Even Teams Who Don’t Share the Office Need A Sense of Camaraderie
The once-typical American office, with one team in the same office and on the same page, is experiencing some big changes. Between outsourcing and a growing number of people working at home, staffers in the same department may be working in different cities, different states, or even in different countries. It is hard to get employees on the same page when you all work in the same workplace, which is why team-building events like dinners and good-natured competitions can help. It is even more difficult to establish cohesiveness with your staff when they are physically separated. In addition, the lack of face-to-face contact can make communication more difficult. So how can you have team-building events when members of your staff work remotely? Here are some suggestions:
Have staffers who work at home come in to your location part of the time
While there are many advantages for both employer and employees to having people work at home, you do lose the everyday connections that you get by sitting in the same workplace. Even just knowing the everyday quirks of others can help you better understand each other. Well, there is no need to do what Marissa Mayer did with Yahoo! and completely cancel work-at-home assignments, but if you have staff in the same city working at home, why not have them come in to the workplace one day a week? That will help your team get to know each other better, yet still give the advantages to both employer and employees that at-home work does. As someone who goes into the office once a week, just showing up and seeing our team—and breaking bread with them at lunch time—gives me more of a sense of the personalities I work with, and vice-versa. You get to know what motivates them, what bugs them, and what work styles they have. And because I am only there once a week, I pay closer attention to the personalities than I would if I were there every day.
Figure out better ways to collaborate remotely
Mayer recently explained her decision to no longer allow working at home, saying, “people are more productive when they’re alone [but that] they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together. Some of the best ideas come from pulling two different ideas together.” You can still get those ideas going remotely, though, simply by making more of an effort to talk than using the old “reply to all” email chain that people tune out after a while. Talking on the phone and/or using Skype can give you more of a sense of your team, thanks to the human touch these methods provide. We have found that regular conference calls and Skype talks can lead to more of a team-bonding feel than sending emails can provide.
Start a book club
We have been doing a twice-monthly book club of Shawn Achor’s The Happiness Advantage, led by career and life coach Meredith Haberfeld. Not only is it a good book about how happiness can lead to increased performance, but we all also get a sense of each other’s personalities simply by talking in the conference call. Try to find a book that speaks to your staff and that will spur discussion.
Don’t forget birthdays
Simply getting in the point of recognizing each others’ birthdays can foster team camaraderie. There is a reason Facebook features birthdays so prominently: because they get people saying nice things to their friends. You can celebrate birthdays with a twist, though—why not give the birthday boy or girl the spotlight to tell their team members a little about themselves, like what their hobbies and interests are? By engaging more with your staff, even by implementing the little things, you could find out that your staff has more in common than you think. Good luck.