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- It can be challenging to build workplace culture in a virtual environment, but companies that are fully remote see benefits that might not be obvious to others.
- Carol Cochran, vice president of people and culture at FlexJobs, a job site for remote work, told Business Insider scheduling virtual social breaks can improve insight and problem-solving.
- Cochran advises managers to create “aha moments,” or moments that inspire and build camaraderie among remote employees.
- We’ve compiled a list of tips for fostering a stronger remote workplace culture in this series, “Office Anywhere.”
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
As more teams shift to the new normal of remote work, companies across America are looking for ways to keep colleagues separated by distance feeling like they’re part of a bigger “family.”
Occasional coffee breaks, happy hours, and even baby showers may seem trivial, but in a virtual environment, these are the traditional gatherings that can help strengthen relationships among remote colleagues.
Employees who telecommute often report feeling isolated from their office coworkers, Business Insider has previously reported. This can lead to a plummet in concentration and a lack of participation in meetings.
Over time, developing a bond with your colleagues can improve workplace engagement. According to a report from Gallup, employees who have a “best friend” at work are more motivated to take actions that positively impact the business.
Carol Cochran is the vice president of people and culture at telecommuting firm FlexJobs, which counts on a majority remote team with offices across the country. Cochran told Business Insider that moving in-person interactions such as coffee breaks to an online platform can make all the difference in strengthening bonds between workers separated by distance.
“We always start with the question of what would things look like if we were co-located and how can we try to replicate that,” Cochran said. “Incidental interactions create these moments of inspiration that we take back to our desk with us.”
Here are three ways to make workers feel like they’re part of a bigger workplace family to enhance engagement, productivity, and most importantly, camaraderie.
Create virtual “watercooler” moments
FlexJobs uses a virtual collaboration tool to create online “watercooler” moments where colleagues can casually talk with each other. Using this platform, managers will recognize work anniversaries or simply chat about their families.
According to Cochran, casual social breaks allow colleagues to come up with new ideas. Interactions like these can spur an “aha!” moment that can boost an employee’s problem-solving abilities, letting them break down personal work puzzles to find creative solutions for them.
“It doesn’t even have to be a formalized brainstorming session,” Cochran said. “Just opening your mind up a little bit can let you have a solution or have an idea come to you through this casual encounter.”
Remember your colleagues’ birthdays
When you’re not working in the office, it’s easy to miss your coworker’s major life milestones. “Happy birthday” may appear to be a small gesture, but it’s reminders like these that can make all the difference in having someone feel included in the workplace.
To celebrate an employee’s birthday, managers at FlexJobs will send a gift to their home using a remote employee reward service. Although it’s important to have boundaries between your work and home life, Cochran said that the occasional blurring of those lines can help create a more personal connection between workers.
“A part of that is celebrating you as a person, and that starts with the day that you were born,” she said. “What better way to honor you as an individual person than to recognize your actual birthday.”
Pair them up with a virtual buddy
Teaming up remote workers with a colleague in a “complementary position” can help guide employees through the difficulties of a remote workplace culture. For example, a virtual buddy can provide support for questions that are too awkward to ask direct teammates.
“It’s just another person to lean on while they’re going through the first 90 days,” Cochran said.
In the long run, these casual interactions build trust and strengthen bonds among remote workers. What’s more, as employees get a glimpse of the bigger vision of their company, they can get an inside look at how all the pieces fit together.
“It makes you feel more connected to the mission of the company itself because you’re more invested in the people,” she said.
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