How to Build Team Culture When Working from Home
Team culture is one of the main reasons people enjoy their work and stay at their jobs. As more of them have to work from home, team culture becomes all the more important. The isolation of working remotely can seriously weaken that team culture, but it doesn’t have to. In this article, let’s explore how to build team culture when working from home.
For most of us under lockdown, working from home, then having to stay home after work, can get physically and mentally alienating. Somehow time becomes quite an unusual experience. Time stretches and shrinks in strange ways like we have never seen before. We can quickly spiral out of control. What day of the week are we? Is it Friday already? Is it still Sunday? Wednesday feels like a Monday. Morning feels like a late afternoon. What did I do three days ago? It’s not always easy to keep up when left on our own.
Which is why the key to build team culture is frequent communication.
Touch base, check in, high five, wave hey, no matter who you are. If you are the leader of the pack, reach out. Even for a few seconds, even if there is no issue, even for no particular reason. The idea is to consistently making sure nobody is forgotten, that everybody is in the loop, that each member is aware of each other’s state of mind, that the team is all in this together. Especially for self-directed workers who don’t require a lot of interactions between team mates to complete their tasks.
Anything that can be considered a life signal, do it, and do it often. Even though a simple phone may suffice, it is very much worth considering some extra equipment, like an internet connection and a computer with a camera and a microphone. To point this type of communication towards one of team culture, come up with something specific that requires the participation of each team members to do in group. Things, big or small, that are repeated regularly which can also serve as great motivation for team productivity.
The idea is to create rituals to reinforce a collective sense of belonging.
Ideally, these various activities should tie with the internal culture and be representative of the core values that define your organization. Examples abound. If your organization takes pride in teamwork, respect, or effectiveness, it could be as simple as a setting a five-minute video meeting at the beginning of the week to go around the virtual table to greet and know about each other’s priority of the week, or a brainstorming session of solution ideas open to all departments on a particular project.
If the atmosphere of your organization is more casual, it could be silly things also. Like tutu-Tuesdays, in which every teammate can fashion something resembling a ballerina skirt and wear it. Or posting the results from a survey for the whole team to see, like, “66% of us are a cat person; 22% are a dog person; 11% are both; 1% are a people person”. If your organization value personal development, it could also take a more unobtrusive format for workers who feel more comfortable connecting one-on-one with either a supervisor or a colleague rather than within a larger group. The last element on how to build team culture when working from home is making sure the communication efforts are consistent.
Quality team culture is about quantity.
It’s nice to organize fun team-building activities or have an entire appreciation day for all team members to gather for a retreat once a year, but a lot can happen during. Keeping track of employee satisfaction on a regular basis provides crucial insights on making sure everybody’s needs are met and quickly adjust if needed when it comes to team management. But they don’t have to be intrusive, time-consuming or expensive. Activities to keep a healthy team culture can vary to keep things interesting and employees engaged.
It’s important to keep them informed of such activities and of the moment they are taking place so they can plan ahead and schedule them as an integral part of their work routine. For instance, in knowing that the team culture activity occurs every Thursdays 9AM, they have something to look forward to. It could act as the highlight of their work week but also a point of reference or an anchor in relation to their team. It gives them at least one thing in common they can all relate or refer to.
Frequent participation creates stronger bonds between team members in the long run as they get to know each other better through spending more time together. The difficulties of social distancing are dealt differently. Some cope better than others. For some, seeing familiar faces when working from home makes all the difference.
We hope that the tips above give you some ideas to build excellent team culture of your own, no matter where you are in the world.
Shirley is a Vacation Tracker occasional contributor. She’s held a few positions in communications, marketing and copywriting. When she’s not at her laptop, you can find her daydreaming about her laptop and chasing the sun while people watching.