Nearly two years ago, we were all scrambling to identify what a remote work environment could look like for the first time. Home office supplies flew off the shelves. Business casual attire was replaced by sweat pants and ‘top half only’ looks. Zoom and Peloton stock exploded. We approached this strange season with a combination of curiosity, humor, and a little fear tucked beneath the surface. That initial ‘two weeks to flatten the curve’ moment in time seems more like a cruel joke from our perspective in 2022.
But if we have learned anything in these often challenging days, it is that we are never able to control the cards we are dealt, but we can control what we decide to do with them.
At this writing, the Omicron wave is (thankfully) receding but the latest COVID-19 variant served as a reminder to many that the remote work environment may stick around longer than we ever thought. As some companies have moved to a permanent remote structure, hybrid options now exist, and participants of the ‘Great Resignation’ have chosen to pursue their own, remote-first model, the phenomenon is surely here to stay.
However, building or keeping a solid working culture amongst teams is wildly challenging when you are not in the same physical space. Collaboration and communication typically suffer when the context of body language and literal shared experiences disappear.
So, when it comes to protecting your team’s culture, here are three areas to keep in mind or to work toward if you are starting from the beginning:
- PERSONAL: The first person you should be taking care of when pivoting to a remote working lifestyle is yourself because burnout is a very real risk. When it comes to working from home, it is crucial that you force yourself to take breaks and create boundaries surrounding where and when you are working. Avoid the bedroom as much as possible and when you are taking breaks, try to add a little movement or fresh air to the process. Your remote lifestyle lacks the natural breaks in time that the corporate structure imposes like a lunch break or trip to the water cooler. You must create these on your own!
- CULTURAL: If you are working on a team used to being in the same space, culture tends to suffer. It is necessary to remember you cannot communicate context as well when remote–meaning you must over communicate to ensure you are understood. That also means creating unique opportunities to build trust and rapport with your team that can fit into a remote setting. Ideas could include holding a 30-minute “no work allowed” meeting with ice breaker discussion topics that force team members to build connections.
- PRACTICAL: Ensure you have practical systems in place surrounding communication with your team, like messaging platforms and regularly scheduled recurring meetings. Utilize video and phone mediums to fill in that context void lost by being remote. Your meetings should take place in a variety of manners: consider talking on the phone while you walk outside, video meetings (and conversely, no video team meetings), as well as messaging channels outside of email like Slack.
If you are a team leader over an entirely virtual group of people, taking these approaches to heart can make the difference in the happiness of your team. If you would like to learn more about approaches to mastering the remote working world or building a stronger culture, please use the Contact Us form to reach out. We would love to help.