Building relationships among your remote team is not difficult--it just needs to be deliberate.
As the business leader, you need to create habits and forums for the team to get to know each other and form healthy working relationships, rather than assume that relationship building will happen organically. Here are three actionable ways we develop team rapport at my company, Greenback.
1. "Get to know you" Wednesdays
Silly? Yes. Effective and simple? Also yes!
Each Wednesday, one of our team members drafts a get to know you question and posts it on our collaboration tool (we use Podio and Ning, but this works with any chat tool). The questions are fun, not too personal, and totally unrelated to work. Often, this prompts the team to upload a photo or share a fun story.
This is the simplest way to have a little fun and get to know each other on a deeper level. In my experience, everyone collaborates and enjoys this opportunity to identify commonalities.
Here are some sample questions we've discussed as a virtual team:
- "What's the one thing you were scared to do, but glad you did afterward?"
- "What are some personal rules that you never break?"
- "What is one thing (fun, interesting, quirky, etc.) that people do in your area that is typically not done in other cities/states?"
- "Share a photo you took on your phone recently that makes you smile"
Wednesdays are a great day for this, too, since people often need a midweek pick-me-up.
So, what are you waiting for? Nominate a member of your remote team to post this week.
2. "High-five" Fridays
Gratitude is key in any context; yet, sadly, outward signs of appreciation are often reserved for quarterly performance reviews and the occasional hero moment.
But it's critical to the health of your team to share both praise and feedback about areas for improvement. During busy times, what managers often stop doing first is taking time to recognize their team. That's why creating a habit of gratitude is so important.
At Greenback, we have "high-five Fridays" when we take a moment to recognize a colleague. When a team member adds a high five to Podio (our project management and collaboration system), they are also asked to select which company value and/or a specific business goal this ties into. This ensures we focus on recognizing people for actions that fit our overall corporate culture.
The team loves this, and it's a wonderful way to end the week. Plus, it's a unique way to make sure everyone feels valued and appreciated.
3. Annual team meetings and virtual happy hours (i.e., have fun together)
While working remotely has major benefits, building rapport can be especially tricky under these circumstances. Special forums dedicated to having fun present great opportunities to fast-track team bonding and can help remedy the feeling of distance.
Greenback has a small team, and we're widely geographically distributed, so getting together once each year is an extremely costly decision, and it requires a commitment from everyone on the team to leave their lives behind for a few days each year. But we still make that commitment, because meeting in person is invaluable. It's a great chance to chat about strategy, but also a unique opportunity to get to know each other and have some fun together. This year, we're going to Tulum, Mexico, and taking a tour of Chichen Itza; last year, we met in Nashville, Tennessee.
If you can't afford an in-person meeting, don't fret. Virtual happy hours via video chat give your team a chance to gather without any work talk. Having run a remote business for 10 years, I've learned that building relationships is quite a bit easier than you'd expect. People are accustomed to getting to know others online.
Just remember: as with any other goal, you need to set the tone for relationship-building and ensure that your team feels comfortable reaching out to each other and forging bonds.