Remote work used to be a very rare occurrence, but according to a study by IWG, two-thirds of the workers across the globe now work remotely at least 1 day per week. That’s a staggering number — and it’s growing.
We at Weaving Influence work remotely, too. Some staff members report to our main office a couple of days per week, while many of us work from home full-time. For workers, remote work creates flexibility and greater work-life balance; for companies, it means hiring the right people, not just the closest people. But remote work comes with its own unique challenges. One of the most pressing — how to create a culture and build teamwork with a virtual team.
We’ve come up with a few ideas that work for us. We think they might work for your remote team, too.
Meetings for Relationship-Building
We like to keep our meetings to a minimum, but we added relationship-building meetings just over a year ago and the results have been impressive. Our team feels more unified and communication greatly improved. Each team member now has a brief weekly check-in with their supervisor. They can discuss challenges, brainstorm ideas, or just talk.
We also schedule a monthly all-staff meeting that’s aimed at just getting to know each other. We start with an ice-breaker and then talk about our work with clients, with each other, and even great new TV shows we’re enjoying. It’s brought different departments together and helped our company feel like a cohesive team.
We also do pairings in which team members request time with other team members to learn more about their roles in the company, to cross-train, or to work on a creative project.
Most team building happens in the breakroom — but when you have a remote team, you have to create a virtual breakroom. For us, that’s Campfires in Basecamp. We’ve used Slack in the past, too. This is where we can have those water cooler discussions about work, life, television, movies, and more. It’s also where our GIF game comes out!
Not all trainings have to be about the work. We have started scheduling trainings for the team about relationship-building, communication, and other soft skills that we all use in work and life. Coming together in these trainings has helped us deepen our connections while we learn and grow together.
While a video call isn’t the same as being there in person, it helps build relationships better than any standard call can. Most of our calls are by video conference so we see each other in our offices and at our kitchen tables, made-up or sweaty post-run. It’s where we show up with each other authentically.
We attend different conferences and events throughout the year, which is a great time for team members to come together and meet in person. If we’re on personal trips near a team member, we also reach out to schedule time together. Virtual team building is possible and powerful, but in-person time together just deepens the relationships.
The key to remote team building is to be intentional in bringing people together both personally and professionally. One of our authors says teams need to “do life together” and that’s our goal with our virtual team — to show up for each other the way we would if we worked in the same building. It takes effort, but the results are worth it!
How do you foster teamwork in your remote team?