To recap, in my first post, I discussed the Communication principle and how crucial it is to remain connected to teammates and in my second post I highlighted the importance of Collaboration and establishing an environment where everyone’s work preferences can thrive. The third and final principle I want to discuss is Culture. This principle is all about working together to create a healthy and productive remote work environment. The pandemic turned many people’s lives upside down with new work procedures, at-home schooling, uncertainties about the future, the list can go on. Understanding and accepting that everyone processes new changes differently than others is imperative to establishing a comfortable and thriving remote culture. Here are some tactics that our BerganKDV teams used and a couple others that seem like an interesting way to create a culture that embodies positivity and empathy during a transition to a work-from-home environment.
Create a User Manual for Working with You: This is an interesting idea that could be done across any team that works closely together. Here’s how the idea works:
A user manual is a “how to work with me” guide. It outlines what you like, what you don’t like, how you work best. This is something CEOs often provide to their executive assistants when they join a company to shorten the learning curve of working with them. It’s a “cheat sheet” of sorts, giving folks a way to learn about team members quickly and efficiently, which in turn allows them to work together more effectively. The process of creating a user manual speeds up the lessons learned from informal conversations or just trial and error by being explicit through documentation.
Take a Personality Assessment: If you haven’t already, I recommend taking a personality assessment and sharing it with your team. One advantage of a personality assessment is that it creates a structured way to think about differences between people and can be used as a mental model for how you can communicate better with someone you don’t know very well. A personality test can also tease out concepts that people would have trouble documenting on their own.
Share Hobbies and Fun Facts: You can do this in a variety of ways – during meeting ice breakers, on an internal communication page, etc. Whether you’ve been working at the company for years or recently joined, this is a fun way to connect with others on your team in a personal way.
Don’t Be All Business: One of the best things about working in an office is the opportunity for random conversations to happen. For example, if it’s someone’s birthday, there’s cake, of course. But there’s also the casual conversation that comes with the cake. During that celebration, you might learn that Jane has a dog she crochets sweaters for, and John has two kids that love soccer. If your team works remotely, don’t skip these opportunities to celebrate and network.
Use the Dedicated Spaces for Informal Conversation: Another relatively simple solution to building relationships is to use the dedicated space for virtual water cooler discussion, like a company Teams channel. These dedicated spaces encourage people to share tidbits about who they are and what they might be doing outside of work. While some people may participate a lot more than others, this can be another way to encourage informal discussion.
Set Up Mister Roger Calls: This is a creative spin off to typical 1:1 meetings. The intent is for your remote workers to get to know each other better. Each week you randomly match two people on your remote team. The team members then schedule a call for some time during the week. The only guidelines for the call are that it needs to be short (around 15 minutes) and you aren’t allowed to discuss work matters.
Plan Shared Meals: In an office, people break for meals often. It’s a chance for us to bond over an activity that humans have shared for centuries: eating. In fact, one recent study showed that workers who eat communal meals often collaborate better. You might not be able to recreate a communal meal with your whole team, but you can add shared, virtual meals to everyone’s calendar. Even if you are not able to cover the cost everyone’s food for your communal meal, you can make it feel like a group experience by agreeing on the menu – ex: Taco Tuesday or Turkey Sandwich Thursday.
Remember Key Dates and Do Something About Them: This final point is an area where there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit and I’m continually surprised that more people don’t do this. For the people on your team or others you work with regularly in another solution group, you should remember two key dates and mark them on your calendar: Hire Date and Birth Date. The idea is simple – you should celebrate these dates with the person. Maybe you celebrate as a team. It doesn’t have to be crazy, but even something small could make someone’s day.
In summary, show your remote team members you care by taking time to understand their world, stay in touch, and find ways to offer support by utilizing the three core principles of Communication, Collaboration, and Culture.