The digital age has transformed the way people work. With the rise in remote teams or virtual workplaces, more employees are unchained from their desks to work from home, coworking spaces, or even from different countries. While remote work has its advantages, such as increased flexibility, it also presents a unique set of challenges for remote teams regarding building a functional and robust work culture. The lack of face-to-face interactions, physical proximity, and exposure are some of the drawbacks that can negatively impact remote teams’ engagement levels, communication, collaboration, and productivity. Therefore, it is essential to invest in cultivating a positive culture that nurtures a sense of community among remote teams.
During these challenging times of social distancing and remote work, it is not only necessary; it is required that organizations maintain a sense of connectedness within their remote teams. In this article, we will cover in depth the key strategies for building a culture of connection, engagement, and productivity in remote teams.
Establish a common purpose
One of the keys to building a cohesive virtual team culture is to establish a common purpose that aligns everyone’s efforts, goals, and expectations. A shared sense of purpose helps remote teams understand their contribution to the overall organization’s mission, vision, and values. This aspiration creates a sense of belonging and unity in the group, making them more motivated, engaged, and committed to the team’s success.
To establish a common purpose, remote teams should:
- Communicate the organization’s goals and objectives: Clear communication of the organization’s objectives is crucial to help remote team members understand their role in achieving those goals.
- Create a mission statement that defines the team’s role in achieving those objectives: A mission statement summarizes what the team stands for and is working towards. It should be concise, memorable and should provide a clear direction to the remote team members.
- Share success stories and milestones to celebrate the team’s progress towards achieving the mission: Celebrating team milestones will build confidence in team members, show appreciation for a job well done, and motivate them to continue working towards the team’s objectives.
Foster open communication
Communication is the key to success in any team. Its importance is even more critical in remote teams where members may not see each other regularly. Remote workers need to be proactive communicators to avoid misunderstandings, conflicts, and disconnections that can derail the team’s productivity and morale. It is the manager’s role to encourage and facilitate open communication channels among team members.
To foster open communication, remote teams should:
- Use collaborative technologies such as Slack, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams to facilitate group chats, video conferencing, and virtual meetings: Collaborative technologies are essential for remote teams. They help connect the members and provide a platform for effective communication.
- Establish communication norms such as response time, frequency, and mode of communication: Communication norms ensure that team members communicate effectively and communicate in the right manner. This ensures that no one is left out or feels isolated, leading to a more collaborative work environment.
- Schedule regular check-ins or one-on-one meetings to discuss work progress, challenges, and feedback: Regular check-ins with team members provide an opportunity for team members to share their progress on projects and discuss any issues they face while working on them. It helps managers identify any problems early and take corrective actions.
- Encourage team members to ask questions and express their opinions: Encouraging team members to ask questions and express their opinions promotes creativity and innovation. It also promotes a culture of respect, where each team member’s opinion is valued and considered.
Encourage social interactions
Remote teams should engage in social interactions regularly to build rapport, trust, and friendship. Social activities such as team building, virtual coffee chats, or happy hour can build a sense of community even in a virtual workspace. Team members are more likely to collaborate and work better with each other when they have established personal connections beyond work expectations.
To encourage social interactions, remote teams should:
- Schedule virtual social activities regularly: Virtual social activities don’t have to be complicated. It could be something as simple as virtual coffee chats or a fun quiz. Regular virtual social activities create a sense of community amongst team members.
- Choose activities that are interesting and engaging to team members: While planning virtual social activities, try to choose activities that team members would genuinely enjoy participating in. The more interesting and engaging the activity is, the more participation it would garner.
- Encourage team members to share their hobbies and interests to find common ground: Encouraging team members to share their hobbies and interests is an excellent way to build a sense of community. Finding common ground outside of work promotes social relations and can also enhance teamwork.
- Allow informal conversations before and after meetings: Allowing informal conversations before and after meetings, besides promoting social interaction, helps in relieving stress, helps team members bond, and sets a relaxed tone for the meeting.
Celebrate Team Milestones
Celebrating team milestones and successes will boost morale and motivate remote teams. Recognition shows remote workers that their contributions are valued and helps to create a positive work culture. Celebrations help remote team members feel connected to their colleagues and give them a sense of pride in their work.
To celebrate team milestones, remote teams should:
- Mark milestones such as project completion or new client wins: Celebrating milestones such as project completion or new client wins is a great way to appreciate the efforts of the team members.
- Create a culture of recognition by highlighting team achievements in emails, social media, or group chats: Creating a culture of recognition ensures that team members’ contributions are valued, and their efforts are appreciated.
- Use virtual badges or certificates to recognize and appreciate team members’ contributions: Virtual badges or certificates are an excellent way to recognize team members’ contributions and motivate them to continue working towards the team’s objectives.
- Host virtual parties to celebrate success and build team morale: Hosting virtual parties is an excellent way to create a sense of community amongst team members. With a motivated team that is supported and appreciated, success will become a regular occurrence.
Foster professional development
Remote workers may not have access to the same opportunities for growth and learning as their onsite counterparts. To retain talent and maintain high levels of engagement, remote team leaders should invest in professional development opportunities for their team members. Professional development not only enhances team members’ skills but also demonstrates value and care for their individual contributions.
To foster professional development, remote teams should:
- Offer webinars or online courses on industry-related topics: Offering webinars or online courses on industry-related topics is a great way to enhance team members’ skills and knowledge. This not only benefits the team members but also the organization.
- Encourage team members to attend virtual conferences and workshops: Allowing team members to attend virtual conferences and workshops provides them with exposure to industry influencers and also provides an opportunity for networking.
- Facilitate mentoring relationships among team members: Facilitating mentoring relationships amongst team members is an excellent way of promoting professional development. This not only benefits the mentee but also the mentor.
- Encourage cross-functional learning to increase team members’ versatility: Cross-functional learning is an excellent way to expose team members to different facets of an organization. This promotes versatility and helps build well-rounded team members.
In conclusion, building a culture of connected remote teams is possible. Successful remote teams are those that intentionally invest in building relationships, communicating efficiently, recognizing achievements, fostering growth, and having a shared sense of purpose. Remote teams that work towards a shared goal and prioritize team relationships can achieve high productivity levels, better decision-making, and increased job satisfaction. By implementing the strategies outlined in this article, remote teams can foster an employee-first culture and build a strong sense of community, regardless of their physical locations. Remote teams that are supported and appreciated will not only become productive, but also loyal to the organization.