As far as safeguarding the physical health of your employees is concerned, the shift to remote work is a win-win situation. You want your employees to remain well by having them work in the safety of their homes. In turn, your employees can do their job and ensure the smooth operations of your business. Clearly, the health of your employees and your business go hand in hand in this case.
On the other side, remote work has led to significant shifts and changes in the workplace. Perhaps your recruitment firm in the Philippines is fully shifting to virtual interviews. Maybe your company is also leveraging virtual meetings to introduce new employees to the rest of the company.
However, while a virtual workplace offers flexibility in work arrangements during these crucial times, the absence of physical interactions can make it a challenge to build a much-needed strong company culture.
Unlike in a physical office, employees and officers in a remote work setup don’t get the chance to have a quick, friendly chat at the pantry or cafeteria. The coordination between business units in the company isn’t simultaneous, too, which can be a problem if the teams produce different results.
For these reasons, you need to focus on how to keep your company culture intact despite physical limitations. In a rock-solid virtual company culture, employees display high levels of productivity and positivity because there’s a sense of belonging instead of isolation, camaraderie instead of competition, and concern instead of indifference.
Here are six ways to create a strong virtual company culture for your remote team.
How to Strengthen Your Virtual Company Culture
Even though you and your employees are not seeing each other in person and don’t work in one physical space, you can still have a strong company culture virtually. Here are six ideas on how to incorporate a strong company culture in a remote work environment:
1. Maximize video conferencing
Video can be an excellent tool for communicating and collaborating with team members in various situations. Live video conferencing is most suitable for your weekly team meetings, 1:1 check-ins with employees, or brainstorming sessions.
If you have team members from different time zones, live video communication may not always be possible; in which case, you can pre-record videos to share updates or ideas, or demonstrate something that may be otherwise difficult to explain via text or email.
2. Be creative with company engagement.
Back in the office, holding a company engagement event, such as after-work get-togethers or team lunches, was pretty simple and straightforward because everyone was there to participate. Now, with the physical distancing limitations of working away from the office, it can be tempting to hold off company events until the traditional year-end party
On the contrary, there isn’t a more perfect time to set aside company time, budget, and resources than now. Engagement activities that bring you and your employees together, at least virtually, serve as a reminder that they are the company’s most important asset and that you want to keep their drive and motivation high.
Whether you plan to have a training day or week, friendly games with a trivia night, or a virtual tour of your employees’ home office, do it with your employees in mind. You want to encourage their 100% participation by doing things in an atmosphere of fun, team building, and sharing.
Pro tip: Thinking of how to part with equipment and furniture from the office building you’ve vacated? Do an online auction with your employees, then donate the proceeds to sponsor an employee’s fundraising activity!
3. Show empathy
You show empathy when you’re able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand that your coworkers’ feelings, struggles, or behaviors because you want to develop a close relationship with the members of your team.
In the workplace, empathy is so important that 96% of employees wish their employers would demonstrate empathetic leadership, with 92% feeling that empathy remains undervalued in their organization.
To cultivate the trait of empathy, you need to listen more and talk less, be more approachable, and show acceptance rather than be critical of the people in your team.
For example, not everyone in your team has fully adapted to the remote work setup, especially being the only choice during a crisis such as a pandemic. In general, this pandemic has made things worse or restricted for everyone and they must still feel that it’s an unfamiliar place for them to be in. Be considerate enough to give them time to warm up to their new environment instead of expecting them to follow the rules and regulations to the dot, like the pre-pandemic times.
Timely and effective collaboration will be crucial in managing your work-from-home team. Microsoft has recently found how new ways of collaborations are helping departments navigate the remote work environment. Here are the main takeaways from Microsoft’s research:
- Short virtual meetings of 30 minutes or less are replacing hour-long office meetings.
- Quick check-ins, 1:1s, and social team meetings have been on the rise in remote offices.
- Instant messaging is being sent more often, especially during the 10 AM to 5 PM shift.
Just remember to establish some norms to make collaborations more effective. For example, some companies make it a point to indicate whether messages fall under “Four Hour Response (4HR)” or “No Need to Respond (NNTR)” to help set or manage expectations. This can prevent any unnecessary stress while fostering a sense of connection in times marked by major changes in the workplace.
5. Have a buddy system
Buddy role-playing—also known as peer mentoring—has been around for some time, helping companies create a collaborative working and learning environment, as pairs of teammates work closely with one another. A buddy system can be reassuring for remote employees because they know they have someone to turn to whenever they’re feeling lost, confused, or isolated.
You can assign experienced employees to walk new hires through their day-to-day tasks, as well as their job expectations. Buddies are responsible for explaining how things work, answering questions, and providing feedback not only to help new employees settle into their role more quickly but also to build personal connections with someone from the team.
Alternatively, you can pair employees from different teams to work on special projects that require different skills or ideas.
6. Establish company traditions
Company traditions are among the main drivers of a healthy workplace culture, connecting employees with one another and the entire company, despite differences in age, race, and other attributes.
Company traditions are as vital for your remote team as they are for traditional groups, mainly because remote workers need to step out of their virtual space now and then, so they can do something exciting outside of their usual routine.
- Dress-up Fridays, where you ask your employees to follow a specific theme in choosing what to wear for their home office look; at the end of the day, employees can post their photos on your social media page.
- Birthday, Anniversary, or Employee of the Month Wall, where teams greet employees celebrating a personal or professional milestone; it would be nice to send over a personalized gift to the employee, too.
The more unique your company traditions are, the more your employees will feel invested in your company. Feel free to reach out to employees to ask which practice they want to flourish in your organization. Hopefully, the traditions you celebrate won’t have anyone feeling left out or offended.
Culture Building Works for Your Virtual Company
Virtual companies are no longer a trend but are the norm in the present and future of work. Teams will continue to work remotely until everyone is allowed to go back physically to the workplace. Ensure everyone that work arrangements may have changed, but everything else they love about the company and its culture remains the same, if not better and stronger.