Since March, the way many small businesses function has fundamentally changed. Office life has been put aside in favour of work from home, with companies discovering staff can function just as effectively in remote locations. While tasks are being completed on time and quality of work hasn’t suffered, one aspect of office life is proving hard to replicate – office culture.
Leaders who have intentionally nurtured an amazing office-based culture have been left scrambling, trying to identify ways to keep staff working together as one cohesive team in separate locations. In an effort to help, we’ve put together five best practices for building a great culture when staff are working remotely.
So much learning happens in the workplace from hearing conversations. Whether it’s two members of a team discussing a problem, or overhearing others detailing a task, this learning via osmosis has proven a challenge in a remote environment. In times like these, overcommunication can work to replicate this feeling. Ask your team members to regularly share what they’re working on, the status of objectives, and problems they may be facing. This open dialogue allows team members to chime in with their insights on issues and share their expertise.
Lean on Software
We’ve never had more tools available to us to remain connected. Utilize chat software like Slack to create various channels for cross-company communication. Some channels can be project-focused, some dedicated to the social side of things. Create a virtual ‘watercooler’ for your team members to post interesting updates and spark discussion. If uptake is slow, take a leadership role and start conversations yourself. Software like Zoom facilities instant video conversations. Schedule regular video calls for staff to update each other on tasks and communicate face-to-face. Consider one-on-ones with team members each week to act as a status check.
Many workplaces integrate a fun activity into office life each week. While we aren’t sharing a common workspace, these activities can happen just as effectively in a remote setting. This could involve tasks such as asking staff to post pictures of their pets, quizzes, or even a game of Pictionary. This small social element will work to keep staff feeling like they’re part of a team and not just a cog in a machine. At Small Business BC, we each received a plant to our remote offices that we tend to and update each other on. It’s been a great team building exercise learning plant care tips from others, while simultaneously brightening up our workstations.
Give Your Full Attention
With such limited opportunities to interact face-to-face, it’s vital team members give each other their full attention while on the phone or video calls. In an office environment, we’re used to having conversations while typing, or looking at something on our computer. Unfortunately, communicating by phone or video just doesn’t work the same way. We rely on non-verbal cues for a lot of our communication and this is missed when you aren’t devoting your full attention to a subject. Ask team members to turn off notifications, close down programs and give their full attention when chatting to one another. This will help to maximize the benefit of meetings and conversations in a remote environment.
Hold an All-Hands Meeting Once Per Week
At SBBC, our entire team gathers together via Zoom once per week to share our updates and communicate any important information. This exercise is invaluable, as it’s often the only time some of our team members will see each other each week. Team members should receive an opportunity to speak, sharing their successes, their challenges, and anything noteworthy happening outside of work. This face-to-face connection is time well spent for any company and should be considered essential to a thriving remote culture.
Here to Help
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Small Business BC is here to support your business with the resources you need to succeed. Discover our range of educational webinars, book a one-on-one consultation with one of our business experts, or share your business with our province-wide audience and list yourself on our BC Marketplace. It’s free and signing up is simple!