How you can create culture in your virtual workplace
Many of us are experiencing work differently due to the COVID19 pandemic. Scores of people are working from home perhaps for the first time. As the newness is wearing off and it is becoming just the way things are done, it is likely that working from home, at least sometimes, may become the new normal. If you are a leader, you may be wondering how you can keep your team chemistry and culture in place when you are not in the same place all the time.
Having led a team that was not co-located, I discovered good strategies that built relationships and strengthened culture.
- Have a plan that connects everyone. Build an operational plan that makes objectives clear and ensure everyone understands how they support them. With that kind of plan, it’s easy for your team members to make decisions about priorities and actions when they can’t pop into your office to ask a question.
- Make status clear. Find ways to keep everyone updated on the status of results and project actions. If you don’t have a virtual sharing utility, free programs like Trello can keep your team constantly updated on task status so they can easily coordinate.
- Find ways to connect your team virtually. One of the most powerful tools we used to build culture and coordination was our daily virtual “stand-up” meeting. It had a rapid-fire agenda and often the meeting ended in 5 minutes. Here’s how it went;
- We had a set agenda revolving through critical quality and delivery issues first. Those were our near term hot-burning fires we needed to stamp out right away.
- Weekly updates on key issues or projects were discussed on an assigned day of the week. For example; Tuesdays we discussed new part approval status, Wednesdays we reviewed the team vacation and travel calendar, etc.
- Assignments were made to resolve problems off-line and updates were given the next day.
- Since my team was all together virtually in one place, it was an efficient time for me to communicate new information. One message – one time.
- Lastly, the team just talked to each other. We left a bit of time at the end of the meeting for people to just share. They screen-shared pictures of their latest grandchild or new motorcycle. They joked, laughed, and had fun together. This created an environment where people who never saw each other felt like they knew each other.
I remember when we first started these meetings. Everyone moaned, but after it became a habit, no one wanted to miss the meeting. They wanted to be part of the team. Helpful hint: Pick a time for the meeting that doesn’t conflict with popular meeting times so most of your team can attend. We held ours at 1:00 PM sharp.
Culture doesn’t need to disappear because your team is not together. However, your communication needs to more intentional. Make a plan to connect your team. Find ways to communicate status and make a place where they can coordinate and share. I guarantee, your culture and results will be strengthened.
If you would like to discuss ways you can connect your team while not co-located, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.