Even before Covid 19, remote work was on the rise. Unsurprisingly, many businesses have found that remote work makes it increasingly difficult to preserve their company culture. After all, benefits such as childcare, happy hours, and social lunches don’t mean much if you’re not on site. What’s more, remote work has the potential to inhibit the free-flowing collaboration and brainstorming that happens when people are in the same space.
That said, remote work is not without benefits. In fact, when done right, it’s a win for companies and employees. Some research from Owl Labs found that people who work remotely at least once a month are 24% more likely to report that they are happy than those who don’t. Moreover, companies that allow remote work have 25% less turnover.
As we now start to move to a new hybrid way of working companies must continue to master remote working and intentionally design the transition to preserve a positive and collaborative culture. Here are some tips on how to manage your team remotely.
The most important function of work culture is to foster a sense of belonging. In a remote environment, belonging is also the hardest aspect to replicate. In many surveys done across companies, people agree that the key ingredients to belonging include having fun together, being heard, and feeling that opinions and voices matter regardless of background.
You can still have fun together remotely! Try hosting virtual events such as informal happy hours, escape rooms, chocolate making, and more. Look to hold virtual summits. However, limit sessions to two hours each day to avoid video conference fatigue.
Don’t over process
When we first went remote, many of my clients were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of digital communication received each day. As in-person meetings turned into video calls and pings replaced hallway conversations, they were inundated with distracting alerts. Work-life balance took a huge dip. In his book Deep Work, Cal Newport argues that we produce the most valuable output and can learn skills the best when we can focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. So what are these distractions? In Cal’s words, they include email (gasp), Slack (that’s for slackers), and, of course, social media.
To alleviate this problem, try “no meeting” days. I have even suggested to clients “no email days,” or reset days, allowing employees to take a day off to rest, recharge, and enjoy time with their friends and family.
Communicate, communicate, communicate….
Remote communication is subject to different intrapersonal dynamics. We lose many nonverbal cues in the shift, including body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. This lack of cues can lead to misunderstandings and often tension. Be very careful in choosing your words when communicating to leave as little room for misinterpretation as possible.
Many leaders find that regular smaller group sessions work well to ensure they are in touch with their team’s and they are hearing from the ‘horse’s mouth’ directly. Frequent one-on-ones also help
Remote, in person or hybrid?
There are pros and cons to both the traditional in office model and working remotely. Companies such as Twitter and Salesforce have announced a permanent work from home option for their workforce. Still, studies have shown that employees who never see their teams are less engaged and more eager to leave. Going forward, I personally believe you have to embrace a hybrid model. Some aspects of working together in person can never be replicated adequately in a virtual environment. Digital whiteboards and videoconferencing can get the job done, but they can’t create the level of camaraderie and sense of purpose that being in the same room does.
How you employ the hybrid model will be based on your specific business needs. One option is to ask employees to come into the office on certain days of the week (such as the 3-2-2 workweek). Some companies I work with have thrived with everyone working remotely and meeting in person three times a year. You may have to test several different concepts before landing on one that works for your company. Don’t be afraid to experiment and get feedback about what’s working and what isn’t.