Remote work is like a tent that came out of its bag very easily and is now impossible to get it back in. It’s the metaphorical object that came out of Pandora’s box. 

Yes, the world transitioned to remote work during the pandemic seamlessly, it seems. But there’s no going back now, is there? The world was in such a rush it barely had time to tend to the needs of its new army of remote workers. 

So instead of yearning for the office, let’s see how we can make remote work better for ourselves and our teams. 

What Needs? 

Okay, this might be a loaded statement; maybe it’s straightforward, but what needs? 

Someone might say they need three months off in a year and a 200% pay increase. So you need to establish how flexible you are with the line between need and want. Sometimes it’s sharp; sometimes, it’s flexible. 

But yes, let’s talk needs. This can be condensed into three questions: 

  1. What do you need to work well? 
  2. What do you need for your working wellness? 
  3. What do you need to sustain company culture? 

Depending on the team, the order of these questions is subject to change or even subject to dismissal. 

Question one is simple, what does someone need to work efficiently and to a target in the home environment; question two is a consideration for how this transition affects their mental health; question three is asking people how can we help you feel like a team member. Or, put more bluntly, how can we have fun together virtually as a team? 

Just… Ask? 

So, to make a simple answer, the easiest possible way to identify the needs of your remote team is to ask. Yes, who would have thought it? Giving your team a voice is in and of itself is smart. Everyone likes to be reminded that their opinions are valued. It’s not rocket science. 

Breaking this down a bit more, let’s assume there are four general methods you can and should use: an anonymous questionnaire, a one-on-one chat, a group meeting, and a suggestion box. Each has its pros and its cons, and you can try one or all of them. 

An anonymous questionnaire might get more honest answers out of your team. However, it might be seen as a chore, and folk might blast through it so they can get on with something else. 

Whereas a private one on one chat might help build confidence and yield richer data. But people might feel intimidated in this environment. 

A team meeting might trigger new ideas and spark more depth in your conversations. Brainstorming is popular for a reason because more horsepower gets you where you need to go quicker. It’s as simple as that. 

And finally, a suggestion box is a good idea because it is a more organic way for people to express themselves. Sometimes it’s hard to articulate what you want and how you feel on demand. 

Take the lead From Real Life 

To clarify, the first step should always be to just ask. It’s when step one fails that you need to get inventive.

However, as with everything in life, it’s easier said than done. If getting a straight answer was as easy as it sounds, the world would be a magical place, and we’d have 100% energy efficient floating cars and full-fat coke without the fat.

So if you need to do some of your own digging? Why not just replicate what worked in person at the office? Just because you’re working online, doesn’t mean it’s not real.

If you know that Employee 1 likes regular checkups and validation, keep doing that. If you know Employee 2 likes to be in charge of the social planning, deputise that to them. If you know your team likes a drink after work at a local bar, replicate it. 

Alternatively, sometimes some tactical ignorance is called for. If you know that Employee 3 will turn their nose up at your olive branches because they think remote company culture is lame, then maybe save your energy. 

Sometimes the best way to do something is to do nothing. Some people in your team like to be just left alone. And you know what, so long as they get their work done, why bother them? 

Something for The Road: Actionable Tips

You’ve read all this way, now how about a little something for the road? It would be a shame not to leave with something fun and actionable. 

Let’s start with tackling loneliness. Although you’ll never replace the endorphin inducing physical communication of the office, you can replicate it somewhat thanks to the miracle of technology. 

You could give Buddy Calls a go. It’s a simple system where your team are put into new pairs each week. The couples have a 10-minute call (video or audio) on Monday and Friday mornings. They can talk about life, their work, their social plans, everything and anything. It might be a nice change from staring at their screen all week.  

Or for the more ambitious among you, how about a Cook-a-Long? One or two nights a month where a member volunteers to lead a virtual cooking workshop. 

Speaking to the CEO of Spacehutnr, Dietrich Moens, told us, “Our most successful remote team-building venture has been our monthly Cook-a-Longs. We have a team of amateur cooks, so it made sense. It’s great firstly because it’s so engaging. They’re loud and frantic; they’re a great substitute for a traditional after-work.”

In short, the possibilities are literally endless. Other unique ideas include internal podcasting, quizzing, gaming, and of course… a good old fashioned drink. 

Wrapping up 

In conclusion, remote work isn’t going anywhere. So get used to it. As for helping your team adapt to it, give them a voice and let them teach you. Taking the best of in-person techniques is also an essential play here. Good luck, we’re all counting on you!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels