Creating A Digital Office That Feels Connected

There are four steps to it:

  • Communicate frequently.
  • Cultivate a shared identity and purpose.
  • Be dependable, reliable, and accessible.
  • Connect with others authentically.

To key to building a culture of visibility with your remote team is perceived proximity, where your remote team members feel connected to others mentally and emotionally. In the physical work environment, you feel comfortable talking to people, regardless of rank. However, you may feel more awkward to ping the CEO a question in chat when you've never seen them in the lunch line or said hi in the hallway.

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Visibility As A Valuable Remote Work Skill

Visibility at work is when you are included, recognized, and valued by networks within your organization. Its how you get credit for your work, get considered for advancement and build influence.

Visibility is also necessary for teams. Research points out that remote team members who don't feel "seen" are less collaborative, innovative, and supportive of each other. Remote teams can face isolation from company culture, lack of face time with management, fewer informal networking opportunities, time zones, and technological problems.

Remote workspaces can quickly become a quiet space of unaddressed messages. Everyone should know their work is being seen and appreciated. The golden rule is: never leave an effort unacknowledged.

  • Prioritize remote-first video meetings that give everyone an equal presence.
  • Give credit where credit is due. Tag the person where work is occurring that references them.
  • Responding to each team interaction does not have to be a burden. Make use of emoji reactions for a quick show of support. Make a team rule never to leave a question unanswered or a shared resource unacknowledged in chat.

Develop a plan to be visible in front of key stakeholders. The goal is to create an equal playing field for remotes to contribute and have a say in business decisions.

  • Keep your virtual office doors open wherever possible by having a shared set of tools where work happens openly, and where everyone can read the same information and comment and participate in business decisions.
  • Never expect immediate participation in key business decisions when time zones are a factor.
  • Face time in video meetings is the closest simulation to in-person interactions. Ensure the rotation of visible roles to give everyone on the team exposure to leadership.

Research found those who get more face time with management by being co-located are assigned better work assignments from their managers, are awarded promotions more frequently, and are less aware of their remote counterparts.

Many companies have learned how to integrate remote work into their business. Now is the time to set up structures to support the visibility and growth of remote teams long-term.

Work time is also a social time and important for encouraging professional relationships. In the office, these social moments happen at the coffeemaker or in the hallway.

  • Reach out. In remote teams, you have to be proactive about creating social moments. It can be adding 5-10 minutes in meetings for weekend catch-ups.
  • Set a schedule. Standardizing some expectations for socializing can reinforce the framework: Everyone shares a picture from their weekend on Mondays, or eats lunch together on video on Thursdays. Let the team decide on these schedules.
  • Get meta. Regularly review how well (or not) your team is socializing. When teams get busy, they may stop casual interactions. Make time for fun, and make time to review and understand how that fun helps you as a team.

Remote teams need consistent, inclusive interactions—but they need to be the right type, done in the correct way. This can be done in three ways.

  • Social visibility, where you foster positive personal connections and building relationships in work time.
  • Strategic visibility. Contributing ideas and advice on projects and having a say in business decisions.
  • Supportive visibility. Building team members up by recognizing and sharing their good work with others and creating equal opportunity situations.

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... that's capable of executing in a remote setup:

  • Hire doers: they will get stuff done even if they are working from a secluded island.
  • Hire people you can trust. And trust the people you hire;
  • Hire people who cand write: communication is one of the most important parts of a remote team - good writers are critical to a team's success.
  • Hire people who are ok without a social workplace.

For the whole idea of remote work to actually work, you have to develop a remote culture for your team.
And that means having a shared context: everyone plays by the same rules, you have to understand your team's practices and everybody has to have an overall feeling that you are working in an equitable environment.

The challenges of hybrid teams

Most companies embracing remote work also have dedicated headquarters. But remote-ish teams have even more communication and collaboration challenges than fully remote teams.

For example, in hybrid teams, remote employees are often left in the dark. Office workers are often heard, recognized, and promoted, while remote workers are forgotten.

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