In the past, it was all too easy to take company culture for granted and focus on other HR issues, like creating safe working conditions. But given the pandemic and the tremendous shift to remote work, businesses must work hard to develop what happens organically in an office setting – a sense of belonging and inclusion.
So how can you make remote workers feel like a genuine part of the company’s fabric, even if they’re at home? Keep reading to find out the best strategies.
1. Tap Into Multi-Channel Communication
Being in an office affords plenty of opportunities for communication and interaction. However, these opportunities disappear at home, causing employees to feel disconnected from their workplace.
Effective communication is critical in a remote environment, and a multi-channel approach is the best way to stay in contact. Video calls and team meetings are a vital pillar of this different communication style, and sending more audio messages instead of emails can be helpful as well.
But perhaps most critically, you want to focus on our next point.
2. Encourage Watercooler Chat
Spontaneous opportunities to get to know your coworkers also disappear when you work from home. There’s no chatting in the elevator on your way to the office or in the kitchen during lunch breaks – practices that build camaraderie among coworkers.
Since watercooler chat is not happening organically, schedule time for it. Allow a few minutes at the start of virtual meetings to talk about non-work related topics. Encourage employees to chat about other things at the beginning of their calls, too.
3. Keep Communication Open
Team members feel connected when they feel heard, and what’s the best way to ensure that? Keep an open line of communication, even if you can’t see or interact with your colleagues in-person.
Hold regular check-in meetings to ensure everything is running smoothly and that everyone has what they need. Doing so helps everyone feel seen, heard, and appreciated. Similarly, encourage employees to ask questions or voice concerns. If they are comfortable being honest and their voice is heard, they are likely to feel more connected.
4. Use Calendars
When you’re in the office, it’s easy to get a sense of whether someone needs to focus. Maybe their door is closed, or perhaps they’re giving off strong “in the zone” vibes. Things change when working remotely; believe it or not, many people struggle with distraction.
To safeguard everyone’s time, encourage your team to use their calendars. They can schedule blocks of time if they need to focus, allowing others to check if their colleagues are busy.
5. Listen to Employee Feedback
Another excellent way to make remote workers feel included is to ask them what you can do better! We all want to be heard, so asking your workers for input is an excellent way to strengthen ties to the company. Prioritize getting feedback from employees, let them know that you’re around to listen, and take action when necessary.
There are many ways to solicit employee feedback, such as:
Employee feedback tools
6. Redefine the Vision
Has your company’s vision switched to mere survival since the start of the pandemic? You’re not alone. But even if you’re in survival mode, your employees need a purpose to connect with – a reason to “show up” for work.
Now’s the perfect time to realign your vision to fit the times. It should be rooted in a higher purpose for the community, environment, or your customers. Plus, it’s also helpful if your vision can match the current pandemic-mandated remote work situation.
For example, your new vision might be to ensure safe working conditions to keep everyone healthy while moving forward.
7. Use Social Media
Leverage social media to bring remote workers closer together – and no, we don’t mean you need to be friends with all your colleagues on Facebook.
Instead, sites like LinkedIn are an ideal place for sharing snippets of what employees are doing at work. Some companies even use WhatsApp team chats to stay in touch.
Whatever the platform, the important thing is encouraging employees to keep each other updated and having conversations. Used carefully, social media can help foster a richer, more connected workplace.
8. Carve out Time for Fun
With the pandemic, lots of fun, in-person work traditions (like pizza day or monthly birthday celebrations) have been put on the backburner. But just because your employees are remote doesn’t mean that they have to miss out on fun events at the office. Make sure to schedule some time for fun – even if it is virtual.
Companies are choosing all kinds of creative virtual hangouts, like trivia, happy hour, online games, and virtual scavenger hunts. Some even organize virtual meals with food delivered to employees! Team building virtually has been our focus at BEST for almost a year now, and we have over 40 different programs to do something fun virtually with your team. The bottom line? A little effort goes a long way, and a bit of fun can make everyone feel connected.
Whether your company just recently made the switch to remote work or you are looking to strengthen the connection with your long-term remote workers, these tips will help everyone feel heard and included. Start a meeting with your team and discuss what strategies they would like to implement. Stay connected, even at a distance!