Today’s workforce is evolving as more employees are working remotely in today’s digital environment. But how can organizations encourage team collaboration if their employees are scattered across the country (or even the globe)? Here are a few tools and techniques remote teams can use on a regular basis to develop, and keep, a strong rapport.
Let’s face it, email stinks. Our inboxes are regularly flooded with irrelevant messages or chain conversations that are hardly conducive to group work. That’s why many remote offices have embrace video-first communication. Video conferencing tools, such as BlueJeans Network or Microsoft Skype for Business, encourage virtual face-to-face interactions so coworkers can discuss and collaborate in real time.
Some companies even go the extra mile by promoting virtual happy hours or coffee breaks. Just schedule a video meeting where employees can blow off a little steam, talk about their weekends and get to know each other on a personal level. This is excellent for team building as well as establishing a vibrant company culture.
Of course, video isn’t the only alternative to email. Chat-based collaboration tools, like Slack, have been called the email killer since they offer digital groups and rooms focused on a specific project. Instead of digging through multiple emails and addresses, employees can tag coworkers in relevant messages and solve problems in the moment. Proponents argue this is more natural for workers since our brains operate as a stream of consciousness.
Tools like this are also useful for new hires. Instead of logging into a new, albeit empty inbox, new employees are invited into a vibrant conversation space where they can read and review past conversations and projects.
Shared learning experiences are another team building technique that improves productivity. This can be done in a few ways such as webinars, all-hands meetings, skill-focused newsletters, etc. Some remote companies even use polling software to quiz coworkers during these training activities.
For example, Poll Everywhere offers businesses a way to collect votes and responses from mobile devices, custom URLS and social media. Tools like this one can be used to test user knowledge during training activities, ask open-ended questions or even gather anonymous responses on sensitive subjects like employee satisfaction.
Gamification is another trend sweeping through today’s digital workplaces. Inspired by video games and friendly competition, gamification encourages employees to get involved in work activities in a fun, low-pressure environment.
Let’s say you are running a brainstorm with your remote staff. Participants are rewarded points for the ideas they submit or the comments they share on suggestions from other employees. Whomever receives the most points can win a gift card or perk.
There’s something to be said about watercooler conversations. They help relieve the monotony of office life by allowing coworkers to bond. But what can remote offices do? Beyond virtual happy hours, some digital workplaces encourage their employees to get to know each other over social media. This way coworkers can share photos and fun facts about themselves. Maybe start off each week with an icebreaker to get people talking.
It can be hard enough getting everyone on the same page, even when they all work in the same building. Think about building a comprehensive calendar for your remote office. Not only will this help different teams arrange and allocate their resources, but it can also prevent embarrassing mix ups (like forgetting major holidays for employees in different countries). Remember to add birthdays and work anniversaries too!
A Bigger, Better Workplace
It’s wonderful to see so many businesses adapting to the changing digital workplace. We hope these training activities, tips and tools will help you build a company culture for your remote employees that is inclusive and productive.