Thanks to affordable technology, more and more companies have been allowing employees to work remotely in recent years. It’s become feasible to procure laptops, set up security protocols, use cloud servers and rely on employees’ home Wi-Fi connections to create functional virtual workspaces. In turn, many of these businesses have lowered overhead costs such as office rent and utilities.
Of course, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have had to mandate that any employees who can work from home do so. As a result, virtual team building has become more important than ever.
Ensure consistency of processes and expectations
When employees work from home, many of the processes they use to complete tasks and fulfill duties may change slightly — or even drastically — to fit the technology used to execute them. This can cause confusion and lead to mistakes or conflicts that affect employee morale.
Make sure every virtual team develops and follows processes that produce results consistent with those generated on your physical premises. Doing so may require a concerted effort that slows productivity temporarily while everyone gets on the same page.
Meanwhile, reinforce with workers that your expectations of them are the same whether they work on-site or remotely. They shouldn’t feel as if they must work extra hard from home to “prove themselves,” but they do need to demonstrate that they’re getting things done.
Hold regular meetings — and “irregular” ones
Among the biggest challenges for work-from-home employees is feeling disconnected from their fellow team members. Brief, regularly scheduled Web-based meetings are a good way to address this dilemma. These gatherings allow everyone to see or hear one another (or both) and provide employees with the opportunity to voice concerns and contribute ideas.
If a given team is relatively new at working remotely, or you just want to bring any group of employees closer together, you could also hold special meetings specifically geared toward team building. There’s a wide variety of icebreakers, games and activities that teams can use to learn more about each other and to gain comfort in communicating.
For example, you can invite participants to share stories and photos of their pets, hold trivia contests or even sing karaoke. Just be sure to tailor such team-building efforts to your company’s culture and be wary of pushing remote workers too far out of their comfort zones.
Find a way
Whether your business has had employees working remotely for years or just recently had to ask workers to stay home because of COVID-19, there are plenty of ways to help them communicate better and enhance their performance as a team.
We highly recommend you confer with your Miller Kaplan advisor to understand your specific situation and how this may impact you.