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Improving Your Remote Workforce’s Team Culture

A man, sitting against a blue wall, working on his computer.

Commuting to work is a thing of the past. More and more business owners are getting into the remote workforce trend. In fact, it has gained so much popularity that it has risen by approximately 115% in the last decade. Having a remote workforce is great because of its flexibility, but you may run into new issues that you would otherwise not have in an office. You may start asking yourself questions such as “How will I know what my employees are up to?” and “How will I ensure that my workforce still works like a team?” While there are systems to make sure that employees are staying productive, creating traditional workplace bonds between your remote team members will take a little more effort and creativity. 

As a business owner or manager, you’re going to want to think of ways to create a collaborative atmosphere so your workforce actually feels like a team. Although your employees may not have the luxury of speaking face-to-face, you can still figure out ways to communicate effectively. Additionally, you can work on making sure that your employees are having a good time while they’re working. When your employees feel like they’re collaborating with people that they like, they are more likely to succeed. In fact, according to a study by Gallup, 2 out of 10 people said that it’s important to have a best friend at work. Having a friendly and communicative environment builds relationships and boosts morale and motivation among team members.There are plenty of ways to achieve a collaborative and fun work environment. Here are some tips to help you set up your team for success: 

Communication Channels

If you want your remote workforce to act like a team, it’s wise to find a way to make communication as easy as possible. Sure, your team could potentially solely communicate via email and phone, but what’s the fun in that? And more importantly, is that even an efficient way to communicate? Email isn’t very quick and you often have to wait for someone to dig through their emails to respond. When you call someone on the phone, there’s a chance that they may not answer. consequently, this means that the message is delayed even longer. Businesses who want to send messages to each other quickly have invested in instant messaging services for their office.

One of the most popular business instant messaging systems is Slack, but there are plenty others! Instant messaging is a great way to initiate communication, send documents quickly, and send other files that need a glance. Furthermore, instant messaging is a great way for your team members to send fun messages and images back and forth. This can really help your team bond and get to know each other more.

Set Up Video Conferencing

There are many ways that you can speak with your remote workforce, but trying to communicate via video may be great for your team. With video, you will get the chance to actually see your team members and observe their nonverbal communication cues. These cues will help you understand your team’s messages even more. In a normal day-to-day conversation, you aren’t solely listening to what other people are saying to you– you’re also looking at their posture, facial expressions, eye movement, inflection, and more. You may not even realize you do this, but a person’s nonverbal communication can tell you a lot about the message they are trying to convey.

When you have a remote workforce, it’s hard to get messages across correctly because you can’t actually see the person you’re speaking to. You can’t observe the social cues you would otherwise see and, importantly, you can’t observe those things in conversations between others. This is why video conferencing with your team can be a great way to effectively communicate. Your team will have a chance to see one another, see smiles, see expressions, and use their nonverbal communication observations to translate unspoken communication.

There are several great video conferencing tools available, some of which cost nothing to use, including Google Hangouts. 

Open Communication With Supervisors

In a normal office setting people walk around, stop by other’s desks, check-in, and see how their day is going. These conversations are extremely common and create a collaborative atmosphere. Working remotely is a different experience because you aren’t surrounded by the people you work with. You don’t know that Katie, the sales rep, got a new haircut; you don’t know that Danny is teary-eyed because his chinchilla passed away; and you may have missed Karen laughing in the parking lot before she walked through the door. You miss all of these things because you can’t physically see the people you work with. You do not have any inklings as to what’s going on in their minds and you don’t know what they’ve been up to. This is because you are only exposed to what they share through the computer or phone.

Many things happen in people’s lives, therefore, it’s important that supervisors check in on their remote employees and see how they’re doing. Do they have feedback about the new process? Do they have things they want to get off their chest? Are they having issues solving a problem? It’s easy to feel isolated when working remotely, so speak with your employees regularly and encourage them. This doesn’t mean that you have to sit and talk for an hour with your employees, just a few minutes a day should do the trick. 

Activities for team building

A recent study shows that 52% of employees work from their homes, and most remote employees feel left out. This is why you need to do activities that make your employees feel welcome and feel like they’re actually a part of a team. Yes, you’re employees are working to be productive, but work should also be a fun, collaborative environment. You can certainly think of activities to improve your team’s culture, but here are some things you can do to get started:

  • Mug Monday: You can do this every month (or however often you want). Have your employees bring their favorite mug to their desk during one of your virtual meetings. Before the meeting ends, have employees go around and tell each other about why this mug is their favorite. This is a great way to get to know something about each employee that you may have not known otherwise. 
  • Daily Icebreakers: If you’re using an instant messaging service (or something along those lines), post a question every morning and have your employees answer the question. This question could be anything like: “What did you eat for breakfast?”, “If you had one extra hour of free time a day, how would you use it?”, or “What is your favorite dessert?” Anything like this can strike up a conversation among employees. 
  • Company events: If your remote employees are close enough, have an employee celebration. Host a get-together at a restaurant, go bowling, have a picnic, or hot a BBQ. Whatever it is, having your employees meet each other and talk in person is a great way to bond. 
  • Slack Donut extension: Not only is slack a great messaging application, but it’s also a great for employee engagement. Donut is a slack extension that pairs people together who don’t normally message one another. Donut may suggest that the team members get coffee together or may ask employees to answer questions to start conversation.

Next Steps for Your Remote Workforce

If you follow the tips above, you will see a difference in your employees’ work. They will become more engaged in one another, and in return, will put in more effort into their work. When employees are excited about work and are happy collaborating with their team, they’ll be motivated and more productive at work. In fact, if you want to make sure that your employees are staying productive after your team-building efforts, you can do that easily with Timesheets.com. You can track their time spent on projects and you can even make notes about their performance in the Human Resources hub. Additionally, you can use the Brags & Breakthroughs tool to post great things about your employees like work accomplishments. All of this data can be accessed later so you can really see your efforts making a difference.

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