Creating Community in a Remote Work Environment

COVID has changed the ways we do business, and this has especially affected how we manage our teams. Close-knit teams working side by side in a shared space with direct communication is a thing of the past, at least for the foreseeable future. With it has gone our team events, face-to-face meetings, sneaking away for a quick coffee and shared meals.

All of these contribute to a healthy work culture where teams are connected, motivated and productive. So what now?

The truth is, it’s not all bad news.

While life under COVID has drastically changed our environments, humans are resilient creatures and the fundamentals of working together can be applied to any situation. We simply need to develop and invent new ways of connecting with each other, inspiring one another and promoting healthy work cultures; cultures where individuals and teams can thrive, where people feel comfortable being themselves, empowered to be their best and inspired to reach their goals.

How do we do that?

Managing Director of DNA, Adelina Carnevale, has this advice: “Good leaders can create this culture and keep the connection with their teams alive and well by focusing on community building. The stronger the community, the more we work together as a team and not as isolated individuals. Building a culture of community is about more than empty slogans and dry policies; it’s about the relationship and habits we form with each other and our connection to one another. Community is not expecting everybody to fit one particular model of what’s best, but appreciating how we’re all different and how there’s a place for everyone.”

Here are six ways for leaders to build community in an online environment:

  1. Communicate Often
    Keep the connection strong by promoting discussion amongst your team, use consistent channels for different types of communication (e.g. email for long discussion, texts for quick chats), have regular group and one-on-one meetings and catchups and encourage horizontal communication, not just upwards towards management.
  2. Focus on Wellbeing
    Fight the ills of isolation by leading by example: show and tell your team how you’re prioritising your wellness, establish and enforce healthy boundaries (e.g. non-urgent work calls between 9-5 only), promote your team’s successes across the business and most importantly, have fun together!
  3. Manage Expectations
    Communicate clearly about what you expect from your team in these new circumstances, from the hours and output expected, to the flow and rate of communication, to availability, collaboration and dealing with conflict.
  4. Recreate an Inclusive Culture
    Take the time to get to know each of your team members more closely, what their ideal work circumstances are, what motivates and demotivates them and incorporate this into your leadership style so that everybody feels included.
  5. Encourage New Ways to Collaborate
    Take advantage of the large array of innovative technologies designed to keep us connected and collaborative (e.g. Skype, Teams, Asana, Trello) and incorporate online workshops, feedback sessions and meetings into your culture.
  6. Invest in Training
    Understand what your team needs to adjust to these new circumstances rather than assuming they will naturally work it out and invest in their success (e.g. time-management and self-motivation strategies, communication and collaboration technologies, wellbeing programs).

Working remotely is the new normal for many businesses and brings a series of new challenges with it. Creating cultures of community and connection is how we ensure that teams stay connected when they can’t stay together.