“It’s not personal, it’s strictly business.” That might be true if you’re in business with Michael Corleone, but for everyone else, business is personal. Humans are social animals, after all; We need personal relationships in order to thrive. And since we spend just as much (if not more) time with our co-workers than our friends, children or spouses, it’s natural—and healthy!—for work relationships to be social. Watercooler talk isn’t just a side-effect of workplace culture; it’s critical to team-building in your organization.
But what if your team is remote? They can’t exactly pop by for a chat, or get to know each other over the coffee machine. That said, their social needs don’t change. Remote team-building is vital to fostering a culture of trust, cohesion and open communication. So if your remote team is going to trust each other, they’ll need to spend relational time together.
How on earth do you build relationships when you work from home? Well, with some intentionality and creativity, you can create healthy remote teams that know and trust each other even better than many on-site teams do.
Spend social time “together” online
Just because you don’t have a shared workspace doesn’t mean you can’t get to know each other. The most successful teams know and enjoy each other—and that goes double for virtual teams, who often have to put in the extra effort to build meaningful relationships.
If you’re struggling to come up with ways to spend time together, here are some of our favorite ways to interact with our virtual teammates:
- Set aside time in meetings for personal updates
- Recognize team birthdays in an email or groupchat
- Ask about each other’s families, and actively listen
- Set up video conferences when your office has a party, brown-bag lunches, or other social event
- Host an event for the whole team
Set expectations for virtual communication
It’s amazing how much trickier communication can be with a remote team. Scheduling across time zones can get tricky, new technology can be confusing and it’s oh-so-easy to subtly work on projects during a virtual meeting. But agreeing on “house rules” ahead of time can streamline virtual communication while boosting productivity, allowing your team to make the most of their time together.
Consider implementing guidelines like:
- Mute your microphone during virtual meetings when you’re not talking
- Schedule meetings with everyone’s time zone in mind
- No multitasking during the meeting
- Turn on your video for every meeting (it’s amazing what face-to-face experiences do for morale!)
Form a team identity
Remote employees aren’t just physically distanced from each other; They might feel disconnected from the company on an emotional level, too. Let’s be honest, it’s can easy to forget how vital your job is when you’re working from your couch, leading some remote employees to feel inadequate or even unneeded. If you want your team to blow the doors off expectations, make sure all your team members understand how important they are to the organization by building a strong team identity. Here are a few things you can do to foster a sense of belonging:
- Name your team. It doesn’t have to be corny, but it helps if it’s not boring!
- Praise your team to each other. Celebrate wins and accomplishments. Be specific. Shoutouts in meetings are a great place to recognize a job well done.
- Stay connected with your team member’s experiences, and help mitigate remote work burnout whenever possible.
- Give employees fair, effective feedback that leaves them feeling motivated and heard
Meet in-person when you can
Whenever possible, bring your virtual team together in the real world. It’s a great way to help them form better working relationships and feel more in-tune with the organization as a whole. Your quarterly or annual business meetings are probably the best time to fly them in. But why not find other opportunities?
Consider bringing the team together for:
- Company anniversary celebrations
- Major product launches
- Holiday events
- Just because—who says you need a reason?!
Even if you can’t bring your entire remote team in, try to connect remote employees who live close to each other. Gather your California team or your New York team a few times per year and share photos with the rest of the company.
Pro Tip! As long as we’re talking about photos, we highly recommend using photo icons in your work chat software and email. When you see someone’s face, it helps you feel more connected to them. It seems small, we know, but we promise it works wonders.
Make your business personal
Business is personal, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Building relationships in a remote team may take more intentionality, but you’ll get a happy, productive team in return. Trust us—Bloom Growth is 100% remote! Hang in there, give it the commitment it deserves, and you’ll see the payoff!
Looking for a cloud-based, collaborative platform for team meetings? Streamline your business and empower your team with Bloom Growth—Start your 30-day free trial today!