Although many companies have been working remote or in a hybrid workplace, 87% of workers have expressed a desire to return to the office in 2022. Meeting new co-workers and catching up with old ones, as well as in-person meetings are the top reasons for employees desiring to return to work. Currently, only 14% are at an in-person workplace.
Conversely, 66% of employees feel anxious participating in face-to-face interactions and a majority would like to work from home to avoid social awkwardness. As a result, many employees prefer virtual communication.
The key to creating a virtual company culture begins with an emphasis on flexibility, agility, and collaboration coupled with investing in the time, resources, and efforts to develop and sustain a company culture in the virtual realm.
Here are some tips for building and supporting a successful virtual company culture.
Develop Effective Communication Methods
Like an in-office setting, communication is imperative to building successful professional relationships. This is no different for a virtual setting. First, set expectations on communication methods. For example, is there an expected timeframe for which an employee should respond to an email? If so, you should clearly define the timeframe expectations and communicate that to your employees. Another example is confirming the preferred communication method. If your team uses two communication systems, such as Microsoft Teams and Skype, define which one is preferred for communication with your employees.
Second, establish company and team values. While your company likely has set values and expectations, perhaps you hold your team to a higher expectation. It is important to establish these values from the beginning to ensure all employees know what is expected of them.
Lastly, encourage an environment of open communication and feedback. This can help build mutual trust and a sense of empathy from both parties. If an employee feels overwhelmed by a project or is working through a personal issue, it is important that they feel comfortable coming to you to talk about it. Opening a line of honest communication and feedback will not only benefit employees, but also benefit you.
Create Fun, Team Building Activities
While there are plenty of ways to create fun team building activities, a few examples may include:
- Fun Friday: Fun Friday is a day of the week where perhaps you replace one of your regularly scheduled team meetings with a fun activity, such as trivia or show and tell. It doesn’t have to be a Friday – it can be any day you choose!
- Lunch and learns: Typically, a lunch and learn is geared more toward company-wide opportunities to learn about business-related topics. However, you can put your own spin on it and make it something team-related, such as a brainstorm for an upcoming project, attending a webinar together as a team, or simply a get-to-know-each-other-better meeting.
Foster a Positive, Inclusive Team Mentality
One of the most difficult things to do in a virtual environment is foster a positive, inclusive team mentality. However, here are some tips to help foster a more positive, inclusive virtual culture:
- Praise a job well done: 72% of companies have seen a positive impact on employee engagement when employees are recognized. Praising a job well done not only recognizes an employee’s excellent work, but also invites other team members to recognize them as well. This team recognition can foster a more positive, inclusive mentality.
- Introduce new team members to the entire team: It may sound simple, but in a virtual environment, it can be even more difficult to introduce a new team member. If you have a regularly scheduled meeting with your team, take a moment to introduce the new team member. Additionally, encourage other team members to set up a quick one-on-one meeting with the new team member to introduce and get to know each other better.
- Encourage collaboration: There are plenty of perks to collaboration, such as increased productivity, easier to work across various locations, improved analysis of work, and much more. Did you know that 86% of employees, including executive-level individuals, report a lack of collaboration for workplace failures? Encouraging collaboration not only strengthens business productivity, but also has positive impacts on employee engagement.
- Promote accessibility outside of regularly scheduled meetings: This is geared more towards manager-level individuals, but it’s a good idea to be accessible outside of regularly scheduled meetings. This can offer your team confidence that they can confide in you if needed. If you’re constantly in meetings and don’t communicate your accessibility, your team may feel hesitant or even deterred from “interrupting” you. Promoting your accessibility outside of regularly scheduled meetings can help your team feel more supported.
Promote Work-Life Balance
As virtual environments have become part of the “new normal,” so has the desire for work-life balance. Most common is the desire for flexible scheduling. Whether it is remote or hybrid work arrangements, or simply more flexibility to leave when a family member needs assistance, flexible scheduling is a great way to promote work-life balance.
Another great way to promote work-life balance is letting the small things slide. For example, a new mom working from home might need to tend to her fussy baby during a meeting. Instead of negative feedback, commend her on her dedication to still attend the meeting despite her personal life demands.
Finally, make health and family a priority. There’s nothing more meaningful than an employer who responds with empathy and compassion for its employees. Most employees (92%) feel that empathy is undervalued and almost all employees (96%) believe empathy could help increase employee retention. By making health and family a priority, you are humanizing your team, and in return, employees are likely to stay with your company in the long run.