Remote work has seen tremendous growth over the past decade, even before COVID-19 struck. With millions of people around the world are based in their home office, companies operating remotely often face challenges to nurture a cohesive team culture when their team members are so geographically dispersed. How can companies cultivate and maintain a close-knit team identity and avoid the disconnect resulting from lack of human interaction and connections from a shared physical space?
At Congero Technology Group, 100% of our workforce is remote, and we’ve been gathering our remote working experience for years. Here is what have been working for us to consolidate our culture despite being physically isolated.
Utilize Online Communication Tools
Communication is the crucial factor of keeping a remote team together. The lack of organic, in-person conversations and lead to miscommunication, disconnect, and loss of a sense of belonging. A Wall Street Journal article stated that “a workplace culture where employees feel a sense of belonging” is what distinguishes a company from the others.
Having engaging, interactive, personal conversations would help with the disconnect and create a sense of community. Current technology has made it possible for remote communication to happen with tools that allow group video meetings, instant messaging, project collaborations and group scheduling. Zoom, Google Meet, Slack, Google Calendar, Google Drive are some of those tools that we can use to our advantage.
Team meetings are essential for joint projects and collaborations. During these team meetings, it is important for leaders to intentionally involve all team members and make sure everyone feels heard. Team members should feel more than just another participant in a video call. They should feel like a critical piece of a bigger whole. As there is less opportunity to clarify miscommunications from less body language, expressions and gestures, all participants should set a comprehensive tone and be as elaborated as possible to put the whole team on the same page.
Conducting all-hands meetings is also important to keep everyone updated and informed about the company and address any questions or concerns. Here at Congero, we have monthly all-hands meetings with everyone on deck to discuss strategies, progress and strengthen team bonds.
Being in the confined four walls of the work from home life, employees can’t have casual conversations at the coffee machine or small talks in the hallway running into each other. It is important to have one-on-one, fun, off-topic conversations between employees to get to know each other on a more personal level. This brings a sense of closeness and creates a more unique bond between individuals. Many employees feel uncomfortable voicing their concerns in a team setting, so one-on-ones between leaders and team members can provide the opportunity for employees to express themselves.
Frequent Feedback and Recognition
Publicly recognizing an achievement or a job well done is a very effective way of motivating a team. Recognition gives the accomplished team/member the credit they deserve and the opportunity for others to congratulate, compliment and be inspired to deliver better performance. When employees feel inspired and motivated, they grow a stronger drive as a team to push each other individually to do better.
Aside from positive recognition, honest feedback is necessary to reinforce company’s performance goals. In an office workspace, it is easy to just stop by someone’s desk/office and make a comment about their work. Unfortunately, this is not possible for a remote team. Frequent check-ins to evaluate progress and work quality will keep team members more in touch with their projects and come up to speed if they’re slacking.
Sensitivity to Diversity
A geographically distributed team means team members can be from very different parts of the world with different languages, cultures, time zones, and beliefs. Leaders need to be intentional and considerate when interacting with a diverse workforce to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable with their work environment. If you have a meeting in Dallas, Texas at 8 a.m., don’t start with “good morning” as it might be dinner time for your team members in the Philippines or a partner in India.
Employees need to be sensitive to each other during casual conversations. Avoid jokes or topics that attack other cultures/beliefs and avoid breaking the bond between coworkers.
As an example for this issue, here at Congero Technology Group, we had an encounter with cultural differences which caused misunderstandings and difficulties in collaborations. Our team members from India had a more quiet, concentrating working style, while our members from Latin America were more cheerful and goofy. The former thought of their partners as distracted and unproductive, while the latter felt like their Indian teammates were too serious and discrete. However, after frequent and interactive conversations directly when working together, they all realized their perceptions were not always true, and they learned a way to collaborate effectively.
Overall, creating a culture for a geographically dispersed team requires time, effort and resources. It is possible, though, by following the best practices outlined above. Team culture is an important part of the organization and acts as the glue that holds everyone together despite the physical distance. The more cohesive the team culture is, the happier and more productive employees are.