Remote workers are the office of the future. In 2017, a Gallup survey found that 43% of Americans worked remotely at least some of the time, with almost a third doing so four or five days a week.
The challenge of using remote teams
Working remotely is a great solution both for employers, who save money on office space and other overhead costs, and for employees, who want flexible work solutions to match their lifestyle needs. There is a slew of online tools that make remote working possible, from money transfer companies such as Payoneer that help companies make international supplier payments on time to communication apps that improve remote collaboration.
But businesses with remote workers still face one challenge – how to promote team spirit.
The trouble with working remotely is that it can feel remote. Without interacting in person, employees can feel isolated and on their own. When co-workers feel like they are on their own, their work becomes fragmented, trust disappears, and projects can fall apart.
How to build teamwork among remote workers
Here are some ideas for ways that managers can build strong interpersonal bonds with remote team members without face to face contact.
Video-conferencing gives your employees a chance to talk face to face. With video-conferencing, you can see the other person’s facial expressions and something of their body language. Video-conferencing allows your workers to have a mental image of their colleagues’ faces and tones of voice, making it easier for them to picture the real human being when they communicate through instant message.
- Encourage personal chat
Usually, the ideal meeting is as short as possible and focused only on work topics, but when you’re fielding a remote team, that’s not always best. Allow time for personal chat in every meeting and encourage workers to share some personal news as well as business updates.
- Create a space for social connections
Use communication tools like Jive, Slack, and Skype to build social bonds as well as for project collaboration and work-related discussions. Many companies with remote teams have a dedicated Slack channel or Whatsapp group for social chat and personal communication. It helps replace the watercooler for the kind of day to day, unimportant interactions which make your workers feel like they know each other.
- Play a game
An outside the box but successful team-bonding idea for remote employees is to play an online game together. It’s a great way to bring your remote workers together virtually for a fun activity, without anyone having to spend time and money on travel.
- Bring everyone together physically
The truth is that nothing can entirely replace in-person contact. Once a month, once every few months, or even once a year, try to bring your entire workforce together in the same physical space. It could be a fun retreat in a tourist location or a daylong bonding session at your business premises – what matters is to give your employees a chance to meet face to face for a few hours.
Despite the challenges of inspiring team spirit, there’s no going back from remote teams. These 5 tips can help you create a strong, connected team of remote workers who don’t lose out on teamwork for the sake of flexibility.