October 6, 2021 Lisa Aspeling

How to Create A Virtual Office for Your Team

Thanks to the Covid19 Pandemic, the whole concept of work has changed.

For any team to survive and thrive, there needs to be a culture of inclusion, collaboration, and respect. As the manager of a remote team, developing and promoting this type of culture is an especially important task.

When co-workers aren’t physically in the same place, there may be fewer opportunities for interpersonal interaction and connection, so it’s important to be proactive and creative. Really, an effective remote team should feel pretty similar to a team with a physical office.

Humans are social creatures who want to feel safe and have a sense of belonging—the key here is relationship building.

Creating a positive social vibe will help your team members build relationships with each other. Building strong relationships across your team can increase psychological safety, strengthen attachment to the team and organization, and elevate performance.

You may be asking yourself, “how do I create an inclusive and productive work-from-home culture?”

Keep reading to find out how.

Be open and available for your remote direct reports.

When you work remotely, especially if your team is new to remote work, your direct reports might not know how to ask an impromptu question when they can’t swivel their chair around to do so.

Seek out ways to open up virtual channels for spontaneous communication—it shouldn’t feel any more interruptive to ask for a Zoom than it does to have an on-the-fly meeting in the office.

Let your team know you’re around and accessible—even though they can’t see you.

Make time for informal bonding in your remote meeting schedules

It takes longer to get to know one another when you don’t sit together. And getting to know each other is essential to building trust.

So it’s really important to make time for conversations that aren’t all grounded in work projects. These conversations probably won’t happen as organically as they would inside an office, so you have to be a bit more intentional about making them happen.

As a manager, you should be proactive and diligent to carve out time for both individual and team bonding.

Plan for virtual team activities.

Distributed teams come in different flavours: Chances are that your team could be made up of some remote workers and some people working in an office—all of which could be in different time zones. Your team’s specific makeup will factor into the best solution here, and the key is to be really thoughtful of each person’s circumstances.

Make an effort to have additional virtual team gatherings over Zoom—don’t just wait for the rare occasion when you’ll all be in the same place.

And be creative! These can be kind of awkward if you don’t have a plan. But it doesn’t take much effort to put some structure behind them. And you can always recruit volunteers who are particularly social or creative to take the lead.

Be thoughtful and show gratitude to your remote team.

Any manager should do this, remote or not. It’s just extra important when you’re remote to make sure you are deliberate about thanking your team members for a job well done or going above and beyond what they’re asked to do.

There’s a danger that an employee will feel that their efforts are going unnoticed when you’re not there to see them putting in extra hours or getting recognition from their stakeholders, so make an effort to let them know that you virtually see and are grateful for it.

Create a culture of over-communication.

The first tip was about making sure you seem open and available to your team. The last tip is about making sure your whole team operating model is really built on a culture of transparency.

Making an effort to over-communicate is the best way to make sure everyone feels like they are in the loop and therefore equally included.

In the beginning, people might feel like they are over-communicating, but I think they’ll soon find that everyone around them appreciates the messages and they’ll be encouraged to continue.

Make sure you have technology in place that makes it easy for your team to communicate with each other. If you’re looking for some remote communication tools, below is a list that offer a free option that you can trial:

Teamwork for project management
HubSpot’s CRM for managing customer relationships
Slack for instant messaging
Zoom for video conferencing
Vidyard for video messaging
Google Drive for file storage and collaborative documents

Remember that it takes time to become an effective remote leader. Equip yourself with remote work resources that you can use to guide you through new situations.

You’ll have to learn a lot through trial and error. These recommendations are meant to give you a starting point. You’ll want to collect feedback from your team over time to see how you can improve your own virtual office.

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