At this current juncture, teams across the globe have been forced to ‘go remote’ for the safety of their own health, and their employees.
This has thrown many companies into a whole new world of Zoom meetings, Slack updates, video catch ups and a glimpse into the domestic lives of their colleagues. But just because your team is far apart, it doesn’t mean your company culture has to dissipate.
In fact, through this uncertain time, it’s more important than ever that your company feels connected, supported and heard.
Now is not the time for a disconnect.
That’s why we decided to ask the experts for their tips on fostering a positive company culture in a remote world.
Keep reading for some great inspiration, and actionable steps you can take today.
Just because your team is miles apart, doesn’t mean they can’t be sociable. There are, in fact, many ways to encourage employees to chat about non-work related topics, spend time together and get to know one another.
“Typically when you think of a remote team, you think of a very distant disconnected team. However, we work hard to create events online to get our team to know each other. We host board game nights where we allow team members to order on the company's dime food, and drinks. Individuals will then zoom with each other and play online games together. This has really helped promote a positive vibe, and spread the fun and hard-working vibe our company likes to promote.”
- Sean Pour, Co-founder at SellMax
Retain a good work-life balance
There is a tendency when working from home to see your work and home life blur into one. With constant access to emails, your laptop and all your files, it can be easier to slip into the habit of being online longer than usual. But remote burnout is possible, and it's important to separate work and down time, even when the office itself isn’t in use.
“We always had remote workers. We have workers and freelancers all over Israel. This requires them to be connected and work mainly from home or remote offices.
Now with the Coronavirus outbreak, our team members cannot even leave their house and meet our clients. We discovered a solution called Cubed Mobile which turns the team's personal phones into company phones. This separates their personal life from their company life and our team members are absolutely thrilled. They can now have a separate WhatsApp for business purposes and not use their private WhatsApp. Their personal phone has no interface with the company Apps and phone services at all. It gives them a new work-life balance experience.”
- Daniel Dotan at Webbee Digital
Turn on your video and smile at one another! It may seem simple, but a meeting conducted only via audio can feel disconnected and cold. It’s great to retain ‘face to face’ contact, even if it is through a screen. Without the benefit of seeing your colleagues facial expressions, smiles and waves, it's difficult to build up positive relationships.
"Working remotely can make people feel isolated and disconnected from their colleagues. Meeting face-to-face regularly promotes a sense of camaraderie and helps employees feel connected to their coworkers and the business as a whole." -
- David Lynch, Content Lead at Payette Forward, Inc.
“As our company has shifted to fully remote status, we've set up Zoom company-wide so that our employees can feel more connected to each other. By simulating a virtual-office environment, teams host video conferencing channels to help keep everyone engaged. So this has been successful so far, and employees are even having fun getting to know each other on a more personal level.
Of course, the video stream is optional, but most employees have embraced it on a full-time basis. Now that everyone is used to seeing each other wearing pajamas and working with bed hair, they are more relaxed with each other. So far everything leads me to believe that implementing Zoom meetings during our new-normal daily routines due to coronavirus has encouraged positive company culture amongst our employees.”
- Luka Arezina, Co-Founder of DataProt
“If you’re switching from working in the office to remote work the goal is to get as much eye contact as possible. There is one major thing that affects company culture, and that is how your team communicates. When all you do is type, you will notice that there is a lot that is left out, such as gestures, body language, facial expressions, eye contact and much more. Try to get on video as much as you can to strengthen your communication and culture.”
- Malte Scholz, Product Manager at AirFocus
Use social media
Your company social media can be used to foster connections between employees, share ideas and photos, and overall bring everyone together. Remember important events like birthdays, work anniversaries to make sure your team feels celebrated and special!
The Head of Content for Clockwise shared with us some fantastic insights of how they keep spirits high.
“Clockwise is its our second full week of fully remote work. To keep spirits high, Czar Yarcia, our Office Manager, recently ramped up our social content on Instagram, specifically to showcase our company culture and values: Authenticity, Curiosity, Drive, Empathy, Enthusiasm, and Focus.
Our new content calendar has been updated to include relevant and relatable topics featuring our teammates. Our focus is to spread positivity and show how we connect and make time for what matters (our company motto) while we are all WFH.
Our Instagram Stories cover how some of our teammates are balancing working from home while caring for their children, and how they maintain their physical and mental health with exercise, reading, and meditation. We also feature our furry friends and our optimal home office setups that keep us productive. To showcase our value of Empathy, we also share how our teammates are connecting and volunteering in our community during this time.
One of our teammates recently celebrated their birthday, and we wanted to surprise them. We photoshopped a birthday photo and made it our backgrounds in Zoom. Signing in early, we had our video turned off until they logged in. Their favorite Tiramisu cake was delivered to their home, and their partner helped us by bringing out the cake lit with a candle while we sang Happy Birthday to them!”
- Cathy Reisenwitz, Head of Content for Clockwise
Check in with one another
Especially in the current climate, checking in with one another's mental wellbeing is hugely important. Work related check ins are essential, but in order to encourage a positive company culture, ensuring colleagues feel heard and emotionally supported is vital.
“We’ve made a point to check in with each other more often, not just on a professional level but on a personal level as we also navigate work from home scenarios that include homeschooling and sharing office space with spouses. One creative idea my team andI are working on is setting up a virtual group meditation. Most of all we are being compassionate during this uncertain time.”
- Julie Bee, President, BeeSmart Social Media
Make Fridays Count
Just because your Friday night probably doesn’t look like a typical Friday night anymore, it doesn’t mean a TGIF mood can’t exist. Host an all-hands Zoom meeting to talk about the highs and lows of the week, discuss weekend plans and maybe even share a virtual beer.
“In order to encourage positive company culture in my remote team I like to host a Friday round up. During this time I like to create an all-hands meeting for my entire team on a video conference line. During this time I like to allow my team to discuss some wins they had during the week. I feel creating this time and space lets them see the whole company celebrate their success. I also like to use this time to talk about pain points during the week so that they can be ironed out and we can hit Monday running."
- Jon Torres, Founder, JonTorres.com
Talk about non-work related topics
Booking in virtual coffees or just small catchups is a great way to build relationships and talk about something that isn’t work (or the news!) This is morale boosting, mood boosting and most of all, important in building a positive culture.
“As we are now adhering to isolation, it can be fun and morale-boosting to create a dedicated time and allow your staff space to connect with fellow coworkers about non-work topics, just as they would have naturally in the office environment.
Each Monday, we allow and also try to encourage our team members to meet up in groups of three or four in a Skye video call to chat about their lives outside of work and what, if anything they did on the weekend. It’s a nudge that helps out staff nurture their current relationships and also form bonds with the newer members of the team that haven’t had time to get to know everyone properly yet”
- Dustin Vann, Owner & CEO at Trusy Social
Roll out the welcome mat
Onboarding remotely can sound tricky, and often it can be difficult for new employees joining at this time to feel fully integrated into the team. But there are steps you can take to fully greeting and onboarding new team mates, and making them feel welcome.
“When someone new joins your team, how do you welcome them? In a typical office environment, there’s usually ample opportunity for mingling with the new team member, getting to know them on a personal level, and quality time is spent introducing them to their new colleagues in a one-on-one setting.
Here’s a couple of ideas to get you started:
- Kenny Trinh, CEO of NetBookNews
- Have an ‘Ask Me Anything’ Q&A in an online channel, like Slack
- Ask the new team member to answer 5 fun questions at the beginning of their first team meeting
- Book in Skype or Zoom calls with individual members to get to know each other”
Keep things normal
In this tumultuous period, a bit of normalcy is what everyone is looking for. And that can be, in part, achieved by keeping your regular meetings in place, using normal business hours and generally trying to make the remote office work like clockwork.
“Keep normalcy as much as possible by having leaders in the company constantly in contact with the entire team reassuring success and the fact that we’re all in this together and everything will be fine. Increase the frequency of your normal meetings to keep everyone on the same page. Meetings should stay positive and upbeat by leaders which encourages your team to focus on their work during normal business hours instead of worrying about what’s going on around us. The less you as a leader worry and fret, the less your team will be stressed."
- Nellie Akalp, CEO and Founder CorpNet
Use Slack to its fullest potential
Platforms like Slack are not only fantastic project management tools, but they can be used to create a space to talk freely about…. Anything! At Global App Testing, we have a #random channel specifically for sharing memes, funny news stories and little quirks.
“We use Slack and have opened channels like our cooking club where people post what they cooked or our recommendations channel where we talk about movies, books and TV shows.
We also have a random channel where anyone is free to post a funny picture of a cat. There are a lot of corona memes there lately, and we found that humour keeps the moral up these days."
-Jessica Salter, HR adviser & Talent manager Best Response Media
“Our company fosters team connectedness through a buddy program, regular social chats, and chat room channels on Slack where we share our everyday lives through GIFs, photos, and story sharing. This helps us better connect to one other, no matter how distributed we are across the globe. And when it comes to working together on a project or task, we already feel like we're friends.”
- Lindsay Nash, Content Marketing Manager at Award Force
Online games are a fun social idea that everyone can get involved with from home. In fact, we love this idea so much that the Global App Testing team are going to try it out too! Games are a great way to unwind from a busy day or week, and replace typical company socials that can’t take place as they could before.
“The answer, luckily, has been served up to us on a silver platter: Video Games. Whether you're a gamer or not, you can't argue that, for years, video gamers have formed into tight-knit groups, almost family-like, while never having actually met each other. It's because they come together in pursuit of a common goal. They acknowledge each other's strengths and weaknesses and work together to overcome them.
The fastest way to create this in your remote team is to have some online team-building time. Task your team with finding an online game that they can play together and then play! You want your remote team to be closer than an onsite team because you need to overcome that distance.”
- Shayne Sherman, CEO of TechLoris
A company support network is so important at this time. Understanding that some of your colleagues may be unwell, caring for others or just feeling anxious at world events is essential. A positive remote culture is a great step on the way to helping your team feel like they are not alone.
"Be kind. Listen to one another. Be respectful. Understand that people are dealing with tough times right now and managing their emotions in different ways, so be patient with one another.”