One of the most important factors to maintain while working in remote teams is a strong culture. The new virtual environment poses many challenges, not the least of which is keeping your team morale high. Not being together physically can stress team relationships, muddy the vision of the company, and lead to a burning out of otherwise high performing teams. Consider the tips below to help lead a strong team and facilitate a smooth working environment while we stay in a largely virtual work environment:
- Be intentional about checking in with employees on non-work items
Whether employees openly admit it or not, the lack of casual interaction in the office space is likely one of the things that they miss most during remote work. If leaders aren’t intentional about checking in with employees on non-work items, they don’t come out organically like they would face-to-face. Set aside 5 minutes at the beginning or end of your meetings to talk with your team about how they’re doing outside of work and listen to their concerns and stresses with adjusting to this new environment.
- Dedicate time for discussing “Wins”
It may sound artificial or forced, but fostering this dialogue is a great way to maintain culture while not physically together. People crave a sense of recognition, and this reward factor has largely been muted in online work. Asking employees to think about their accomplishments allows employees to discuss what’s going on in the overall business outside of their personal tasks. This information dissipates naturally in an office environment. But it’s lost upon companies that don’t actively work to make it happen. If you have a weekly “all hands-on deck” meeting, consider adding this at the end.
- Encourage employees to ask questions in-meeting
Working from home creates an environment of distractions, and nobody is completely immune to the mind wandering from time to time in video meetings. Actively encourage your employees and clients to ask questions in meetings if they miss a piece of information rather than saving it for later. The process of retrieving this information via email later is arduous and an unnecessary waste of time for the company. Be patient with employees and clients if they miss a piece of information. In the long run, addressing these questions in meetings saves time in the long run.
- Keep the video cameras on
Often lost upon clients and workers is the importance of non-verbal cues in conversation. When videoconferencing, encourage participants to keep cameras on. Having the cameras on allows for greater verbal cue signaling, a greater sense of comfort, and helps encourage employees and clients to stay engaged to the meeting. Here’s an article that goes into some of the further benefits of keeping video cameras on.
- Ensure that information is readily available and accessible for your employees
One of the most dreaded parts of online work is the “holding period” people get stuck in when they need a piece of information to work but can now only receive it via email. In the office, it’s often as easy as walking up to a coworker’s desk and asking for the information, but in a world rampant with distractions, lack of structure, and non-traditional work schedules, it’s best to share information with all parties of interest to avoid bottlenecks. If you haven’t done so already, consider creating a Google Drive / SharePoint for employees and allow access to files for those who need it.
Many of these tips are inspired by Harvard Business Review’s free ‘Management Tip of the Day’ newsletter. Every day, HBR sends a small tip, with many of the tips as of late relating to remote work. If this interests you, subscribe here (found at bottom of page).
In a recent Innosphere webinar around this topic, we featured Professor Choudhury, Lumry Family Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, who has been studying remote work practices such as “Work-from-Anywhere” and “All-Remote” for several years. He talked about his research with the United States Patent Office and TCS, as well as startups such as Gitlab and Zapier.
This event was a part of Innosphere’s Thought Leader Speaker Series, and if you’re interested you can watch it here (his presentation starts around the 9 minute mark): https://innosphereventures.org/workfromanywhereage/