Increasing opportunities for remote work offers employees more flexibility and employers the opportunity to hire the best people, no matter where they live. But working remotely also makes it more challenging to connect with colleagues to develop a rapport and a sense of teamwork. Technology, such as videoconferencing and online collaboration tools, make it easier to create a virtual water cooler to help your remote employees connect.
Videoconferencing software helps support teamwork and simulate the face-to-face interactions you have in a physical office. Schedule your staff videoconferences so you can accommodate team members who work in different time zones or provinces. You can use these tools to hold virtual meetings for work-related topics, but it’s also a good way to connect on a personal level. You might start the videoconference early to allow time for chitchat and socialization or stick around after the meeting ends to share personal stories. Include enough time in each meeting to include some small talk and casual conversation, allowing for jokes and discussions about entertainment, sports and random topics of interest.
Consider focusing particular videoconferences on different themes, with some being work-related and others with a significant recreational focus. For example, you could assign each employee a meeting to discuss the most challenging customer of the year. From the recreational standpoint, you and your team could take turns sharing your own movie review with the group. You might want to schedule videoconferences to follow a roundtable format, where team members interactively discuss particular topics.
Videoconferencing Software and Technical Considerations
You have many videoconferencing platform options, so comparing the features helps you find one that fits your needs. Skype for business use offers a robust videoconferencing platform with easy connections from any device. You can record your meetings, share screens, use a built-in instant messaging program, and use a whiteboard feature for easy collaboration.
RingCentral is another videoconferencing platform that is available to users in Canada. The platform allows for team messaging and videoconferencing for easy communications about work and personal life. It also works as a cloud phone system for your business. RingCentral is available as an app for use with a smartphone.
Cisco WebEx is also available in Canada. The free option lets you hold a meeting with two people. Paid plans boost your capability to collaborate with more than two people. You can also hold events, host webinars, provide remote support for customers or employees, and create online training with WebEx. Although WebEx has a number of desirable features, it does not offer cloud storage.
Online Collaboration Tools
You don’t always need to videoconference to collaborate and build rapport with remote employees. Online collaboration tools let you share work-related details and off-topic subject matter on a daily basis. Slack is a good example of an online messaging tool that allows for secure interactions between employees. You can set up different channels in Slack based on different projects or topics. This feature makes it easy to create a virtual water cooler with a channel dedicated to fun, personal, or funny topics not related to work.
Another option is Yammer, which lets you create a private social network for your company. It’s a good way for remote employees to connect over shared interests and commonalities. You can also use Yammer to collaborate on work ideas.
In-Person Meetings and Events
Even though your team works remotely most of the time, it’s still a good idea to get together in person occasionally if possible. For teams working within a short distance of your headquarters, you might schedule a weekly in-person meeting at the office to get some face time. You can also schedule fun activities for team bonding, such as a dinner out or a bowling night. If your employees live and work in different provinces, consider hosting an in-person retreat at least once per year to get everyone in the same room. You can change the location so different employees have a chance to show off their local areas.
You may already have competitions for work-related achievements, such as top sales or increased customer satisfaction. But having fun competitions can unify your team even when everyone works remotely. For example, you might hold a FitBit challenge to see who can walk the most steps in a week. The competitions don’t have to relate to fitness. You might reward the employee who volunteers the most time to charitable efforts each month, or you might challenge employees to decorate their remote offices to see who is most creative. You could even host a weekly trivia contest with the person answering the most questions correctly winning. These challenges inject a little fun into the workday and give your remote employees a common activity to share, which can improve connections.
Company Culture of Connections
The company culture you establish sets the tone for the level of connection shared with your remote employees. If you place an emphasis on getting to know your employees and encouraging personal connections, your employees are more likely to build those relationships. It can be as simple as popping onto your instant messaging program to greet employees each day with a good morning message. Demonstrating a collaborative attitude and directly telling your employees that you want them to bond and connect can help grow those relationships.
With so many tools at your disposal, it’s easier than ever to build a virtual water cooler for your remote employees. Cloud-based tools, from collaboration programs to accounting software, helps you get the job done. 4.3 million customers use QuickBooks. Join them today to help your business thrive for free.