Simply be kind to one another. During meetings, ask how people are doing and really listen! If someone shares that they are having a tough day, follow-up with them later! A great way to encourage empathy is to lead by example. Be self-aware and share some of the good and bad happening in your life with your team! There is no need to share all the nitty-gritty details, but this is a great way to establish trust and open the door for empathetic conversations. You could also hold personal check-ins internally with your teams.
RIVA Solutions, Inc. calls these “tag-ups.” For us, they are just quick 15-minute Zoom meetings to touch-base and support each other. I also believe that managing up is a great way to express empathy to your supervisor or boss. Just because you are reporting to someone, doesn’t mean you can’t check-in with them! They are human too! One thing I like to do is look at my boss’ calendar every week and ask, “Hey! It looks like you are pretty busy on Thursday. Is there anything I can take off your plate?” I also make an effort to ask about non-related work items. For example, “How was your weekend?” or “What is a netflix show you recommend?” A small gesture like that takes practically no time, but is very powerful in empathy building!
Everyone knows that Zoom fatigue is real! How do we overcome it? Transparency! We need to communicate our limits! If we all keep hopping on video chats without being honest about how sick and tired we are of Zoom, our communication will be less effective. This could be a detriment to client relationships externally and operations internally. One thing I would recommend is promoting a company-wide open calendar policy. This way, everyone is aware of how many Zoom meetings team members have each day. As an intern, I schedule a lot of video calls with clients and other departments. RIVA’s open calendar policy helps me gauge who is available and not available without having to get in touch with them.
Another great way to be transparent is to take breaks and to mark those breaks on your calendar. My boss does this often. When I glance at her calendar, I feel comfortable taking breaks as well! She also uses calendar blocking and marks “Exercise” or “Grocery store” or “Dentist appointments” during times she is unavailable. This is a great way to express transparency and retain culture. I also am a firm believer in asking for help. If you are struggling with managing an assignment online, don’t pretend like you have it all together. Ask your co-workers for help! Every morning in our Client Delivery tag-up, my boss asks us, “Does anyone need help with anything today?” This gives us the space to be honest about our workload and complicated tasks that we may need extra assistance with.
Bottom line, it is important to accept change as inevitable. We need to embrace flexibility with clients and employees. If a meeting goes astray, be flexible and re-schedule. If your employee is having technical difficulties, avoid getting frustrated and find the quickest solution. Practice makes perfect when it comes to flexibility! Do little things everyday to work on your adaptability skills. You have to break eggs to make an omelet!
This is a simple philosophy, but extremely important when it comes to retaining culture! If team members embrace a flexible mindset with their day-to-day routines and tasks, they are much more likely to embrace corporate changes and become more successful in a remote work environment.
Effective and efficient communication is crucial to meeting business goals and retaining culture in a remote work environment. It is very important to avoid excessive emails, reduce unnecessary meetings, and eliminate back and forth communication. In my experience, Slack channels are a great way to mitigate the “fluff” communication in emails because they streamline tasks. This also helps alleviate stress during on-boarding which gives way to more focus on implementing new employees into the company’s culture.
Engage your teams
All work and no play will not survive in a remote work environment. To retain culture from a computer screen, you have to engage your teams! Some ways to implement this are to hold weekly Zoom happy hours or start a virtual speaker series. For a speaker series, you could invite representatives from other companies or charitable organizations to talk about their mission. At RIVA Solutions, this has proven to be very successful.
If you are using Slack or any other communication service, I would recommend adding some fun channels. For example, at RIVA we have a “Fur Babies” channel where we post cute pictures of our pets during the work day! Above all, it is important to emphasize engagement throughout the on-boarding process. This way, new employees feel immediately welcomed and have the ability to work more efficiently.