How to Create Office Unity and Community When You're Remote Three ways to make remote employees feel like they're part of the larger goal.

By John Boitnott

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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In the last 15 years, regular work at home employment has grown 173 percent. That's 11 percent faster than the rest of the workforce. Now with the current crisis pushing more employees to work remotely, workforces could change even more in the near future. Who knows, that might even leave more room for a healthier work/life balance going forward.

Related: Here's What Jeff Bezos Prefers to Work-Life Balance and Why You Should Live By It

Remote work has also provided access to the workforce to many who may have had limited opportunities in the past, such as stay at home parents or people with disabilities. Having the option to work from home has been proven to improve workplace satisfaction and reduce attrition, so it's no wonder that more and more employers were allowing and even encouraging remote work before the health crisis came along.

Despite all the benefits, the increase in employees working from home or remotely does create some very real difficulties for employers. One of the largest of these is creating and maintaining a strong remote office community.

A united team is an efficient team, but how do we accomplish this? When your employees are not going into an office, how do you work collaboratively with them? How do you strengthen company loyalty? How do you incentivize, and how do you hold them accountable? Below are a few ideas you can explore to help you build a connected and effective remote team.

Related: How to Keep Gen X Employees from Leaving Your Company

Use communication platforms wisely

In order to keep employees focused and motivated, it is important to consistently remind them that they are part of two teams — that of their department and that of the company at large. One great way to impart the feeling that work is appreciated is to give company-wide shoutouts to individual employees or teams for specific achievements. This will remind individuals and teams that their work is contributing an overall mission and keep everyone privy to company successes.

It's also important to have individual communication channels for every team in your office, no matter how large or small. Services such as Slack, Hipchat, Trillion and Zoom let you create multiple instant communication platforms (from messaging to video calling) within your company.

Related: Slack 101: How and Why to Create a Community on This Platform

For instance, you could have channels for marketing, IT and finance. If there are side projects with members from various groups, you can set up spaces for them, too. This system will arrange your group's communication and make it less complicated to find responses to questions.

As for making employees feel like they are part of the company vision, messaging channels aren't going to cut it. Communicating with all employees through one large message system can get hectic and confusing very quickly. Employees will ignore messages not related to them, which could lead to them ignoring the messages all together.

Save the whole-company communication channel for information of the utmost importance so that it doesn't become over-saturated. Instead, try a weekly video conference in which all teams have the opportunity to share, ask questions and voice concerns if needed.

Make time for fun

When a group is working together remotely, it can be easy to fall into a habit of only communicating the necessary information for a given project or meeting. When this happens, you and your employees alike can end up missing out on the day-to-day social experience of being at work.

Socialization is not only important for team building, but for the quality of life of each individual employee. Sharing music with each other, talking about a movie you just saw or even something as silly as laughing at the most recent goat video clip can be a terrific stress-reliever during an active day. If you have online communication channels for relevant teams or topics, make one for "fun" or "random" that employees can log into when they need a break, or just to chat.

Start planning a special group event for the future

Creating a space for fun and social interaction online can only take team-building so far among people who never actually meet. So, start planning for what it will look like when everybody can spend time together at a point when social distancing rules are relaxed and the appropriate testing is widespread.

This may not be easy to do, as we don't have all the information we need to make this happen yet. However, beginning to work on a plan for an all-company gala or retreat that may not take place until next year can't hurt. It can give everyone something special to look forward to when moving around is less of a threat. At the end of the day, creating office unity is all about bringing people together through common goals, fun and positive reinforcement.

Wavy Line
John Boitnott

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Journalist, Digital Media Consultant and Investor

John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.

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