Study after study reinforces that remote workers enjoy greater job satisfaction, work/life balance, and are more productive. As more organizations embrace the benefits of a remote workforce, they also recognize that leading a virtual team comes with unique challenges. New leaders may struggle with using traditional management techniques for building team spirit in a virtual environment. Additionally, they often report feeling unsure about how to create a sense of connectedness and rapport amongst their virtual team.
Leading a virtual team requires both leaders and team members to be intentional about building relationships with one another. The leader must create opportunities for team-building and personal connections. Here are a few ideas for building team spirit on a remote team:
Define the culture—Much like the way you define the company culture based on the company’s values, you’ll want to extend that to your virtual team as well. There may be some additional values you’ll want to define that specifically relate to the virtual team. For example, work-life balance, defining priorities, communication expectations, etc.
Lead by example—One important aspect of connecting with a virtual team is to be visible often by video. This isn’t always a comfortable experience for people who are new to remote working. It’s up to the leader to set the example by being camera-on as much as possible. The leader can also make this a more comfortable experience by expressing that the importance is on staying connected, not on looking camera-ready at all times. There’s likely no need to get dressed up in a suit and tie just to appear professional on camera.
Invest in the team—One benefit of virtual teams is reduced cost for the organization. Re-allocate those savings by bringing the team together in person on regular basis. Planning quarterly or semi-annual team-building activities and time to socialize together will be an investment in the foundation of their relationships.
Go the extra mile to mirror in-person experiences—Be intentional about including remote teams in activities that in-office teams are having together. From office celebrations and spirit days to Halloween costume contests, etc., it can be easy for the virtual team to feel left out of the company experience. Always think of ways that the in-office celebrations can be extended to the virtual team where possible.
Challenges—From corporate wellness step challenges to online games, creating offline challenges can make employees feel connected to one another in a unique way. This gives them a shared goal, fun competition, and opportunities to interact about something other than work.
Virtual Water Cooler—Many virtual employees report missing out on the little things like non-work related small talk at the coffee station in the mornings. As you work to build up the informal connections, it can be very effective to add a channel to your preferred collaboration tech (Microsoft Teams, Slack, etc.) that is solely related to non-work related chat. Personal achievement updates, funny experiences with the kids, pics of team members’ pets, etc., all help team members build deeper connections to learn more about one another.
The common theme across all of these ideas is to replicate as much of the in-office team experience as possible. It will take a bit more thought and creativity, but your virtual teams will feel more included and connected than ever.