How to maintain team culture and relationships while working remotely

The working from home phenomenon has developed from a ‘trend’ to a much more viable option for many businesses within the last decade. However, nothing could have prepared us for the sudden influx of employees working from home within the last two months. The impact of Covid-19 has propelled the movement, and has thrust many full-time office employees into a work-from-home environment. While often viewed as a detriment, working from home does have its benefits – which is why it has become such a sought-after option in recent years. It allows firms to hire those hard-to-find employees who may not be within commute distance to the office, and allows stay-at-home parents to work at times that suit them. A recent study by Owl Labs has revealed that working from home is associated with contributing to happier employees, who’s retention rate and productivity is generally greater than their in-office counter-parts.

 

However, working remotely does have its difficulties. For employees coming from a strictly office-based setting, adjusting to a lack of personal contact can be challenging. We understand that the goal of employment is not solely to make friends, however – Learning is a process that often relies on interactions between people to determine what needs improving and how to achieve it. Learning develops as a result of interactions and exchanges among employees. Therefore, gaining and maintaining beneficial inter-employee relationships, despite work-place settings, is essential to ensuring positive business outcomes. Virtual relationships require more effort, they must be scheduled and do not occur as naturally as in- office alternatives. We have put together some key points to consider while working remotely, in order to ensure that you are making the most of your new and prospective relationships.

 

1. Make the effort!

You must learn how to reach out regularly. Despite being out-of-office, correspondence with your co-workers and clients etc. is essential to ensure that you are on the same page. While undergoing strictly business activities, interact using professional channels – this will retain the work-place etiquette while operating within a remote setting. Get up, get dressed and get ready for your day – although you are not in the office you will likely be subject to daily video calls. It is important to present yourself as you would in-office.

 

2. Continue daily conversation!

Mimic informal ‘water-break’ conversations which would usually occur between colleagues in an office setting! This can be achieved by scheduling daily 10 minute mid-morning catch- up sessions, or make use of your free commute time! Create a rule that this must be strictly non-work related, in order to retain a sense of normality among your colleagues. This is important, as it provides you with an insight into your co-workers personal lives, and will make you aware of any issues they may currently be experiencing. Additionally, start every online-meeting with 5 minutes of intentional small talk! This will prepare people for discussion, while encouraging a relaxed atmosphere. Set aside a time to talk about the current global pandemic – this is on everyone’s mind at the moment, and talking about it may relieve shared anxieties regarding this topic.

 

3. Take advantage of technology!

Use a multitude of channels – for both work and fun. Always enable your video camera (make it mandatory!), this is essential as it allows you to read non-verbal ques such as body language and facial expressions of your co-workers, an element which is simply not possible through direct messaging platforms. Video-calls are the closest remote activity to in-person meetings, thus are an essential way to build rapport among employees. Consider creating shared information hubs, both for professional and non-work related activities. For example, develop a virtual shared recipe hub where employees can post recipe ideas for each other to try at home. This will encourage a healthy work/life balance, while providing a talking point for co-workers also.

 

4. Make yourself accessible!

While you may be a night owl, it is important to be accessible to your team when they need you. Define core working hours, and share your availability with co-workers. If the majority of your team are online during typical 9-5 hours, it is important that you are accessible during this period too in order to maintain regular correspondence with them. Have good, reliable internet – you don’t want to miss out on key information due to a poor Wi-Fi connection! Don’t wait for tasks to be prescribed to you – volunteer yourself! A good way to climb internal business ranks while working remotely is to offer your services to tasks that go beyond your routinised skill-base.

 

5. Don’t be afraid to over-communicate!

Use clear and specific language (avoid acronyms) – make it as easy for the reader to understand as possible. This will help to avoid needless back and forth communication. Always give more information than you think is necessary, and view everything in a positive light – after all, you are all on the same team!

Virtual social intimacy is essential, and can be achieved by incorporating the mentioned tips into your remote working day. Although it may be challenging to adjust to, working remotely can be just as beneficial as its in-office counterpart. Adequate and succinct communication among employees is essential to ensure an ease of problem sharing and problem solving is achieved, thus resulting in maximised productivity.

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