Nearly half of all job seekers surveyed said a good work culture is the number one thing they’re looking for in a prospective employer, according to a survey by Jobvite. And 88% of people surveyed said it’s a significant factor when deciding where to work.
But some remote employees can struggle to feel connected to their in-office counterparts, a fact that can hurt your company’s work culture overall.
According to research by RingCentral, companies that invest in a connected work culture and take steps to connect remote and office employees have the happiest, most productive teams.
Building a connected work culture that’s inclusive of remote and office employees starts with setting clear expectations and processes for everyone. Meanwhile, building strong human relationships is just as important. Here’s how you can create a connected work culture for your hybrid team.
Hold equitable meetings
When you’re working to build a connected work culture between team members, it’s vital that no one feels left out from the decision-making or creative process. Teams often make big decisions around the water cooler or in face-to-face meetings, which can leave remote employees feeling excluded.
A big part of creating a connected work culture is ensuring everyone—remote or not—has equal opportunity to participate in meetings, make decisions, and feel heard. There are some simple things to do when organizing equitable meetings—and some things to avoid.
- DO: Be transparent about how and where decisions are made. If you have a standardized process for making big decisions, preferably one that includes remote and in-office employees’ input equally, communicate those to every employee in a similar way. For example, if the CEO makes decisions after hosting a company-wide meeting each week, send the whole team an email or a group message and let them know what the plans are and that you’ll be taking their input into consideration.
- DON’T: Make significant decisions that affect the whole team by holding informal water-cooler discussions with only in-office teammates. That can make remote workers feel left out or undervalued.
- DO: Have everyone log into the meeting from their computer or other electronic devices, even if they’re in the same room. That way, the meeting format is the same for all team members, and everyone has an equal opportunity to give input. A standardized meeting format will make everyone feel like they’re on equal footing and ensure that remote team members don’t feel left out.
Create a unified communication culture
Creating a standard form of communication, like weekly check-ins that take place in a centralized group chat, can go a long way toward leveling the playing field between team members and creating a connected work culture. But this only works if it applies to all team members, whether remote or on-site.
- DO: Create daily or weekly rituals that allow remote and on-site employees to report on their work progress in the same way. That could be a spreadsheet that everyone adds notes to on Mondays or a weekly status update that everyone sends to their manager on Fridays. The point is that the reporting expectations are the same for everyone. Not only will this help CEOs and managers have insight into what everyone is doing, but it will create a connected work culture by letting everyone know they have to live by the same expectations and standards.
- DON’T: Make different rules for remote workers than you would for on-site employees. For example, if you ask remote teammates to report their weekly progress, don’t assume that in-office employees don’t have to do the same since their managers can see what they’re doing. Communication requirements should exist company-wide. Treating all employees equally and setting identical expectations for remote and in-office employees will help create a unified, connected work culture for your team.
Organize ways for employees to socialize
Creating online events where in-office and remote employees can bond and build social connections is a great way to develop and nurture a connected company work culture.
Host online happy hours
After-work happy hours are a common way for employees and teammates to bond. But when everyone doesn’t work in the same office or even in the same city, it can be difficult to organize these informal gatherings in person. Remote happy hours can provide the kind of setting that connects team members, builds cohesion, and, ultimately, improves working relationships. That’s why so many employers have started organizing online events to bring their remote and in-office employees together.
According to research by Yo-Jud Cheng, an expert in strategic leadership, constant communication is a critical component of building shared group identity. The more time teammates spend bonding with one another, the more connected your company culture will be.
Organize regular one-on-one meetings between in-office and remote employees
You can also build bonds and a connected work culture between remote workers and on-site employees by organizing virtual one-on-one meetings. Designate a 30-minute online session once a week during which a remote and in-office employee can have an informal get-to-know-you chat.
Some companies also organize casual lunches or coffee hours online. That way, remote and in-office employees can learn about others’ experiences in and out of work. A 2020 study in the Management Analysis Journal showed that “employee relations have a positive and significant effect on employee morale.”
Hold remote competitions, games, or trivia events
These friendly online activities can break the ice and help teammates get to know one another by bringing out people’s competitive side. They can also build teamwork between colleagues who don’t already know each other through work interactions. Virtual gameshows, word association games, or photo caption competitions are examples of activities that teams have used to build trust and get to know one another. These are especially useful if you make an effort to pair people who don’t already know each other on the same team.
According to Ragan Communications, fostering teamwork is essential to a company’s success, and companies whose leaders encourage everyone to work together “are 21% more profitable, 17% more productive, and see 40% less turnover compared to intentionally siloed companies.”
Host remote events that include swaps or submissions, like baby photos or book exchanges
These activities build a connected culture between teammates by pushing them to think about a person on their team who they might not already know well. What kind of book or piece of art would that person like? How do you decide on a specific item to gift to your teammate? These activities force employees to think deeply about how they perceive their colleagues and how they want to represent themselves. They consequently build deeper bonds that teammates can refer back to during work hours.
Use the right tools to coordinate workflow and foster teamwork
Your company’s digital adoption strategies can greatly influence workflow and teamwork. It’s the process through which your company streamlines the adoption of different communication tools.
Using the right tools to communicate, share work products, and keep track of your work schedule and meetings can be vital to making sure everyone is connected and on the same page. It also ensures that team members always know where to find information about what other teammates are doing.
- RingCentral has a cloud-based communication application that allows you to message your colleagues or clients or speak to them via video or telephone—all from the same app. When everyone on your team is using it, you won’t have to worry about getting ahold of people when you need them. It also ensures that your remote colleagues sound as professional as your in-office employees by providing excellent sound quality no matter where you’re located.
- Slack is a chat and messaging platform that functions as a virtual office. Teams can create specific channels for projects or groups to help remote and in-office employees coordinate their workflows and discuss work in a centralized location. Many teams also create specific channels for sharing music, random thoughts, pictures of pets, or funny anecdotes, making it a place to connect socially as well.
- Google Drive is another cloud-based service that lets you share documents, spreadsheets, and other products with colleagues and customers. Multiple people can work on the documents simultaneously, and it will automatically save previous drafts so you can review your version history.
- Asana is a project management software that helps teams manage to-do lists. It can help you keep track of what everyone is working on and when, and how people manage their workflow. Its main aim is to streamline the project management process, so you don’t have to spend a lot of time figuring out who’s supposed to be doing what and who is at which stage of the project.
A 2009 study from the MIT Sloan School of Management found that virtual teams perform better than teams that work in the same place, as long as they have the right communication tools.
The future of work is hybrid
Most employees surveyed say that they would prefer not to go back to a full-time office post-pandemic. Meanwhile, employers are increasingly seeing the benefits of giving employees the option to work remotely at least some of the time.
That means that creating a connected work culture within hybrid remote teams will be crucial to building a successful company in the future.
Learn more about RingCentral’s hybrid work solutions here.
Originally published Apr 30, 2021, updated Dec 30, 2022