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How to create a great virtual culture

By Victoria Fellows

08/05/2020

Due to the impact of the Coronavirus, more people are working remotely than ever before. But, even as this pandemic passes, remote work is here to stay for many people across the country. 

Whilst already commonplace for many industries, some have been slower to adopt work-from-home practices and as such are only just starting to get to grips with the concept of communicating virtually on a regular basis - even though studies consistently show us that companies with work-from-anywhere policies can boost employee productivity, reduce turnover and lower organisational costs, 

Even with all of these benefits, workplace culture faces a few hurdles when it comes to remote working, including things like inclusivity, keeping employees motivated, managing feelings of isolation and being able to manage your teams effectively from home. 

So, how can you create a great virtual culture when your employees are working remotely? Here a few tips to help...

1) Be transparent about the future and set your expectations

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everyone's lives in some way and it’s greatly impacted businesses all over the world. It's important to have a clear, communicable plan for your business future, so you can share that with your employees. Maybe it means more remote work options, or getting back into the office quickly.

It might even mean talking about furloughs and layoffs. While that’s not necessarily a pleasant topic of conversation, being transparent about it now can help to prepare your employees for the future and create less stress and confusion. 

It's also crucial to set out your expectations. If you'd like everyone to be available for chats during a certain time, you should let them know. Outline deadlines that need to be met and be clear about who's responsible for what in your virtual team. Set up a weekly meeting for the team to attend so you can catch up on projects, their work and any problems they're facing.

2) Get to know your team, check in and stay connected

Over the last couple of months we’ve been getting to grips with using technology that was previously a staple for large organisations working in disparate teams across different continents. Yet despite the advancements in technology we have, it's far too easy to feel disconnected when you’re not working with people face-to-face. But in fact it’s never been a better time to get to know your virtual team members than now. All you have to do is put in the effort with that extra phone call or email to get to know their strengths and their weaknesses, their likes and dislikes, their family situation or their current work challenges. This in turn will help them to feel more engaged and improve their overall productivity and effectiveness.

Take advantage of all the tools we have at our fingertips that make it easier for people to effectively stay connected and work together. Not just text, phone and video conferencing, but productivity tools like basecamp, Google Hangouts or Slack. Regardless of which tool you choose, it’s important to allow your team a space in which they can communicate privately. Allowing them to speak freely to each other will make them more relaxed and lessen feelings of isolation as well as  bringing them closer together and fostering trust.

3) Centralise communication channels

Poor productivity, disconnected employees and increased stress occur in the virtual space just like in the real office.

The success of a strong virtual team relies on centralising your comms - creating a place where everyone can be in the know about everything affecting the company. Schedule regular meetings and stick to them - providing regularity and normality will keep your teams focussed at the task in hand and provide them with a sense of security.

How you communicate and through who, will be the foundation of your virtual team culture. This means if you’re using Microsoft teams to communicate consider creating a dedicated channel for team updates as well as work and project ones. 

4) Make it fun

It’s important to check in with your team as often as possible and don’t be afraid to mix things up when you communicate with one another. For starters, don’t be so formal all of the time. Host a morning exercise group via Zoom a few days a week with your team, or have a virtual mixer one night a week to catch up on what’s going on in each others lives. Think of it as standing by the water cooler - on your phone or computer. Nominating a 'Virtual Social Champion' can also help - someone who can instigate an informal communication network within the business and help to create some of the office banter we are probably all lacking.

Replacing emails or traditional phone calls with video chats can be effective and help everyone to feel like they’re actually talking in person. But, because so many people are relying on video chat right not, be sure not to overdo it, or it can cause video call fatigue. 

5) Ask for feedback

The reality is this time is uncertain and stressful, so don't be afraid to ask for feedback from your employees when it comes to how they're feeling and how they're coping with all of these changes. 

Sometimes, just being able to vent can make a big difference in your employees mental and emotional health, so provide that outlet for them, if possible. This is what can make a team stand apart: the ability to put all their cards on the table without fear of rejection, ridicule, or hurt feelings. When a level of candour is created like this, virtual teams are just as good as in-person teams.

Together we will see all of this through. So many businesses have had to adapt to stay strong and relevant through this current situation and that just shows how resilient businesses can truly be. If you continue to uphold a positive attitude and try to make the best of these uncertain times, your employees will notice and it can help them to manage their stress, stay productive and work to get back to some sense of normality - for the better.

For more information on how to motivate a team read our blog here. Or to talk to one of the team, call us on +44 (0)118 988 1150 or email us on enquiries@ic-resources.com