It’s not always easy to improve communication, innovation, and collaboration with a remote or distributed team. However, with a bit of creativity and effort, and the right technology, it’s possible to create outstanding team dynamics and highly productive and profitable company culture with team members located across the world. Just ask the successful teams at Buffer, Automattic, and Zapier to name a few.
The following listicle of 7 activities will take you just a few minutes every week to implement, whilst serving to engage your team, reduce isolation, build connections between team members, and positively impact your bottom line.
- Celebrate every team member’s birthday. It doesn’t matter how many employees you have, or where they are located in the world, this is imperative. Send a card, a little gift, a delivery of flowers or food, anything to show that you value the individual’s that make up your team. Engage your creative team members in developing a birthday tradition unique to your team or company. Postable is a great service that automates birthday cards, and Giftogram can make sending a little token of your appreciation even easier.
Create a monthly company “news broadcast”. Try including important company info, and videos or messages from various team members or offices around the world. This doesn’t have to be a highly edited, fancy broadcast - it could just be a quick live video from selected employees , or team leads, focused on specific projects or sharing local culture, and slices of life from their hometowns. Check out G Adventures, “GNN” for a great example of an impactful, but easy to create, monthly broadcast, designed to bring their global and highly distributed team together.
Learn together. Support lifelong learning with a “learn something new together” benefit, where you invite employees to find at least one other team member interested in learning together, and reimburse them for all or part-of their course. Or create shared learning and teaching opportunities by offering “each one teach one” time in a monthly meeting or recording - inviting team members to share their knowledge by teaching classes via Zoom or GoToMeeting, in topics such as yoga, meditation, painting, CPR, etc. This is a great way to highlight team member diversity, and show your team how much you value everything that they bring to the company. Discovering your team member’s hidden talents and passions could also lead to new opportunities for the business.
Plan Global Volunteering Days. Give your team a giving back/ community service benefit by allowing for one paid volunteer day per quarter, where employees across the world simultaneously volunteer with organizations in their own communities. Have everyone share photos or videos, and create an album or video about your company’s global volunteering day to share with the team, on social media and with your clients, encouraging other companies to do the same! Volunteering simultaneously, while apart, will still give your team the positive benefits that volunteering provides, including building stronger relationships by doing good together, giving back to their communities, feeling altruistic, and feeling proud of working for a company that contributes to community initiatives.
Create Dedicated team bonding Slack channels (or Facebook threads if you’re using a team Facebook page or Wiki for internal communication) for connection-building. For many remote companies, Slack is like the office. Think about lunchroom or water cooler chats you’d have in a co-located office, and then create Slack channels around those. Assign one person to be the lead in each group, to get the ball rolling every week. Try: Celebrations and Holidays, Jokes & Memes, Hobbies, TIL (today I learned), Fitness, Inspiration/ Motivation, Books We’re Reading, and Articles Worth Sharing.
Start an annual summer DIY/ homemade gift exchange. Give everyone a small budget ($10-$20) for supplies and postage, and encourage them to join the DIY/ homemade gift exchange, unrelated to any particular religious or cultural events. Draw names from a hat, and make something for a colleague. This will encourage team members to get to know each other, as they’ll need to learn about the recipient, and the recipient will learn about the gift-maker, boost creativity, highlight people’s unique skill sets, facilitate relationship-building and enhance communication. DIY suggestions include: write and film a song or poem, paint a picture, knit a toque, carve a spoon, create a video of jokes, make a scrapbook, etc.
Create an inside-joke company calendar or themed swag. At Freshbooks, they're creating a “dogs of Freshbooks” calendar, including photos of their employees and their dogs in funny memes. Highlighting ways that your team members are similar, despite their geographical and cultural differences, and creating "inside jokes" where every team member is on the "inside", will facilitate relationship building between team members, help them relate in work interactions, and increase communication.