One of the trends COVID-19 has ushered in and likely will last is working from home. 61 percent of respondents said working from home will remain after the pandemic, according to a new PRNEWS survey.
While employees may enjoy working remotely, they still need to feel connected, supported and informed. Leaders are tasked with facilitating a thriving remote culture that allows employees to feel connected to each other and their work. As the leader of a virtual agency, here are 5 things I’ve learned:
Live the culture
Companies sometimes offer benefits and call them culture. While great benefits are valuable, they must be combined with a fulfilling culture to ensure an employee’s happiness and longevity.
Culture requires a strong, healthy foundation–and a relentless commitment to open communication, authenticity and care. It's up to leaders to define culture and live it publicly.
Through internal communication, consider mission and values. In addition, mission and values should permeate remote office structure, from tools to team building. Provide employees with weekly updates on business health or developments. Encourage buy-in by including them on ideation or problem-solving sessions. Celebrate milestones, have fun and build camaraderie.
Key to the success of remote culture is whether you can release control to empower your team despite not being able to see staff in the office. Create a structure that facilitates autonomy and results, then trust staff to operate within it. At the same time, understand that not every employee is suitable for a long-term remote environment.
Each team member should prioritize frequent and proactive communication. This is critical for teams that need to work and collaborate virtually. One of my mantras is Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. The repetition is intentional. Implement regular one-on-ones between staff and leadership, feedback and mentorship to help foster continuous, intentional communication.
Invest up front
Make time to connect with new team members over video. Share company history, goals and culture. In a remote work environment, it's even more critical to show level-of-care up front. Help new staff get to know the larger team, understand their role and engage with enthusiasm. A standardized onboarding process, including several one-on-one meetings and training videos, is key to making this work virtually.
Empower every team member as a culture keeper
Culture is cultivated with the contribution of each team member’s thoughts, words and actions. As a leader, this translates to listening well, fostering employees’ good ideas and providing regular opportunities for direct communication. This demonstration of candor should be cultivated among peers by encouraging open door policies and peer-to-peer praise or feedback.
In a remote work environment, it's essential to prioritize time and tools for meaningful connection. These interactions and team-building times can be unstructured and quick through tools like Slack, or more formalized with scheduled gatherings.
Include opportunities for employees to co-work, partner on projects and chat at a virtual water cooler. Once a week, get together, just for fun. Hold a coffee date or group happy hour.
While these concepts may take new shape in a remote environment, the foundational elements to creating a positive culture are the same.
So, whether you find yourself working in an office or from your kitchen table, employees want to feel engaged, empowered and experience meaningful connections. It is the leader's responsibility to create an environment that helps teams thrive.
Kate Finley is founder and CEO of Belle Communication