1. Start the Day Out Together
Schedule brief online meet-ups first thing each day to start workdays off with company connection. This doesn’t need to be a whole company check-in. Instead, let employees group up with those people they would naturally be around in the office to help build a positive remote culture.
For ten minutes, workers can chat just like they would if they were in person. Don’t enforce rules about how this time should be spent or limit it to conversation about work. Let them vent about a bad night's sleep or share about a trip they're looking forward to taking, and if talk about work comes up, let it be at their discretion. Having this time to speak together openly sets the tone for the day, reminding everyone that they are in this together.
2. Enjoy Time Together Outside of Office Hours
Within every company, there are varied interests among employees. Help build culture in a remote team by setting up a variety of after-hours groups and get-togethers to participate in. Set up a monthly book club for those who relax by reading to discuss the latest must-read over Zoom. Online gaming sessions with coworkers conversing over Discord are a great way to let those who prefer video games time to bond over blasting the latest boss into oblivion.
Host a Happy Hour event once a month for your company to unwind together over the internet with their drinks of choice or start a wine club for employees to share a glass or three of their favorite vintage. Start an exercise accountability group for those who are concerned about their health and would like support. The more you can encourage relationships between your employees, the better the company culture will be.
3. Establish Inclusive New Hire Practices
Being the new person at any job can be difficult, and remote work creates even more challenges as there are fewer opportunities to naturally get to know people. Without the break room to chat in or clearing a nasty jam in the copier to bond over, it’s hard for new hires to form authentic connections with coworkers. To combat this, establish an inviting culture and protocols for new hires that help them to feel seen and to see others.
Set the expectation that employees be welcoming to new team members. Discuss the difficulties inherent in coming into a new company when everyone’s working from home and ask established employees to be considerate of these when interacting with new ones. Remind current employees that the remote culture new employees experience will largely determine whether those employees will remain long-term, and how inviting other employees are plays a large part in that.
Schedule casual video calls with different departments for new hires to get to know those they’ll be working with. Ensure an HR representative not only gets them onboarded properly but that they are welcomed to company activities and groups and understand how to participate. Assign a buddy who they can check in with regularly and who can help integrate them into the company’s community. Have monthly meetings where those hired in the last 6 to 12 months can get together to ask questions, discuss issues and build relationships with other employees.
4. Acknowledge Home Office Life Challenges
It’s inevitable that in the background of many home office set-ups there are children working on homework, housemates conducting their own business and cats who are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to jump up onto the keyboard and make their Zoom debut. These situations can put extra pressure on individuals as they try to manage work and home life simultaneously, and it’s important that the company acknowledges that these circumstances are part of life now.
Take it further than being understanding of the occasional puppy popping up in the background of a call, though. Encourage a positive remote culture by setting up special events such as "Bring Your Child to Work Day” just like you might have in an office or host a contest for the cutest "office" cat. Hold a video call mixer to give employees the chance to show off their families, roommates and pets, further fostering the sense of an online community.
Additionally, have an understanding policy about choosing the “Video Off” option for regular video calls. With more activity in the home during work than ever before, some grace in allowing the video to be off at times will be appreciated. Letting your employees know you value the work they are doing in exceptional circumstances and reaffirming that everyone, even the family cat, is in this together is a great way to boost morale and build culture in your remote work team.
5. Create Company Playlists
Many offices have background music playing during the day to help keep the office inviting and comfortable, and the lack of that shared experience can be missed. Let employees take turns designing upbeat playlists of the day or week to share with the rest of the company on Spotify. Everyone’s version of good work music will differ, and it will give employees opportunities to be creative while reestablishing that shared connection through music. Keep listening optional, but for many workers, this will be something to look forward to and a way to strengthen bonds between them and their coworkers.
6. Assign Productivity Pals
Staying productive at home can be hard, especially when there are a dozen different things in the background of your home pulling at your attention. Assign productivity buddies who can help keep each other on track. Use a method such as the Pomodoro technique that lets employees set a timer for 25 minutes that they work through and then another shorter one that they take a break during, perhaps enjoying a conversation with their buddy for a few minutes. With this kind of partner system, it’s easier to keep accountable and adds a social component to that accountability that otherwise could be lost working from home.
7. Prepare and Share a Meal
Take turns choosing simple meals to prepare and share during lunch on Fridays or after hours on Mondays. Have the ingredients and directions sent out the week before so that everyone has plenty of time to prepare if they choose to participate. Employees can take their laptops into the kitchen if they like so that they can make the food together, or they can join in once the meal is ready. Then they can enjoy eating and discussing the meal together, reestablishing shared mealtimes, a once-treasured aspect of office life that many workers miss in remote work.
8. Brag Buddies
When working from home, opportunities for praise can be difficult to come by, particularly for women and minorities, so set up a brag buddy system. Make each worker responsible for noticing and speaking out about the wonderful work that their buddy does. It’s easier to talk about the achievements of others than your own accomplishments, and setting the expectation that you will brag and be bragged about helps eliminate anxiety over not being noticed while encouraging hard work. Bragging can take place in the chat of video calls, through emails or whatever way is most convenient to you and your company.
Working from home doesn't have to degrade your company's culture. Using a variety of tricks and tools can keep your remote work culture as vibrant and united as it would be in the office. For more information about how you can maintain your business success in today's market, check out ScaledOn's business blog.