Updated: May 22
Working from home (or simply away from your office) can provide a great amount of freedom and flexibility in your job. More and more employees have the ability to live where they choose and work from anywhere. There are challenges, however...
Remote work can be isolating to some employees and cause miscommunication among teams.
Here's a common scenario: Your geographically dispersed employees are interacting okay with their direct supervisors, but interaction with the wider organization is little to none. While this doesn't directly affect the work that needs to be done, you're concerned this can have a longer-term effect on employee retention and enjoyment, both of which are really important to the health of the company.
Create multiple lines of communication to encourage dialog and interaction beyond the project's mission. Remote work is most successful when communication across teams is open and engaged.
Many projects require a team of people with different roles, backgrounds and levels of experience, so how is this accomplished? Here's a collection of tips for you to try that can help keep people engaged and connected. You might be surprised just how simple it is to eliminate isolation and build a thriving company culture even with everyone scattered.
Online Communication Tools
All you need is a computer or mobile device along with the internet and tools like Skype, Zoom or Slack allow employees to communicate quickly through video calls or group chat. Often, important issues can be addressed in a hurry with a few quick replies.
Regardless of the tools, try to think of creative ways for these to be used. For example, you could set up Slack with different channels of communication.
Some ideas are:
a channel dedicated to the project to allow focus on project-related tasks
another for general questions (not project related), where anyone across a department can try to help steer their coworker in the right direction
a broader channel set up for company announcements, and
a gratitude channel, which can be a place for people to acknowledge a colleague for helping them or a place to receive a thanks when you're the one who provided assistance
This may sound counter-productive. Think about offering as many daily calls with your various project teams as you can to quickly catch up on company updates, but also use the time to share what's going on outside of work. These don't have to be more than 10-15 minute check-ins. You'll get glimpses into the personal lives of many more colleagues than if you all worked in a brick-and-mortar office. And because you've chatted with everyone on group calls, everyone feels approachable.
Encourage employees to schedule regular one-on-one chats with a colleague. The call can be about anything, as long as it's not work! Working remotely, there's no water cooler to gather around, so it's important to make time for shooting the breeze online instead. These can be instrumental in forming strong bonds with others and allowing both parties to let off a little steam and have fun before getting back to work.
Think about ways individual employees can meet-up to work together. Working remotely means you can take your office anywhere, so why not mix things up from time to time and meet at a nearby coffee shop, library or flex space. Bringing people together, even for just short bursts, builds better relationships, so that even when they go back to working independently, they feel more connected and in tune with each other.
After Work Events
Of course, nothing beats getting to know your teammates in person, which is why it's critical to get together every so often for after work events. Host a monthly "slosh 'n nosh" where employees can meet up at a local restaurant to share happy hour drinks and appetizers.
Studies show more people would rather be recognized for their accomplishments than receive an increase in pay and celebrations give you a platform for providing much-deserved appreciation.
Find ways to celebrate together and show employees that you pay attention to what they're doing at work and you value their contributions. When you celebrate personal events like birthdays, weddings and new babies, you reinforce the personal connection you have with your team.
Celebrating the completion of a project gives employees a chance to revel in the project's successes. The milestone can also be a time to show recognition for everyone's accomplishments, boosting morale and the motivation to work together better on future projects.