Over the years, an 'Employee-first' (and hip) work culture has come to be defined by millennial-ly things like a Foosball/ping pong table, beer dispensers in office, and pizza parties at work. And while these work wonders for teams working out of swanky offices, these strategies certainly won't fly if your team is entirely remote. That said, collaboration tools and apps are all the rage today, but when it comes to building a thriving team culture, the buck doesn't - and shouldn't - stop there.
Case in point:
Enterprises in the COVID-19 era are stepping up their remote work game and pushing the boundaries to build a positive company culture and redefine team bonding as we know it. One universal strategy that has seemed to work world-over is putting the employees' interests, well-being, and motivations at the front and center of the work culture.
To put it in simpler words, organizations are focusing on creating "happy employee experiences" - the foundation of a positive and productive work culture.
Top-5 Cornerstones of Remote Team Building
1. Focus on the Psychological & Emotional Well-Being of Employees
"Teams that are emotionally connected can be vulnerable with one another because there is a baseline of safety and trust in the relationship. This means they’re more willing to share that crazy idea or push back when they see something that they don’t agree with.” — Jesse James Garrett, Chief Creative Officer at Adaptive Path
According to the State of Remote Work report, "Loneliness (21%), collaborating and/or communicating (21%), and distractions at home (16%) are the biggest struggles of remote workers." Naturally, this begs the question as to what Managers can do to alleviate their employees' concerns and boost their mental well-being?
One sure shot way that works wonders is Managers setting up a dedicated one-on-one video call with employees to simply hear them out and see how they're doing.
Plus, it helps to talk about topics other than work such as pets, favorite music, and TV shows being binge-watched on Netflix! As long as there's transparency in the communication along with underlying tones of genuine care, your employees are bound to feel engaged, happy, and loyal in addition to actively contributing to the company's work ethics and culture.
2. Collaborate using Smart Technology & Intuitive Tools
Call it blind luck, but being in the "Digital Age" has made transitioning into remote work easier and seamless. In fact, intuitive and easy-to-use video conferencing tools are bringing people closer than ever and dialling up the fun quotient among co-workers and management alike. From Zumba classes to plank challenges, people are using communication tools to get the work done and have some fun! That's not all.
Different kinds of tech tools can be used to create a specific vibe/culture to the work environment. For instance, Slack allows users to just be, creating a more relaxed and laid back environment.
Project management tools allow you to stay on top of your deliveries and build a sense of discipline and organization among the team members. Long story short, there's no better way to develop a healthy (and hearty) work culture using tools that you're using day-in-day-out. Agree?
3. Together, We Rise: Create "Mentorship" Programs
Collective learning and peer reviews are more cathartic than you'd think. Which is why Managers and team leaders should focus on creating rituals around "Mentorship Programs" where individuals feel a sense of belonging and build mutual trust, organically.
When we say rituals, we mean setting up one-on-one performance reviews, brainstorming on metrics to measure real progress, conducting workshops and fun activities, or even conducting "themed" weekly breakfast/lunches for giving feedback.
Good food, great company, constructive feedback, and a little gratitude and kindness can truly build an employee's morale and an appetite to work harder (pun intended).
4. Get Creative with Group Activities to Keep People Engaged
With remote work, teams face a different set of challenges: There's no water-cooler gossip flying around, coffee breaks and small talks become non-existent, and post-work chill plans take a hike. But remote work doesn't have to be boring.
On the contrary, it is important to celebrate important milestones, successes, and special occasions - even if its done virtually. There are plenty of real-life enterprises to take inspiration from which have an active 'social' life, despite working from home:
- According to the Culture Amp team, creating a daily 'situation room' allowed people to stay in touch with the progress inside the company as well as outside of it (in the real world). This is how it works:
Remote Meetings are conducted every day with around 20 leaders combing through a deck of the latest information related to the Covid-19 pandemic. The best part? All the discussions and data are later published on an open channel on Slack for everyone to view.
- At Boldly, the company takes fun seriously. They have a “Chief of Cheer” whose sole responsibility is to uphold and nurture an intentional positive culture.
5. Define the Work Process Intentionally & Set Expectations Upfront
"At Zapier, distributed teams employ the "DACI" framework: Driver, Approver, Consulted, and Informed where everyone involved in any kind of decision-making have to play one of four roles."
Let's face it (or, in this case, 'see' it), with remote work comes great (communication) responsibility. After all, with remote work, there's no room for any misinterpretations or the luxury of taking small things for granted (think: body language, non-verbal agreement, etc.). Managers, in particular, need to mindfully set clear expectations and goals at the start of the day.
This also includes chalking out and communicating key definitions such as "work flexibility," "time outs," "key team values and best practices," "chatting/phone call/ mail etiquette," etc.
Keeping employees in the loop will not only prevent delays but ensure that the work gets done seamlessly - without the need to engage in "helicopter bossing." That said, care must be taken to ensure that you set the ground rules but let your team members build on that instead of strictly monitoring your employees' every move.
As long as the individual efforts align with the team's goals and fit into the overall team culture, you're golden.
When it comes to remote work, there's no linear formula that can be applied as remote teams come in all shapes, sizes, and forms. What might work for one team may not quite work for the other. This is why it is critical to remember that each team working remotely will have their own personality and shared values, inside jokes, and fun stories that can help keep the company's culture unique, alive, and thriving. So try these strategies and cushion some of that culture shock that is bound to creep in with this new working normal.