More and more employees are discovering the benefits of workplace flexibility. Freelancers, telecommuters, and a remote workforce are the new norm, so employers have their work cut out for them if they want to maintain a cohesive team. Office culture is the unsung hero of the workplace and can make a strong team even stronger.
Start at the Heart of Your Operation
Remote office culture begins and ends with the employees and their interactions with other employees. When a team is scattered across multiple places, it can be harder to achieve a cohesive group attitude. Culture is the experience employees have at work. Happy employees perform better at work, and statistics show that the benefit a company’s bottom line. Making office culture a priority extends beyond keeping the HR department and employees happy—it’s also a smart business move.
You can help create a social life even among remote employees by pairing up team members randomly and giving them time to chat on a weekly basis. Develop groups for people who have similar interests to encourage friendships and a stronger sense of the group instead of the individual. Find out where employees are located and encourage meet-ups for people near each other. Emphasize the importance of office culture so your employees are encouraged to take part in building it.
Build a Sense of Shared Space
If you have both a remote workforce and an in-office workforce, treat both teams the same. Don’t make office culture exceptions for either party, or you will risk ostracizing one group.
Avoid keeping anyone out of the loop—if someone can’t chat at a certain time, send an email to tell the employee what he or she missed.
Perfect your onboarding process and introduce new employees to everyone on the team on their first day. Make them feel welcome, and encourage them to reach out to anyone they need to for help in getting acclimated. Keep in regular contact with new employees so they feel comfortable and valued in their new positions. If new hires join a team that emphasizes strong connections, they’re more likely to further their own efforts for remote office culture in the future.
Encourage Fun in Collaboration
It’s easy to slip into the habit of being “all business” with remote employees. However, building trust and amity within a group cultivates a solid team. Encourage lighthearted communication, like using emojis in Skype or funny gifs via instant messaging. Make collaborating fun so employees know the goal is to create a relaxed and positive work atmosphere, not to force people to hang out together.
If your budget allows it, consider taking remote office culture into the real world. Plan an employee trip or party and pay for employees’ travel expenses. Make it a holiday party or Employee Appreciation Day. Meeting face-to-face at least once a year can encourage remote employees to develop relationships with coworkers who keep in touch in and out of work. If this is outside of your company’s scope, facilitate other team-building activities. For example, start a book or movie club in the remote workplace and plan video conference chats to discuss the book or movie.
Collaborations are only as good as the individuals who participate. Use tools that foster office culture, such as collaborative apps and group activities, to ensure your employees are happy in the workplace. Make office culture a priority from the start, and your employees will follow your lead.