Though stay-at-home orders are beginning to lift, many employees are still working from home long-term, which can be taxing on company culture. Cloud communications can combat some of the disadvantages teams are facing when it comes to collaboration, cohesiveness, and employee engagement.
Building a strong culture throughout a distributed workforce is hardly a new challenge. Many companies with global branch offices and remote work policies have been successfully navigating these scenarios for years. Let’s take a look at some of the shrewd and proven advice provided by executives across the web and some of the ways businesses can leverage cloud communications to drive not just productivity but motivation as well:
1. Leverage Videoconferencing for Improved Collaboration
According to an article by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), videoconferencing offers an ideal space for virtual collaboration since the experience is closer to a face-to-face dynamic. “The voice on the other side of the conference call wants to feel heard just as much as the one in the chair next to you,” wrote CMI’s head of content for Digital Room, Emilie Moreland. “Add in the fact that many creative professionals identify as introverts, to whom speaking up on a crowded conference call doesn’t come naturally, and it is easy for many to get lost or hide behind a phone line.”
She also recommends team quizzes and daily creative “icebreakers,” such as asking team members to name their favorite foods or list non-work-related books they’re reading. A “show us your shoes” activity was particularly popular – resulting in snapshots of high heels, bare feet, and fuzzy slippers shared via corporate social media. It sparked lively, creative discussion that fueled the workday’s tasks.
Unified communications platforms that support a variety of communications media such as web chat, video, text messaging, and social media can seamlessly facilitate these cross-location interactions and contribute to a positive company culture. Similarly, capabilities such as screen sharing or virtual meeting rooms facilitate these bonding exercises and create more intimacy and familiarity among remote team members.
Companies that leverage communications technology will find it goes a long way to promoting a unified team and allows organizations to assemble a superior staff – no matter the physical circumstances.
2. Build a Culture of Communication Outside of Work
“Scattered teams seem to evolve in spite of a preference to have everyone together. Distributed teams embrace their geographic diversity,” said Robin Camarote, founder of Work Life Lab and creator of the Working Mom Tip Of The Day. In her article in Inc. magazine, she reports that savvy companies have been leveraging the remote team policy for years to assemble the best workgroups – regardless of location.
“A co-located office develops its own personality through inside jokes, shared experiences, and a collaborative environment,” according to workflow automation expert Zapier. Remote teams, Zapier notes, can develop a “virtual water cooler” dynamic – accomplished via a seamless unified communications platform or dedicated application. Distributed workers need a “day-to-day toolset” that gives employees enjoyable interactions that build company culture.
Executives who manage employees in multiple locations agree: shared interactions beyond workplace tasks help employees bond – even across different geographies.
This could include GIF- and graphic-based activities conducted over a versatile, omnichannel, UCaaS network. Morning contests, trivia games, and at-your-desk selfies posted by each employee – no matter their location – generate discussion across multiple offices or remote workstations and foster camaraderie. Gamification is another option – giving employees new ways to interact and develop bonds despite distance. Some of these tools can also include a virtual whiteboard, web chat, or social media application.
3. Keep Lines of Communication Open at the Highest Levels
San Francisco computer software development company Rainforest maintains a third of its staff across 13 countries and did so long before the 2020 pandemic. Between satellite offices, teleworkers, and business trips, “we are truly a highly distributed team,” asserted CEO Fred Stevens-Smith in Camarote’s Inc. interview.
Executive leadership needs to make itself accessible to remote and on-site employees alike – creating a system by which workers can seamlessly express concerns and interact with management.
“We work differently to collaborate in a productive but healthy way. We have bi-weekly “ask me anything” (AMA) meetings where anyone in the company can – and does – submit questions for me to answer,” said Stevens-Smith. He also emails weekly updates outlining the company’s progress on its internal KPIs to keep employees informed and motivated as a group.