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Team Building in a Remote Work Environment

A laptop screen with 4 zoom participants.

As remote work becomes standard for many industries, companies need to strive to build and support their team’s professional community. As an entirely remote team, we here at Rosewood have some key strategies that have been invaluable for team building in a remote work environment. 

One is the Loneliest Number

Remote work has provided both employees and businesses with benefits. It saves employees the cost of a lengthy commute as well as the flexibility and convenience of working from home. That has both direct and indirect benefits on employees’ mental health which results in up to 47% increased productivity. The option of remote work further benefits businesses by reducing the costs for workspace and offers a larger and more diverse pool of skilled applicants across the country and even the world. But that remote work can also deprive workers of a collegial community that offers socialization, collaboration, networking, and mentoring. In a survey by Buffer, 24% found loneliness and isolation their main struggle with remote work while another 17% said communication and collaboration. That separation can lead to a disconnect from one’s work and lower their enthusiasm or focus. To combat that isolation, consider the following advice for building and uniting that remote team.

Communication Channels Tie the Team Together 

Communication is essential for every kind of collaboration. Colleagues need to stay connected and informed to ensure a project is properly progressing. Provide both asynchronous and synchronous communication tools for your employees. Asynchronous communication, like email or project management platforms (Monday.com), allows team members to communicate directly. It’s particularly useful for sending crucial information and accommodating the different work schedules and timezones a remote team can have. Synchronous communication, such as in virtual meetings, allows for team members to discuss immediately. This kind of communication is best when a conversation or active dialogue is necessary. It also allows for more open-floor discussions where team members, who may not want to or be able to contribute in an email chain, will provide their own input on an issue or project.

Messaging Platforms Create Community

Professional messaging platforms such as Slack provide both asynchronous and synchronous communication channels. Direct messages between team members or conversations between a sub-team can be asynchronous, while communication on team, project, or company branch channels is typically synchronous, as channel members respond to each other instantaneously. Platforms like Slack allow the organization of your team members into channels that can be distinguished by company branches (e.g. marketing, web design) or projects (e.g. February photoshoot). Creating such channels organizes communication in your company, so that everyone can easily stay updated on their specific work concerns while not being confused with irrelevant information.

Fun is Essential to Team Building

Don’t make your communication channels all about work. Remote team building relies on socializing, and people create strong social bonds by talking about more than work. Create channels where your team can discuss TV shows, movies, or various hobbies along with an open-ended “Random” or “Miscellaneous” channel. Be sure to set limits on the kind of comments or material that should be discussed. Part of building a united team is ensuring your work community is respectful and accepting. Just like public online communities, moderation will help keep any messaging channel welcoming for all team members.

Co-working Spaces

While not all of your team members live close to one another, some might. These members can occasionally socialize and collaborate in-person. This doesn’t mean you have to find a dedicated office space in their area. Instead, you can facilitate their use of a co-working space to regularly meet and work together and socialize. These co-working spaces also provide the opportunity to meet and socialize with other members of your industry. Those additional networking opportunities will benefit the social and mental health of your employees, while also potentially providing your team and business with valuable industry connections.

Bringing the Team Together

If some team members do live nearby to one another, you can build team unity with social events outside work. Provide social planning channels where employees can express their interest in meeting up. You can even host an annual event where all employees can come to one central location for a social event. Last year, Rosewood’s team members from across Canada came to Toronto for a photoshoot, escape room, and dinner. It was an excellent bonding and team building moment for our entirely remote team.

Online Events are Perfect for Remote Team Building 

Events don’t just need to be in-person. As many looked for digital socialization methods during the pandemic, the options have flourished. Providing digital events where employees can socialize in a relaxed setting is perfect for team building in remote settings. Use Zoom or other online meeting platforms to host events where coworkers can socialize and play games. In the last few years, Jackbox Games have become a digital party standard because of their humor and play structure. Only one person needs to own and share the game’s video, while each player participates through an internet browser on their phone or computer. There are also numerous other games available in browsers or games with low computer requirements and on phones. During the pandemic, the social deception game Among Usbecame popular precisely for this reason. If employees prefer other forms of entertainment, movie and TV events are easily arranged as streaming services provide “watch party” modes where everyone can watch the same thing simultaneously. 

Building Your Team’s Connection Starts with You

In truth, there are now innumerable resources for building a united team in a remote work environment. People are naturally drawn to socialize, especially with those they have something in common with like their workplace. The best tactic is to get a sense of what interests your team. Any socialization will only work if employees want to participate. If you want to get your team to talk with each other, it starts with talking to them.

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