4 actionable ways to build a community while working remote
As a 100% remote team, you can trust us when we say working from home rocks. It allows for increased flexibility, lower overhead costs, no more rush hour traffic—and that’s just to start. But working from home has its downsides, too; Sometimes, geographic obstacles can make it hard to replicate the camaraderie of in-person work environments. It can leave teams feeling isolated, unmotivated and even detached from their work.
That said, there are concrete, actionable ways to help build community in a remote environment. From making the most of modern technology to scheduling in-person meet-ups, these methods are tried and tested by yours truly.
1. Schedule time for your team to connect.
These days, we’re not lacking in communication channels. Between instant messaging, emails, texting and video conferencing, getting in touch with your team has never been easier. And if you only use these platforms to talk shop, you’re missing a huge opportunity to build a close-knit team.
Consider scheduling team- or company-wide events specifically designed to foster non-work-related communication. For example, at Traction Tools, we’ve implemented something we affectionately call Nerd Talks. Nerd Talks occur once per month over Zoom, and each one features a different team member “nerding out” over something that excites them. So far, our team members have covered everything from travel tips to painting and basic bartending—with even more to come!
Nerd Talks help bring us out of our professional shell, and move us into a chilled-out, casual headspace. We chat, ask questions and, most importantly, we get inspired by our team members’ passions, bringing us closer together as a team.
2. Create a “watercooler” chat channel.
Working from home comes with fantastic flexibility—but sometimes, the lack of chit-chat can be an obstacle. You’d be surprised at how much professional communication comes down to small talk and at how much slips through the cracks without it.
Casual conversation is a gateway to building stronger teams, especially when it spans across departments that might not regularly interact. To encourage our team to get engaged, we implemented a “watercooler” channel in Slack. In it, our team posts everything from inspirational quotes to life updates and even memes.
3. Find ways to help people connect one-on-one.
It can be hard to find excuses to talk to people one-on-one outside of formal meetings. To that we say: make it a formal meeting!
At Traction Tools, we use an initiative called Culture Champs to help facilitate one-on-one convos. It goes like this: When you opt-in, you’re randomly paired with one other person, preferably from a different department. The duo is encouraged to schedule a 30-minute long “meeting” every month just to chat. Then, every quarter, the partners switch—meaning that every year, participants get to bond with four team members they might never otherwise meet.
To help partners get acquainted, we send out optional conversation-starters before each meeting. Examples include:
- What are you excited to be working on?
- What are you watching/reading/listening to lately?
- Do you have aspirations to travel? Who or what do you want to see?
- What are your favorite outdoor activities this season?
4. Encourage in-person meet-ups.
If you’re working from home, your team is probably pretty geographically diverse. That means after-work happy hours are off the table… or are they?
Bringing your team together works wonders for culture-building. If you’re able, consider covering the cost of transportation for a company- or department-wide meet-up. It’s worth it—trust us.
We try to arrange in-person meet-ups whenever possible. Sometimes, everyone from a specific region will get together for dinner. Sometimes, an internationally-dispersed department will fly in for a quarterly meeting. No matter the reason, we find massive value in facilitating facetime. It creates a strong foundation for a larger sense of community, leading to better working relationships, boosted performance and, honestly, so much fun.
Not sure what to do with your coworkers once you’re together? We’ve got your back. When you’re not busy running excellent meetings, you might consider trying:
- Going for a scenic hike
- Cooking a meal together
- Seeing a musical or play
- Grabbing a beer at a local brewery
Coming from a team who has done all of these together, it’s pretty dang fun—trust us.
- Gina Richard