A company culture helps to create important social and work related bonds between each colleague, and is what makes you feel part of a bigger vision and picture. In the remote world, the emphasis placed on building up a company culture is even greater.
We can’t all just rely on physically being with our colleagues to help create these social bonds and develop a culture together. More effort needs to be put in, but the results can be even greater than in the normal office environment.
Because so much of this relies on the bonds between team members and managers, company culture in the remote world has a pretty big enemy: loneliness. It’s an issue that crops up a lot, due to the nature of working remotely away from our colleagues.
Loneliness is actually second on the list of struggles reported by remoters in the State of Remote 2019 / 2020 report by Buffer. It also crops up year after year, and seems like a problem that is here to stay. Creating bonds between team members, checking in on each other, and looking after your colleagues are key in helping us stop the loneliness that some of us feel. But how do we do this when your teammate is halfway around the globe?
Think About Implementing Social Groups
A key goal in helping improve, make, and build upon your team’s social bonds is to try and replicate the kind of social goings-on that happen more naturally in the office. Over time, we often all find out that we have things in common with people in our team or our office. This could be during your lunch break, or over a quick coffee.
So, to make this happen in the remote office we have to be a little bit clever about it. We simply don’t have easy access to the natural times for socialising that happen in a co-located office. Take a look at the communications tools that you’re already using, and the best ways that you can hijack what you’re already doing to your advantage.
For example, extra Slack channels or video hangout rooms are a great way to give people a place to discuss topics that they love. You can even set up groups for virtual team bonding games (and if you need inspiration for team bonding games, check out this handbook!). Hopefully, you already know the kind of things that your team members like, but a quick poll or email will help you find out if you don’t already know.
Nominate An Employee to Own These Groups
So, once you’ve set up your chat rooms that’s everything right? In short… no! You definitely need someone to take ownership of what you’ve created. Without this, uptake and enthusiasm is going to be too low.
I’m sure we’ve all seen that happen in the past before with work Whatsapp or messaging groups. If you find a non-biased party who wants to monitor and look after the groups of their own free will, everyone is going to find the experience more authentic and are more likely to want to join in. You should look to find someone to champion the discussions who:
- Isn’t from the management team
- Has the whole team’s best interests at heart, rather than just their own team
- Is compassionate, sympathetic, and understanding of the wants, needs and expectations of all your employees.
- Is a champion of your company culture and really embodies your values
- Is trusted by everyone in the company
Small Gestures Go a Long Way
Another way to help people build up the key social bonds is to remember the little things that are hard to go unnoticed in an office. Wedding anniversaries and birthdays are easy to keep track of in your HR tool or Google calendar.
There’s nothing that makes you feel more appreciated than when people remember your birthday or important event without being reminded. And to seal the deal… give them something like a gift card or a small present and send it to their address! It’s a small gesture, but the results are huge.
Peer-to-peer Appreciation Program
Everyone also loves to know that they’re being appreciated for the work they do. I always try to make a habit of thanking someone for the work they have done in front of the rest of the team every day. But, you can make this a more formal part of your company culture too.
Everyone loves to feel appreciated, and people in general love to give out praise and make someone feel good. A peer-to-peer appreciation program once a week is a quick and easy way to help us all feel part of inclusive remote company culture.
Consider a Real Life Meetup
Increasing the engagement of your team with each other and the company is also a good way to build up good working ties and feel part of a real remote company. While we all can achieve a lot through online mediums (something us remoters are great at!), physically meeting your team can also go a long way to helping everyone bond together.
Due to the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic this might not be possible, but make sure to keep this option on your radar. There’s a lot to be gained for both friendships and work relationships in a small amount of time. It also becomes a cool part of your company culture, that people take notice of when thinking about working for you.
Host a Weekly Video Question Session
Engaging with managers and other teams on a weekly basis as a whole company gives everyone a better opportunity to get to know each other. Running these sessions is also an easy way of building trust in virtual teams, as sometimes it’s easy to feel that managers can be more unaccountable when you don’t meet them regularly.
Most people work within small teams or closely with even just a handful of other people. By setting aside some time every week to allow people to ask questions about what everyone is doing, or whatever is on their mind, you create a surefire way of building up more bonds remotely.
We learn more about each other, how everyone thinks, and hopefully a few interesting answers along the way. When this doesn’t happen, you’re just asking for silos to develop that are hard to break down.
Bonds Don’t Build Up Overnight
As a general rule, it’s important for us in the remote world to put sustained effort into creating and crafting the culture we want. Developing strong bonds is no different, and we have to want it a bit more than our office counterparts. With it being part of the best practices for working remotely, we shouldn’t just let the topic sit on the backburner.
It’s easier to hide away in your home office, but that’s a guaranteed way to not engage properly with your teammates and get to know them. We all choose remote work for a number of amazing reasons and benefits it offers. But to really get everything that it has to give, there are some responsibilities too.
There’s no doubt about it, better social bonds and working relationships between everyone leads to a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce. Get out there and give some of our tips a go, you must just find that you and your teammates become a bit closer than you currently are.