By: Raj Jana
The world of work is changing at a rapid pace. The new norms of remote, part-time, and freelance professionals make it tougher than ever to create that sense of "community" you need for your organization to thrive. After all, it's difficult to establish a powerful culture of collaboration if your employees just don't feel connected.
While the remote working revolution has its benefits, including making it easier for your company to retain talent, it also eliminates the water-cooler talk and between-project chats that knit people together into high-performance teams.
Fortunately, it is possible to turn your community of remote workers into a team that delivers incredible revenue and innovation. With the right technology, and a little creativity, your coworkers don't necessarily have to be in the same office, city, or even country to work well together.
Why Is Remote Team Building Important?
In the traditional office setting, employees build their relationships with colleagues naturally, through face-to-face interactions, drinks after work, and even the occasional office party. They also get to participate in fun activities like group outings and team lunches. For remote workers, the path to a strong relationship is a little more complex. Without a daily reminder that you're part of a team, it's easy to feel isolated and disconnected.
By regularly hosting virtual team building events, your team can begin to strengthen their relationship with your brand. What's more, virtual team building also means that:
- Employees don't feel lonely or overwhelmed after difficult days. Your experts can get the support they need when they need it most.
- New hires can integrate quickly into your company culture, regardless of where they are.
- Managers can keep track of how employees are handling their workloads.
- Employees enjoy their jobs more and start to feel closer to their colleagues.
So, how can you continue to build your team when your employees work remotely?
1. Invest in Shared Experiences and Break the Ice
The key to developing any relationship is bringing people together on a regular basis to share experiences. If you have the budget for it, you could consider investing in shared in-person experiences, like annual trips to an exotic location. On the other hand, if your cash flow isn't quite there yet, you can still develop shared experiences online.
Leverage digital tools for communication, like collaboration software, or video conferencing programs that allow you to reach out to your team on a regular basis, then plan fun things you can do together once a week or month. For instance, could you all get together for a virtual icebreaker every time someone new is added to the team? A game like "Little Known Facts about Me" asks your staff to share anonymous trivia about themselves, and then get the rest of the group to guess which statement corresponds with each coworker.
2. Use Video Conferencing as Often as Possible
If most of the bonding you're going to do with your team is likely to happen online, then it's important to make sure that you're not restricting yourself to one video call every couple of months. The longer the time between interactions, the more likely it is that your virtual workers will start to feel isolated. With that in mind, it's worth investing in regular videoconferencing updates at least once or twice a week.
Note that while collaboration tools and instant messaging are a great way to keep people connected on a day-to-day basis, video conferencing allows everyone to put a face to the names they see in their email inboxes each day. Video conferencing helps to provide some of those face-to-face interactions that your remote workers are missing out on.
Remember, you don't have to have a great reason to launch a video chat. You can simply catch up on events throughout the week or ask people to share what they've done over the last few days - whether it's work-related or not. The key is getting the conversation started. The more comfortable your people become in each other's virtual company, the easier it will be for them to stay connected.
3. Have a Virtual Coffee Date
One of the biggest problems that companies face when they're supporting remote teams, is that they put all of their focus into making sure that teams are collaborating properly over their projects. That means that they forget almost entirely about the importance of the occasional informal chat. Every conversation your remote teams have doesn't have to be work-related. In fact, it might be better if some of them were a little more laid back.
While those moments that employees spend near the office coffee maker might not seem like the most valuable part of the workday at first glance, they actually serve as a regular opportunity to strengthen the dynamics among coworkers. With that in mind, it's worth bringing your virtual employees together over a quick cup of coffee from time to time - even if that means signing them up for a coffee subscription each month, so that no one has an excuse not to attend.
A casual discussion over a cup of coffee can work wonders for your team members, and it also helps to improve your business brand, by showing that you're not a company that's all work and no play.
4. Get to Know Each Other with Trivia Sessions
Another issue that remote workers can face when they start to connect with each other is that they're too nervous to ask the questions that will really help them to get to know their coworkers. After all, your people don't want to feel like they're "prying" when they barely know another colleague. Fortunately, as a team leader, you can break the ice with a company trivia session.
Trivia sessions are fun, straightforward and easy to create. All you need is a handful of questions to help get the conversation going at the end of a long week, or during a team bonding session. For instance, you could ask questions like:
- What's the name of Steve's cat?
- Who won our very first employee of the month?
- Which of your team members has been with the business the longest?
- Which team member is allergic to wheat?
Trivia sessions give people a great way to get to know each other without feeling nervous or rude, and they're much less nerve-wracking than the standard "stand up and introduce yourself" format for sharing personal information.
5. Launch a Company-Wide Health Strategy
Between the years of 2016 and 2017, healthcare costs increased by about 79% for modern companies. Over the years, statistics like those have pushed companies to take a more serious approach to their health and fitness campaigns. The good news is that you can still invest in a good wellbeing strategy for your team - regardless of whether they work together in person or not.
As a team, you can commit to getting active more often with fitness tracking apps that allow people to share their calories burned, miles run, or goals achieved. You can even go the extra mile if you like and sign your employees up for free memberships at their local gym or ask different members of your team to share a new healthy recipe each week.
Not only will this give people a reason to stay in touch with their remote colleagues, but also overcoming health hurdles together is sure to make your staff feel more connected with the other people in their group.
6. Take Celebrations Beyond Geographical Boundaries
Finally, remember that the happiest team members are often the ones who feel as though their employers care about them and their progress. Just because your employees aren't working together in the same place doesn't mean that they can't celebrate as a team when you achieve something incredible in your business.
Make sure that everyone has a chance to reap the rewards when you smash your revenue goals or see your company grow in size. And remember that celebrations expand beyond the wins you see inside of your organization, too. You can also celebrate holidays together around the world. The celebration doesn't need to necessarily have a name (like Christmas or Thanksgiving), but let everyone know that you're coming up to a big day and ask them to get involved with stories, pictures, or even a gift exchange.
Keeping your remote team connected can feel like a challenge, but when you do it right, it can also be a lot of fun.
Raj Jana is the CEO and founder of JavaPresse. Raj started his business to explore his passion for coffee and as the organization has grown, he has found a remote workforce with flexible working are the best fit for his business. Being remote doesn’t mean being out of touch and Raj hopes you’ll try a couple of these ideas.