Remote work is not going away anytime soon, and neither is the need for healthy employee engagement. Remote work has a lot of benefits due to the freedom it provides. It can also present some challenges when it comes to how people feel about work.
Believe it or not, the company culture your office once provided doesn’t have to become a thing of the past. With some creative technology, it can be simple to maintain a healthy culture without sacrificing your employee’s safety and freedom. Here’s how:
1. Make the Switch to Asynchronous Work
A remote team means that any employee can be anywhere in the world as long as they fulfill the requirements of their role. This can be complicated if an employee lives in a different time zone with even just a one-hour difference. How do you make sure team members are keeping up with everyone else during their unique work hours? The key is to move away from synchronous work — which relies on everyone being available at the same time — entirely.
The opposite, asynchronous work, is set in motion by managing timelines and tasks around the abilities of everyone involved. Instead of scheduling tasks that depend on availability at certain times, you could plan a more flexible timeline. This way, as long as everyone meets specified deadlines, they can complete tasks at the times that work best for them. This approach decreases stress and increases productivity.
2. Use a Dedicated Platform for Effective Communication
Online messaging platforms like Slack are designed for communication between employees and can be separated into different groups, channels, and teams. They can also be used for company-wide updates and announcements — and more frequent check-ins mean a more unified culture. Without such platforms, it can be harder for individuals to feel connected to everybody else around them, lowering morale and commitment. Similar issues also apply to situations in which communication is too frequent or only one-way communication is the standard.
Perhaps the most important role of these messaging platforms is allowing users to communicate quickly without sharing their personal info (phone numbers). Problems that may have previously required a meeting can be discussed virtually, instantly, and a solution implemented in seconds. There’s no longer a need for unnecessary meetings, and the quick turnaround makes moving forward on schedule much faster.
3. Integrate More Online Avenues for Feedback
On top of this direct communication, another way to improve remote culture is to specifically improve channels of feedback. Discussions over text are simple to engage in for this purpose, but they also shroud emotion, tone, personality, and intention. More honest and clear feedback, as well the safety to respond to it, is key to maintaining motivation and engagement.
To this end, there are online employee engagement platforms like Lattice that focus less on messaging and more on structured interrelationships. They can enable anything from the aforementioned messaging to public commendations. These platforms also allow anonymous feedback, providing a higher perception of emotional safety. An openness to employees’ ideas and comments will not only improve their productivity, but help you hone your management capabilities as well.
4. Schedule Virtual Team-Building Activities
Just because everybody is working from home doesn’t mean you can’t have occasions dedicated to building connections with each other. On the contrary, interacting with co-workers in an online environment usually dedicated to work is very effective in increasing camaraderie. Virtual team building activities can even be as simple as having video hangouts and online game nights is enough to make people feel more comfortable with each other. More creative activities like playful mindfulness exercises and gag team presentations are even more engaging on this level.
You can go further with this and set aside time for such activities on the company calendar. A day off might seem like a waste of time at first glance, but the increased team cohesion will improve productivity going forward. You’ll likely find that more work got done without that day on the calendar than it would have otherwise.
5. Create a Virtual Employee-Led Team for Cultural Advocacy
The most important marker of a healthy work culture is whether everybody feels safe and heard at work. It’s easy to depersonalize (and be depersonalized) when you only work with someone in a virtual capacity. Take the initiative by encouraging employees to set up a diverse team of advocates who are focused on creating a healthy virtual environment. Such a team is meant to represent fellow employees on matters of inclusivity, respectful communication, and mental health, among others.
This is a great way to improve communication and prevent things like burnout and discrimination. Even when teams are remote, workers’ dedication to the company is heavily affected by how safe the least comfortable employee feels. Giving your talent safe spaces like these is the best way to ensure everybody feels they are being treated fairly.
Remote work has plenty of advantages, but it also poses new mental health challenges. Team members can feel isolated and miss their in-person interactions with their peers. With the right tech tools and a thoughtful approach, though, a remote work situation doesn’t have to be impersonal. Such tech not only offers convenience, but it can make the WFH experience more engaging and productive.