, it can feel like no one really knows what you’re up to. Leaders, make sure you’re taking notice. Staying in touch with your remote staff is going to help. You know what else will? Publicly applauding wins and successes! Set aside time on those group video chats or phone calls to laud great work throughout your team. Tweet out a pat-on-the-back when your team succeeds. Send a handwritten “Thank you for being awesome” note to your team members once in a while. Use your in-person meet-ups to recognize achievements.
There is no shortage of ideas that can be incorporated to encourage teambuilding and connection within your remote team. Your team, however, is a unique entity. What worked for others may not be the right fit for your group. Maybe video calls make members of your team cringe. Maybe your team is global and in person meetings are a no-go even on a semi-regular basis. There is no one-size-fits-all method. Customize your approach to your team. Ask them for input and then develop a plan that takes into account their feedback and personalities.