A remote workforce means no face-to-face interactions, break room chats or in-person office activities. This can sometimes equate to your employees losing their sense of community and camaraderie.
As a leader, you have to ensure that your team stays connected, no matter where they’re located. That’s why we asked members of Business Journals Leadership Trust what leaders can do to build culture and connectivity among a socially distanced workforce. Their best responses are below.
1. Take team personality assessments.
Have your team do a personality assessment and have everyone share their results. It’s a fun and informative way of getting to know each other faster. And it’s actually easier when you’re remote because you can complete an assessment on your own, privately. – Madeleine Nguyen, Talentdrop
2. Have regular all-company video meetings.
I recently polled my employees and they universally agreed that while they liked the flexibility of working remotely, they also missed seeing each other. So we hold video conferences with the entire staff at least twice each month. These meetings are rarely more than one hour long, but I try to ensure that everybody has the opportunity to speak. – Mark Becker, Florida United Methodist Foundation
3. Standardize your processes for interactions.
Our team is and has been remote for several years. One really important thing is to have a standard of holding video calls (versus phone calls). That way we can see body language and understand each other better. Another important process is to have a standard way to get and stay in sync if there is conflict. Drama can tend to be high in a remote environment, and systems to reduce it create more harmony. – Russell Benaroya, Stride
4. Collaborate on non-work projects.
Create a commitment to connecting via non-work-related projects — especially ones that still put meaning in what you’re doing. Opportunities such as virtual volunteer opportunities allow people to gather for a purpose even when they’re apart. – Keri Higgins-Bigelow, livingHR, Inc.
5. Brainstorm ideas for cultural involvement.
In our peer groups, owners share ideas for keeping employees culturally involved. One recent idea that I really liked was assigning each employee a window of time for coming to the office parking lot. When they did, a food truck was waiting to give them a prepackaged dinner for four. – John Dini, MPN Inc.
6. Encourage group projects across departments.
One thing I do with my team is to encourage group projects or cross-departmental work. It helps keep team members in contact with one another and gives them an opportunity to work remotely as a group rather than just working independently. – Muriel Smith, De La Salle, Inc.
7. Have one-on-one meetings with direct reports.
Meet monthly one-on-one with each of your reports, and encourage each manager to do the same with their reports on down the chain. For remote environments with plenty of work and not enough personal interaction, regularly scheduled one-on-ones provide leaders at all levels time to listen, support and mentor team members while modeling a culture of connectivity across the enterprise. – Daniel Serfaty, Aptima, Inc.
8. Allow for fun in the (virtual) workplace.
Allow for, and even encourage, a little folly. One of our employees started a fun question of the day she posts every morning. We have standing virtual lunches (never required) for people to join and just chat. And one employee periodically leads yoga via Zoom. When possible, we’ve held some small, outdoor happy hours (with precautions) to allow people to see each other. – David Kennedy, Corona Insights
9. Get the team together for weekly meetings.
We hold weekly team meetings with our direct team members, which has allowed us to “test our tech,” learn together and connect on a personal level with two-word check-ins or other virtual icebreakers (e.g., quarantine bingo, meaningful memes, etc.). We also have held standing meetings with clients and colleagues where we spend the first few minutes connecting personally before we ever talk business. – Liz Wooten-Reschke, Connect For More
10. Encourage quick chats and phone calls.
Regular interactions have always been critical to reinforce the culture and help team members feel connected. That hasn’t changed with everyone working remotely. The entire team should spend time maintaining connections. Not all interactions need to be video; casually chatting one-on-one with each other (via text or phone call) goes a long way in building a connection. – Laura Doehle, Elevation Business Consulting
11. Check in every day.
Daily check-ins with remote staff are important to assess employee engagement and the work product. This regular touchpoint helps keep people connected to the team and aligned with team goals. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising
12. Host virtual happy hours.
We encourage our leaders to host virtual happy hours every other Friday. The team members should each wear their favorite company T-shirt or branded hat, because it helps everyone feel united. This time should be used to connect and learn about what each person has going on outside of work, what side projects they’re working on, and what the weekend may look like for them — or to just kick the virtual can around. – Zee Ali, Z-Swag
13. Replicate water-cooler discussions virtually.
Replicate water-cooler discussions in a virtual environment with a monthly meeting where leaders and employees interact on non-work-related topics. Revealing their favorite movies or shows they’re binge-watching — even introducing their children or pets in a virtual setting — leads to interpersonal connections and opens the doorway to much better team communication. – Jeffrey Bartel, Hamptons Group, LLC
14. Make team connections your top priority.
Make remote workers feel like part of the team. Create informal group chats and organize regular meetings where you discuss what’s been going on in the company lately, what have you achieved together, who did an outstanding job this week and so on. The leader dictates the atmosphere, and keeping everyone connected should be your No. 1 priority — especially now. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS