If your business has begun expanding in the middle of the pandemic, this is a good sign that you are making good decisions during the crisis. However, you also face the unique challenge of getting to know staff and learning how to work with each other in the absence of physical meetings.
With the lack of hellos exchanged in hallways and meals and stories shared in the cafeteria, your remote team needs to find creative ways to break the ice and work with each other comfortably.
There are two main aspects of a good virtual culture that you should focus on: building camaraderie and creating trust in each other’s competencies.
Three Ways to Build Camaraderie
The initial concern with having a team that has not met each other in person is learning how to familiarize themselves with each other. Here are a few tips for accomplishing this.
1. Provide remote office “uniforms”
It seems like a small matter, but providing new hires with a tangible welcome to the team is meaningful. Creating and sending custom-made shirts to your team is a simple and special way of telling them that they are now an official part of the company.
Keep quality in mind, too. Giving a poorly made gift to a new recruit sends the message that little effort was put into it or that it does not matter that much. Have your team shirts printed using a fully automatic heat press to ensure the quality of the print.
Whatever welcoming gift you give your new team members, make it thoughtful and useful.
2. Create a group chat outside of your work chat
Recall your days in the office, back when you could freely converse with coworkers. So many of these workplace friendships were built by getting to know people through casual talks and jokes. The problem now is how do you replicate this in a purely virtual setting?
One way is to set up a group chat separate from all your work-related channels. This can act as a free-for-all space where teammates can recommend shows or movies they watched, books they read, recipes they made, and anything else that they would like to share outside of work.
3. Hold team video calls
As you get to know your team through the onboarding process, working with them, and other channels, you may still feel the need to build rapport in another way. It is a different feeling when you get together in a conference call to see each other’s faces and interact there.
You could occasionally already hold conference calls for your meetings, but it would be a good idea to have these calls, too, to celebrate team milestones or just an occasion such as Christmas or Halloween. Interactions like these help further break the ice with teammates.
Three Ways to Build Trust in Teammates’ Skills
Aside from being friendly with each other, your teammates also need to understand and believe each other’s skills. There are ways to foster this in addition to the daily tasks they have to work on together.
1. Make an effort to be present as a leader
As the leader of a company with a virtual team, you have to make a good effort to make your presence felt as its head—not to intimidate your team, but to reassure them. For example, in the onboarding process, if there is a manageable amount of new hires, personally be the one to welcome them to the team.
You can also be the one to make important announcements on team channels. You can even initiate conversations, too, such as asking staff about how you can improve your team communication and operations.
2. Partner new hires with “mentors”
It can be disorienting for new employees to get used to the remote work setup, so it is good to ease them into the rhythm of day-to-day work. Assign a current team member to assist newbies on their first couple of weeks at work. They can act as a point person for any questions or concerns that might arise.
3. Allow team members to provide feedback for each other
Create a culture also that enables colleagues to give constructive feedback to each other to help everyone improve. This can be through a chat group that provides help for certain deliverables or by pairing older employees with new ones to collaborate on tasks. This way, everyone is open to correction and the team builds a culture of openness and teamwork.
There is no doubt that doing all these is going to be awkward at first, but don’t give up! This is new for everyone in the team, so give it time for your team to get used to.