Unlock 1.0: Fostering a Healthy Remote Work Culture

Transitioning to remote work can get overwhelming quickly, especially when it’s a reaction to an external situation, and not a deliberate move. The agility of managers and team leaders will play a crucial role at this time.


Until recently, remote work has largely been associated with freelancers and some new-age companies. Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has made remote working the new normal across the world and the natural fallback option for companies in trying circumstances.

Organizations transitioning to remote work need to strategize how to communicate and collaborate effectively across teams to protect company culture and meet the larger company goals.

This demands a conscious effort from leadership and managers who need to ensure that there are protocols and communication channels that are in place for employees to connect, stay social, and stay productive.

1. Creating a sense of togetherness

Teams must connect, and connect often, almost as much as they would do back in the office. Having frequent check-ins via phone calls or chat, having regular meetings via video conferencing, and sharing updates in real-time can help retain that feeling of togetherness and ensure that the team is always on the same page.

Frequent one-on-one discussions with managers can help team members stay motivated and productive, and build healthy relationships. Creating a public workboard for team members to share their work pipelines and deadlines can improve transparency and accountability.

The bottom line, however, for business leaders is to understand that a successful transition to remote work can take time. It is important to set realistic expectations, communicate often, acknowledge mistakes, be open to feedback and maintain a culture of trust and accountability.

2. Finding ways for people to voice their opinion

When there’s so much written communication floating around within your team, unlike when you work in an actual office, it gets hard to convey intent and emotion. Employees might not openly voice their opinion for fear of being misunderstood.

So, how do you encourage your team to speak out when working remotely? What can you do to dispel the fear of being misunderstood? Interestingly, the product management team at Zapier came up with a great idea. They agreed on a ‘safe word’ on Slack to indicate whenever they had a bad feeling about a project. And that was a pomegranate emoji.

It’s random but light-hearted and does the job. No one feels anxious if their point-of-view has been incorrectly interpreted. Similarly, you could think of fun ways to encourage your team members to speak up.

3. Celebrating team wins

Working remotely involves quite a lot of emails, catching up on status updates, and following up on deadlines. So much so that we miss out on a crucial aspect of team-building: employee recognition and employee morale.

But, why is this important? According to a Canadian workplace study, when employees were asked what their managers could do to improve engagement, 58% said ‘giving recognition’.

It’s always easier to acknowledge and reward someone’s effort when you’re co-located. Have a quick get together at the office and sing the praises. Or you could even have 1:1 face-to-face meetings to reward employees.

But, when working remotely, as much as the onus is on clear communication, creating a space for acknowledging employees is a must. Have regular virtual meetups where you can talk about everyone’s achievements. You could do virtual birthday celebrations. You can also hand out e-certificates to employees or give shout-outs in internal newsletters. As far as monetary rewards are concerned, gift cards are a great idea – but double-check if it’s something the receiver would actually use.

4. Educating employees about security measures

When employees are going remote, managers must step in and educate them about basic digital hygiene. Remote working could be a fairly new concept for most employees who need to be trained vis-a-vis security measures. Some of the focus areas for employers could be phishing emails, using only secure wifi networks, using only official laptops, and avoiding the use of personal devices and always using a password manager.

The way ahead

Transitioning to remote work can get overwhelming quickly, especially when it’s a reaction to an external situation, and not a deliberate move. The agility of managers and team leaders will play a crucial role at this time.

There will be many challenges along the way. Remote workers might see a dip in productivity. Teamwork can suffer. Processes risk becoming sluggish. The key here is leveraging technology that can make remote working easy. Adopting the right tools, that ensure team members work productively, and keep them on the same page, is key to remote working success.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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