In an effort to reduce costs and enhance work-life balance, companies are increasingly deciding to become completely distributed, foregoing traditional office space in favor of remote teams. According to a recent study by Gallup, 37% of US workers are telecommuters, meaning they work remotely at least part of the time.
And it’s not just unheard-of startups that are allowing their teams to work remotely. Companies like GitHub, Basecamp, Mozilla, and Upworthy let their workers do their jobs from anywhere they’d like, according to Flexjobs.
Studies show that remote workers are happier and more productive than their peers who are chained to their office desks between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Despite this, it can be difficult to build tight-knit teams if remote employees never get the chance to interact with each other in the flesh.
Do you manage a team of remote workers? If so, consider utilizing these three tactics to build an even stronger team:
1. Send icebreaker emails each week
It’s not uncommon for managers of remote teams to send their employees emails they expect to be read first thing Monday morning. But let’s face it: Who gets right to work the second the week starts? Even the most industrious worker comes down with a case of the Mondays every so often.
You don’t have to nix your Monday morning email. But instead of covering only work-related issues, ask a personal question each week (but nothing too personal), offer your response to it, and encourage your employees to share their stories too. For example, write a paragraph or two about that fantastic cross-country road trip you took back in the day when asking your staff to explain their favorite vacations.
The more remote workers get to know one another on a personal basis, the stronger the bond will be between your team members.
2. Assign colleagues to video calls
A lot of human communication is nonverbal. Some of us gesticulate when we talk. Our facial expressions can give context to what we’re trying to say. Then there’s the way we say things, the inflections we use. Suffice is to say, text-based communication can only go so far.
To strengthen your remote team, consider assigning employees to video calls with their coworkers on a weekly basis. Have John and Sarah connect this week, John and Bill next week, and John and Frank the week after that, for example. During the calls, they can talk a lot about work and a bit about themselves.
It may be a little awkward. But it’s a surefire way to get your remote workers to know one another.
3. Encourage chatting in collaboration platforms
Collaboration platforms make it easier than ever for workers to communicate with each other in real time regardless of their location. Invest in a collaboration platform and encourage your employees to use it not only to make progress on projects but also to share articles, songs, and memes — and even jokes too.
In addition to helping your workers streamline their communications and optimize their workflow, collaboration platforms should help your team members get to know each other at least a little better.
Just because your company doesn’t house employees all under one roof, doesn’t mean you can’t maintain an engaging organizational culture. Engagement really all comes down to the effort that leaders put in.