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July 8, 2020
Brad Jamison

Remote office culture: from engagement to virtual team building

With the onset of COVID-19, the #WorkFromHome life has become the new business norm. We're no longer catching our commute, but catching up with the kids before logging on to our Monday Zoom meeting. There's no HR to complain to when our cat interrupts a critical client call, and the lack of morning donuts is a bit of a bummer. But overall, we're conquering the remote work arena with the same energy, positivity, and drive we use to tackle every project that comes our way.

In fact, remote offices are a growing business trend and a source of exciting, new opportunities. A corporate dynamics study conducted by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics found that, from 2016 to 2017, there has been a significant upward trend in remote employees. The number of work from home professionals increased by 7.9% over the past two years, and a whopping 44% growth in the last ten years. 

It's safe to say that the virtual office isn't going away anytime soon. Experts predict that a second wave of COVID-19 may impact nonessential businesses well into next year. Already, 84% of companies have made the shift to a remote environment in an effort to continue serving their communities by staying productive and staying healthy. On the bright side, a recent survey of 113 of North America's largest companies reported that, in terms of revenue, nearly three-quarters of these companies are at 80% capacity or higher. That means the effectiveness of remote work is having a demonstrably positive outcome on corporate success.

It's time to refocus our business models and embrace the growth, flexibility, and excitement of a remote office. We're here to make the commute a little more comfortable with a few simple, effective strategies for cultivating a positive and productive remote office culture.

5 Top Considerations When Building Remote Office Culture

Team building is one of the most critical tasks business executives will undertake. When it comes to aligning the company's values with a remote work model, each department plays a crucial role. Prioritize what matters with these helpful tips for successfully working remotely. 

1.) Support Flexibility

Gone are the days of the 9 to 5 grind. A flexible work environment is a benefit that many new hires look for, especially at the executive level. Not only does a remote work mantra ensure that employees feel their time and schedules are valued, but a little flexibility may even improve productivity.

Modern businesses have taken a goal-driven approach rather than an outdated, hours focused mindset. This shines the spotlight on quality over quantity and supports a healthy work-life balance. Communicate deadlines and expectations with your team, be mindful of everyone's schedule, and encourage a dedicated drive to finish projects, exceed goals, and maintain stellar workflow. Don't sweat the time clock!

2.) Stay Connected

Maintaining employee engagement in a virtual office setting is critical. Make sure your team stays connected with regular Zoom meetings, a robust messaging platform like Slack, and a fun, lively social media presence. Check-in regularly with executive leads and encourage peer-to-peer think tanks and discussion groups. The best ideas come from innovators within your company. Listening to those voices boosts your brand and unifies a workforce, helping each team member feel valued.

Fostering a collaborative workplace has been demonstrated to improve retention rates as well as overall company cohesion and employee happiness. You might implement forums for each department where members can share ideas and introduce a weekly topic. Virtual team building is another great tactic for keeping people together with interactive games, virtual happy hours, or creating fun goals and challenges for your employees to complete and share with each other. Before long, your virtual water cooler will be the place to be -- remotely.

3.) Utilize Broader Talent Acquisition

There's no need for businesses to shy away from the prospect of advertising remote work possibilities. Fully remote positions or partially remote positions with flexible in-office hours are highly sought after. Better yet, the ability to reach outside your company's radius increases the talent acquisition pool. It's a great way to diversify your team and attract new hires in an increasingly global world.

4.) Maintain Consistency

Working from home doesn't mean your new company dress code is pajamas. Treat the remote office with the same respect and regard that you would give a physical workspace. This means cameras are turned on at every meeting, regular dress code is adhered to, and long and short term deadlines are clearly spelled out. Everyone will benefit from the sense of normalcy and routine to this new remote office culture, especially during stressful and uncertain times.

5.) Recognize Hard Work

It's more important than ever for employees to feel valued. Too many companies only celebrate significant milestones. Recognize team members who go above and beyond to provide excellent client services, bust out quarterly reports, and demonstrate exceptional leadership. Zestful is here to help with one-time bonuses, peer-to-peer recognition so coworkers can feel engaged in the fun. And automated birthday and work anniversary gifts are perfect for celebrating special days. This will keep your remote crew engaged while promoting an office culture based on positivity with a people-first mindset.

Making the Switch

With 43% of Americans working at least some remote hours, companies everywhere are making the big switch. Change can be scary, but with it comes the prospect of new opportunities and expansion. There's no need to fear the unknown! Tackle the shift head-on by developing a remote work plan tailored to suit your company. This may include beefing up your business' tech support team, investing in reliable assets such as laptops, tablets, and business phones, and preparing a timeline for transitioning to a full or partially remote office.

While many companies have skipped the timeline step due to the CDC's advisory for non-essential businesses, it's never too late to regroup and strategize. Innovative solutions to easing staff anxieties may take the form of additional training and Zoom luncheons. Discuss ideas and tips for creating a distraction-free workspace. Consider providing a small stipend or monthly allowance to cover some of the overhead. The initial costs of setting up remote employee work stations are easily accounted for in the reduction of office space demands. Plus, establishing uniformity will make the transition feel like a cohesive effort. Remember, a remote office is an office just like any other!

Networking, Client Engagement, and Success

Once your staff is comfortable with the #WorkFromHome life, it's time to consider how services will move forward in the wake of a transition to a virtual office space. The most important point to emphasize is that a remote workforce does not mean a decline in networking and client engagement. Just the opposite, flexible hours allow for managers to respond to international clients at odd hours of the workday and further build bridges with potential investors, partners, and vendors. Make use of these skills, and don't be afraid to ask your team if they'd be open to working late nights and early mornings in favor of afternoons to themselves. You might find that many employees appreciate the option!

As a general rule, don't lose sight of company policy when it comes to providing prompt responses. Ensure that staff is aware that all emails must be answered within a reasonable time frame (typically 24 hours). Since many clients are also social distancing at the moment, make use of the tools available to engage via social media, video calls, and teleconferencing. These are all great resources for flattening the curve, without compromising productivity.

Ready to get started building your dream team? Check out 3 Perks for Remote Teams.

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