Maintaining a Collaborative Culture in a Hybrid and Remote World
Fostering camaraderie and collaboration in a remote world takes thought and planning.
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For many companies, learning to employ their workforce virtually has become commonplace. For global or dispersed teams, remote work has enabled a more even playing field for all. We've also seen remote work improving diversity efforts, in particular for workers with disabilities.
Despite all of the positive returns from remote work, there have been challenges as well. In particular, fostering camaraderie and collaboration in a remote world takes thought and planning. As some companies shift from fully remote to hybrid, a proactive focus is needed to ensure continued engagement with your workforce.
The key to success starts with focusing on culture. However, this step is often overlooked in the hectic early stages of startups or small businesses. It's understandable given all of the hats a founder needs to wear. That being said, the investment of time in deliberately setting a culture pays off tremendously in the long run. In my experience, if you don't articulate the culture you want to offer your employees and talk about it, over time it can shift without you realizing it.
What are the core values and team traditions that will make your organization a great place to work? There are some core tenets of an effective workplace culture. These include treating people with respect and valuing diversity and inclusion. Healthy workplaces also include psychological safety, or feeling comfortable bringing your whole self to work and speaking up on work related topics.
As with culture, fostering team collaboration needs to be more deliberate in remote and hybrid workplaces. This should be done at two levels — the company level and the team level.
Entrepreneurs need to consider how to communicate internally and the tools which should be leveraged for collaboration. For employees to feel connected to an organization, it's always been important to think strategically about internal communications. However, in a remote or hybrid environment, it's even more important. Even if you don't have the budget to hire a communications team, be thoughtful about your internal communications. This can be done through senior leader skip levels, all hands meetings, regular newsletters or video messages from the CEO. There are a variety of ways and the focus should be on frequent, consistent and meaningful communications.
It's also important to provide strong tools for communication and collaboration. What platforms will you use to communicate company wide and what platforms will employees leverage to communicate with each other? Set expectations around how the various methods of communication should be used. What should be sent over email vs. over Slack? In addition, identify tools for managing projects as well as tools that can be leveraged for remote working sessions (e.g. whiteboard tools).
At the team level, a lot of thought should be put into team norms around communication. The team should come together to discuss expectations in several areas, including:
- Meetings. How frequent, what is the purpose, who will attend, and when will they be scheduled?
- Communication Methods. What is communicated via email, meetings, or a platform like Slack? Is the communication style formal or informal?
- Availability. When is the team expected to be available (consider time zones)? How quickly is a response expected?
Related: Welcome to the Hybrid Work Era
Last, but certainly not least, don't forget about fun. There are several ways that you can have fun with your team remotely. These include scavenger hunts, Zoom cocktail parties, or just spending time around the virtual water cooler.
If creative event planning isn't your strong suit, there are several companies out there that will create remote employee engagement events for you. When you are in person together for company or team wide meetings, make sure you leverage this time together with fun team building activities.
Collaboration may take more deliberate thought and action in the hybrid world, but it is well worth the effort. Ensuring all of your talent is engaged and able to work as a team is an important part of your company's success in the future of work.