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How People Teams are Adapting to Remote Work
Learn more about how teams are adapting to remote work while continuing to drive growth and productivity.
Credit: Unsplash
By Matt Hallowes
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6 minute read

Adapting to remote work has affected just about every industry and department within companies. But, for people teams, adapting to remote work is particularly challenging.

In an office environment, people teams can evaluate mood and morale by the energy within workspaces.

There's a reason why startup office layouts are spacious and open plan. It allows teams to communicate effectively. And not always for work. A large part of morale comes from personal connections amongst team members.

So, how are people teams adapting to remote work, and what does company culture look like for organizations in a "work from home" world?

Why Culture Matters in a Remote Workforce

Developing and maintaining a company culture is one of the primary responsibilities of people teams.

Strong company culture is the compass that guides teams towards a common goal. It influences how employees interact with one another while driving innovation and productivity.

Culture answers the "what" and the "why." What are we trying to do, and why does it matter? Giving teams this sense of purpose is invaluable, so companies are willing to invest in people teams to develop a strong company culture.

Poor company culture leads to ineffective communication, complacency, poor work habits, and other negative traits. In remote teams, it can be challenging to correct these negative characteristics.

So, people teams have to be creative and figure out how to adapt to building and maintaining company culture in a remote workforce.

People Teams Adapting to Remote Work

Here are some of the primary challenges people teams face when adapting to remote work.

Communication

Building effective communication channels is essential for people teams to connect with employees. For remote teams, this means finding and embracing tech to replace "normal" office interactions.

Luckily, most companies already operated in a hybrid physical/virtual work environment before COVID-19, so the switch wasn't too much of a culture shock. But even for these workforces, removing in-person social interaction has created challenges.

How can people teams communicate effectively with remote teams?

Creating informal communication channels (Slack, Discord, etc.) replaces "watercooler" conversations and encourages employees to connect in a relaxed environment. Examples of these informal channels could include gaming, yoga, fitness, wine, foodies, and extreme sports.

Checking in and saying hi is key to maintaining a positive working environment. In an office, that's as easy as taking a walk through workspaces, but it's a little more challenging with remote teams. One strategy is to broadcast a morning message to employees to say hi, offer encouragement, and remind people that you're available to connect whenever.

Connecting with new team members is crucial to make people feel included and welcome. People teams need to design a virtual orienteering process for new hires to integrate with the organization quickly and effectively.

Building a Community

Once people teams have established effective communication channels, building and maintaining a community spirit amongst employees is more accessible.

In a remote workforce, it's crucial to host weekly "company huddles" where the entire company connects via video conference to share company news, introduce new members, and recognize achievements.

People teams also need to make a point of connecting with individuals and departments one-on-one to discuss their challenges, achievements or just check-in.

Through consistent communication, people teams can get a true sense of team morale and identify how to strengthen the organization's community spirit.

Connecting People and Departments

In an office environment, interdepartmental interactions often happen organically in the lunchroom, community areas, team-building exercises, and office functions.

In a remote workforce, people teams need to figure out ways to facilitate these interactions virtually. Some ideas might include cross-departmental projects (for the company or a charity), virtual trivia games, interest group meetups, and lunch dates, to name a few.

People teams might also consider in-person meetups for remote workers who live in the same suburb or city, including local park walks, morning coffee runs, a weekly breakfast (or lunch) club, and more.

Although these activities seem like a bit of fun, informal interdepartmental meetups often lead to new solutions and ideas for the company.

Virtual Team Building

Closely linked to interdepartmental communication is team building—challenging to accomplish in a remote workforce. People teams must be creative to overcome the "not another Zoom meeting" blues when designing virtual team-building exercises.

One way to bring people together is to design a shared experience. A simple idea of this could be a virtual cheese and wine tasting. The company can send out a box of cheese and wine treats which employees can open and explore over a video call. You may even invite a cheese and wine expert.

People teams might also consider holistic team-building exercises like virtual yoga and meditation retreats. These mindfulness activities enable people to connect on a deeper level and positively affect mental health and well-being.

Celebrating People

Celebrating people and achievements is an effective way to build morale to make individuals feel loved and appreciated. People teams must make a point of celebrating birthdays, company milestones, new family arrivals, and so on.

This kind of communication is even more critical in remote workforces. Many team members might live alone and not have people around them to celebrate a special day or achievement.

These small acts of kindness go a long way to forming strong relationships and loyalty between the company and its workers.

Final Considerations for How People Teams Are Adapting to Remote Work

You've likely heard it a thousand times since March 2020, but there is a new normal when it comes to organizational structures and working from home.

As the world slowly returns to "normal," many companies have announced plans to return to the office but will allow employees to work remotely.

This hybrid working environment will present a new challenge for people teams: creating inclusive events, communication, and experiences for in-office staff and remote workers.

Companies will want to do everything they can to avoid a split where remote workers feel left out or excluded from office activities. People teams will have to find creative ways to build a strong company culture and manage connections in this hybrid working environment.

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