Quiz fatigue? There are other ways to foster virtual team relations

With 39% of the UK currently working remotely due to Covid-19, and many wanting to remain working this way for some or all their working time going forward, the spotlight is focused on company culture and fostering virtual colleague relations.

In the new era of work, it is predicted that office spaces will less likely be used for working instead, they will become activity spaces for meeting and collaborating.

Whilst working from home has many advantages, employees are increasingly reporting feelings of isolation. Simply ensuring that there are regular team meetings and one-to-ones in the diary isn’t satisfying what people are missing – general office chit chat, socialising and banter.

What are virtual colleague relations?

When people are at work, not all interactions are work related, there is a certain amount of general chit chat about what happened at the weekend, parties, family events, the weather and so on.

On moving to remote working, people have realised just how important these daily interactions are. Even though people have contact with their team during meetings, they are missing that extra layer of social communication, and this is found to be higher in those who live alone.

Why is it important?

Workplace culture is not just a trendy catchphrase. Research shows that it drives behaviour and plays a major role in innovation, customer service, productivity, and profitability.

Companies that responded quickly and successfully to the pandemic all have one thing in common – a strong business culture. One that is strategically relevant, prioritises essential behaviours, and one that staff trust and value.

There is a concern that the pandemic could break company culture as people are unable to meet in person and solidify their shared beliefs.

Research published in the Harvard Business Review shows that cultural adaptability is essential.

Creativity is the key

Traditional means of engaging employees and team building are going to need a refresh. With virtual working, communication mechanisms, both formal and informal, must be more creative and engaging.

We can look to companies that are well established in the remote working space for inspiration as they have found ways to overcome virtual working challenges to build strong, inclusive, and high performing cultures.

  • GitLab have the world’s largest all-remote workforce across 65 countries and replaced in person banter with virtual coffee breaks, and a Slack channel, #donut_be_strangers, randomly pairs colleagues to meet up and socialise
  • Help Scout encourage team members to create MTV Cribs inspired videos of their workspaces at home, allowing employees to share their personality and life with colleagues
  • Teambuilding.com share unique ideas including a #you-are-awasome channel on Slack where employees can give shout outs to other team members, mini-campfire get-togethers, and Ted-Style Talks on employee’s unique areas of expertise outside of work.

Traditionally structured companies that have found themselves working from home due to Covid-19 are also making head way on innovative ways to foster virtual colleague relations.

  • Thames Water have introduced randomised seating plans so that people can catch up with their virtual hotdesking neighbours
  • Business travel experts Clarity, created a podcast “Bright Side Radio Show” where staff submit questions that are answered on the show, from serious concerns that employees have, to more random questions such as ‘what’s your favourite crisp?’
  • Kellogg’s have issued staff with branded face masks to put a smile on their faces and to remind them that they are part of the Kellogg’s family.

How to foster virtual colleague relations

In the new era of work, I suggest the following to improve your virtual colleague relations:

  • Be Creative – Put in place mechanisms to help employees recognise common connections that can then be built upon in future conversations. Think beyond a weekly quiz (people have had enough of these). How about virtual yoga, cooking, gardening, book clubs, virtual afterwork drinks…?
  • Tools – Zoom, Slack and Google Hangouts are excellent at facilitating team engagements. You don’t need an algorithm to match people, a good old-fashioned hat draw works just as well
  • Get Staff Involved – Forming a virtual colleague relations committee, is a great way to involve staff as they can be in charge of talking to employees, coming up with ideas, and putting the structures in place to bring solutions to life
  • Consult your HR team – HR professionals will help you to review and adapt your business culture to virtual working so that it drives performance and profitability, safeguarding the business and employees’ wellbeing.
  • The takeaway here is that remote work doesn’t need to be isolating and coming up with ideas and putting them in place doesn’t need to be on the managers’ shoulders.

    The most successful culture building initiatives are employee led, with leaders supporting and guiding them.

    For more information or expert support on building effective virtual team relations, contact us at Lotus HR today.