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Virtual Water Cooler Talk: Foster a Thriving Remote Community

Posted by StellaPop on Oct 28, 2020 6:45:00 AM
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Over the last several months, we've been talking a lot about how to manage remote teams and communicate effectively while working entirely online. Even if you're back in the office now, it's still likely group collaborations are happening in a hybrid if not completely online.

Either way, a group of team members huddled in collaboration over lunch is a very unlikely scenario.

We're having to get extremely creative in managing remote teams to ensure a collaborative company culture and build up a community. 

Making Connection a Priority

Social connection is a basic human need.

In John Robbin's health book, Healthy at 100, he states, "those with close social ties and unhealthful lifestyles (such as smoking, obesity and lack of exercise) actually lived longer than those with poor social ties but more healthful living habits." All this goes to say social relationships are an important factor for well-being in the short term and the long-term. 

While there are many benefits to remote teams, it takes away a heavy opportunity for in-person social contact and easier social connection. If you haven't been concerned about your team's social-emotional health, now's the time to rethink. 

As a leader, part of your role is ensuring your team members are doing well and not just turning in work on time. With this, part of your management strategies needs to include methods of fostering connections and community for your remote team. 

How to Create a Community with Remote Teams

How you work a community culture in your remote team will, of course, be largely specific to you and your team. However, there're strategies for developing connections remotely that work across the board. 

  1. Lead with Empathy First
  2. Consistent Communications
  3. Transparent Goals and Progress
  4. Help Create the Line between Work and Home
  5. A Little Bit of Fun

Lead with Empathy

One of the best skills of a good leader is the ability to empathize. Empathy is one of the key skills that separate good management from bad under normal circumstances. When you enter massive levels of uncertainty, it's a skill that becomes vital. 

You need to know when your team members are struggling so you can address their concerns and/or adjust their workload accordingly.

Think about how you're handling stress and the unknown and expect that your team may be going through similar ups and downs. It may actually be good to open up about your personal struggle or journey with all the changes. This can open conversation to what the struggles are for your team members - work-related or not. Then follow up. Check-in regularly. 

Consistent Communications

Whether you're a long-term remote team or a temporary fix, creating consistency in communication is an important part of team success. What channels of communications you're using is just as important as the clarity of your communication. 

Email is good for updates, follow-ups, and information you don't want easily lost. Programs like Slack are great for water-cooler chit-chat and collaborations. And of course, Zoom type applications where you can SEE each other is great for all-team meetings.

Transparent Goals and Progress

One of the pitfalls of remote working is it's easy to get left out of the loop. The big problem here is that not really knowing the goal or your progress makes it hard to get motivated to work well.

Being transparent creates stability for your team members as they don't have to question or second-guess their role. It is also effective in motivating your team to create quality work as the company goals become their goals. Again, this fosters a sense of togetherness and community as your team works together for the same end. 

Help Create the Line between Work and Home

A very simple and effective way of ensuring your team member feel seen is how you handle working hours and meetings.

If you're a temporary team, you may all be local to one another. However, long-time remote teams often have talented team members from all over. This means different time zones. By minding time zones when scheduling meetings, setting up calls, or even sending emails, you're being mindful of who they're as a person. 

It's hard enough to keep a balance between work and home when you work at home. Your employees will appreciate not having a video conference at nine at night if it's avoidable. And by doing so, they'll feel respected, which goes a long way in making the individual a part of the whole. 

A Little Bit of Fun

Lastly, you may not have break-room birthdays or company events, but that doesn't mean don't worry about creating fun. Really, you're creating an opportunity to be casual, to get to know one another, and otherwise bond. This. Is. Important. 

Some remote companies have established "happy hours" or "round tables." These range from gratitude discussions to a team Drawful tournament. This might seem like time that could be spent doing something productive. However, if you want a remote team that's connected, communicative, and motivated to help, it's exactly what you need. 

Building Community Among Remote Workers

Ultimately, to get a remote team functioning as a community, a "video-off" video conference every month won't cut it. As a leader, you set the tone. You create the space for a community to grow or create more work for yourself hodge-podging the work of individuals together. For tips and guidance on how to build a strong culture and community, get in touch with the StellaPop team. We're always happy to chat by the virtual water cooler!

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See Also:

Attract Top Talent by Prioritizing Company Culture

The ABCs of Business Management: Manage Your Business from Top to Bottom

4 Snap-Happy Activities for Virtual Team Building

Topics: Management, Leadership

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