It’s no secret that many companies have transitioned to remote work environments in the past year. Although this was due to the external circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work is most certainly here to stay. Not only do companies save on overhead on things like office space, but they also widen their hiring pool outside of traditional metropolitan areas such as New York and San Francisco. This is very beneficial for companies, but of course this also comes with unique challenges in terms of promoting and maintain a positive work environment and company culture.
One way to preempt this is to find virtual solutions to build company culture. While you can’t have work lunches, in-person meetings, or water cooler banter, there are ways to replace or even amplify these solutions with a virtual team. For one, you can use the virtual space to create unique ways for people to share their lives with one another. On Zoom calls, for example, you can have employees show off things they love from around their home, in a sort of adult show-and-tell. While this may seem a little corny, things like this help employees get to know each other, and will help them connect when working on a virtual team together.
One thing you need to realize is that one of the negatives of remote work is loneliness. In fact, this is the second biggest concern among those who have transitioned to remote work. That doesn’t mean that the company needs to provide for all of the emotional needs of their employees. Rather, it means that managers of virtual teams should use this as an opportunity to connect with their employees and subordinates in a way that may not have been possible or necessary in the office. Setting up things like virtual happy hours and off-topic Slack channels are a great way for employees to share more about themselves in a way that feels more personal.
Gone is the business casual attire of the office, and in come the sweatpants, t-shirts, and other home clothing. While that doesn’t mean the workplace itself isn’t responsible for certain deliverables and KPIs, it does mean that the workplace is inherently more casual. The workplace in the modern era needs to be treated as such and needs to reflect the values and sensibilities of the modern world. Employers need to keep in mind that pandemic burnout is real and that virtual teams need to operate by a different paradigm. Communication and setting realistic expectations is more important than ever, and companies need to make sure that the values they are setting forth to their virtual teams are workable and realistic.
Furthermore, managers of virtual teams need to have a strong work ethic and b able to corral team members into various tasks. By focusing on the team culture of a virtual team, they can make employees and subordinates feel like team members who are reaching toward a common goal. This will help people better focus on the task at hand and feel a sense of accomplishment and purpose in achieving goals that not only benefit the company, but also benefit themselves.