Most employees know how to function in social, in-person business settings like the office or a conference. There are certain expectations for networking, communicating, getting to know one another, and respecting each other’s personal space. While the height of the Covid-19 pandemic was nearly three years ago, employees and employers are still learning how to navigate this new virtual space. Activities such as virtual ice breakers, opportunities for education and career advancement, and personalized celebrations can help remote workers feel more productive and comfortable.
According to research conducted by Zippia, 26% of US employees work remotely as of 2022 and 40% of those workers believe they are more productive when working from home. Working from home allows employees adequate flexibility to provide childcare, pet care, and self-care for their own physical and mental needs. The combination of increased flexibility and productivity makes remote work a great choice that supports employee health and company growth.
Maybe this is your first time transitioning to remote or hybrid work, or you’re preparing to onboard a new team member. Either way, you’re going to want to put your best foot forward. There are best practices for business in the virtual workplace just as there are in the in-person workplace. Here are just a few recommendations to set your company apart and foster real employee connection over a screen.
1. Foster Personal Connection and Small Talk
It can be difficult to foster personal connections between co-workers over a virtual screen—but it’s not impossible. If you want employees to connect on a personal level, it’s best to make sure they have adequate time in their schedules for one-on-one meetings. While it can feel more productive to have an entire team give input on a project, one-on-one meetings between an employee and their supervisor or even between an employee and their peer can foster positive working relationships. There may not be a physical watercooler in the remote work world, but one-on-one meetings can function the same way. In addition to talking about work, employees can ask one another about their personal relationships, weekend activities, and hobbies. Hosting team-building exercises and games can also help your coworkers get to know each other more personally.
2. Celebrate New (and Old) Employees
Making each of your employees feel special is an easy way to improve morale and make your employees feel like part of a team. Recognizing both teamwide and personal achievements is a great way to create a culture that encourages growth and friendly competition. You can also host celebrations in honor of personal milestones as well as work milestones—birthdays, weddings and baby showers, just to name a few.
3. Schedule Time to Meet in Person
While it may seem contradictory to schedule time for your remote workers to meet in person, meeting in person annually can help your team gain a better sense of your company’s culture and identity. While hiring employees across the country and even across the globe can greatly diversify your workforce, your employees may feel isolated if they never have an opportunity to meet in person. An annual or semi-annual in-person meeting, such as a conference or a team retreat, could double as a career growth opportunity. On the other hand, you could also schedule a more casual in-person meet-up like a lunch outing.
4. Offer Structure
Often, remote workers are expected to develop their own schedules and manage time wisely. This is an acceptable expectation for all office workers, but offering some form of structure can set you apart from other companies. Designating standard hours for your employees to work and encouraging them to share their chosen schedules with one another can promote clear communication and flexibility.
5. Utilize Virtual Tools
Services like Zoom and Google Meet have tools that are designed to foster a collaborative, interactive work space. Some employees may prefer not to engage during large group meetings, but tools that allow employees to vote anonymously or draw on a white board together can create a more collaborative space without the need to verbally engage. In choosing a virtual meeting tool and other platforms for your employees, ensure that everyone understands how to use the software. Offer extra training if needed.
6. Develop a Communications Plan
If your employees are responsible for managing their own time and schedules, you will want to check in with them a few times a day. The amount of time that employees spend communicating with each other may differ depending on their role and the level of collaboration that they’re comfortable with, but developing a communications plan can be helpful. Your employees may not know when and how to consult a supervisor on a bigger project or gather feedback from their team members. You may want to use a RACI chart as a basis. RACI charts identify who is responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed during certain project or campaign stages.
While remote work has its benefits and risks, these essential six virtual business practices will ensure that you and your team are on the same page when it comes to communication, productivity, and recognition. Your employees are eager to learn and grow at your company, and fostering a positive work environment ensures that they maintain their enthusiasm.