How to Cultivate Engagement Amongst Remote Teams
By Hanna Marie Asmussen, Co-Founder and CEO of Localyze
As the working world continues to evolve, 8 in 10 people are now working hybrid or remotely, while only 2 in 10 are entirely on-site, according to a 2022 Gallup survey. “Remote work” has evolved to “work from anywhere”, which has, in turn, created more distance between coworkers than ever before.
Whilst this change clearly has its benefits, organisations globally struggle to maintain a company culture. As a result, we’ve seen in recent months that many employers still hesitate to embrace a remote working model, which puts them at direct odds with their own people.
Creating a healthy culture among remote teams is achievable, so long as companies look for ways to build meaningful connections in more creative ways. In my view, there are three pillars to achieving this: flexibility, meaningful communication, and mobility.
Those working remotely often experience a less obvious boundary between their professional and personal responsibilities. Organisations should acknowledge this fact and offer flexibility to give their people more autonomy over their time. Not only does this display empathy and understanding, it can also enable employees to balance personal circumstances with work responsibilities more efficiently.
What impact does that have on company culture? To build meaningful connections with one another, people need to be present and free of distractions. Few can be in the right mindset when they have something going on behind the scenes that they cannot address because of work. Trust your people with that flexibility, and they will meet you halfway.
From my experience, conversations—whether virtual or in-person—should not be just about work projects. If the objective is to build strong bonds between your people, then create opportunities for them to come together over topics outside of work.
This could happen at weekly team hangouts, or even on a smaller scale—for example, five minutes of one-to-ones during which you have more relaxed conversations before getting to business. Changes like this open up the doors for employees to share more about their personal lives and see what they have in common. It’s also an opportunity for people to support each other emotionally as peers, or even friends.
But a note of caution—not everyone will want to mix personal with professional, and that’s something we should respect. Do not make these connections mandatory, rather focus on creating space for them to happen naturally.
The best ideas or insights usually take shape away from your desk, when going to the coffee machine together or stepping out to get lunch. These daily moments no longer happen spontaneously in a remote world—so we have to think of new ways to set them in motion.
One example of how to encourage more of this connection is offsite. Pulling the whole team together in person to dive into team building or go out for evening meals helps many to build bonds and trust in each other. Being behind a screen, many cannot get an emotional feel for their colleagues and trust is hard to gain. I believe physical meetings not only enhance culture, but also put many at ease mentally.
Remote work and a strong culture are not mutually exclusive concepts. Show your people that you’re just as invested in building a strong team spirit as you were before WFH came into the picture. Give people the room to be flexible, encourage more off-the-cuff interactions, and provide the resources and autonomy people need to come together in ways that suit them best.