Whether you’re temporarily working remotely because of the pandemic, or if your company has always hired off-site employees, it’s important to cultivate an online environment that reflects your company culture. And given the uncertainty we’re all currently living with, your employees still need to feel connected, both to one another and to a sense of the value of their work. Here are some ideas for how to maintain your company culture at a distance.
Communicate Your Status
In an office environment, it’s usually obvious when someone is deeply involved in their work or if they open to discussion. But while working remotely there’s often no clear way to tell. Take the guesswork out by communicating your status as it changes. Keep everyone informed of when you’re signed on to work, at lunch, taking a break, or happy to chat. This could be on a designated channel in Slack or Teams, or you could set your own static schedule for working and collaboration and disseminate it to your co-workers. This simple step alone can help everyone’s daily workflow go more smoothly.
Switching from seeing your team every day in person to never seeing them at all definitely has its challenges. Try using video to communicate instead of phone calls or text-based messaging. Text-based communication particularly can be easy to misinterpret, and your emails and messenger chats could look more abrasive or abrupt than intended. Using a video call allows you to see and hear others, which lets you to pick up on cues like voice inflection and body language. It’s not necessary for all communications, especially minor ones, but for longer conversations and more important issues, it can be far more productive for everyone.
Pay Full Attention
In an office environment you might be used to having in-person conversations while typing or checking your email. When communicating by phone or video call, however, it doesn’t work the same way. Practice giving colleagues your full attention when in conversation with them by minimizing your email window and getting off your cell phone if you’re on a video call. Believe it or not, the majority of human communication is non-verbal, including body language, vocal tone, and facial expressions. If you’re distracted by completing other tasks then you’ll miss important information and feedback. Plus, you’re likely to annoy or alienate your colleagues if they suspect you aren’t fully listening to them.
Part of traditional company cultures is the environment employees work in. Typically this is a shared space, or at least a shared building, and the communal nature of the office experience itself can build a sense of fellowship between co-workers. However, remote employees don’t share space—there’s no watercooler or break room for colleagues to chat around and catch up, making it challenging to form and preserve a sense of camaraderie. Try a few of these ideas to build companionship and togetherness among your employees:
- Fun chat channels: Use Slack or Teams channels for employees to bond over mutual interests like movies, hobbies, pets, or food.
- Virtual social gatherings: Try the occasional (and optional) happy hour, game night, book club, or even a virtual cooking class.
- Wellness activities: Spend some time during lunch or breaks trying yoga, meditation, or mindfulness sessions together to encourage healthy habits and a sense of well-being.
Company culture should remain a priority, as it impacts nearly all aspects of a business. Productive and successful team cultures don’t need to vanish when working remotely. Be intentional about making sure no one is left out and that you continue to thrive and grow. A company is only as strong as its people—make sure your culture binds them together.