In modern workplace environments, many different people and ideas coalesce and collide to form a uniquely malleable environment. While some employees may be put off by the prospect of webcams and keyboards instead of watercoolers, many new opportunities open up when physical space is no longer a necessity.
Taking advantage of online possibilities takes a uniquely flexible mindset and perseverance to match. Here’s how remote work can become both more efficient and a more positive experience for everyone.
No matter the means by which you select a team, people naturally build opinions within minutes of first meeting someone. These perceptions can change over time of course, and they often do, but it never hurts to start off with strong first impressions already in place.
Starting off a conversation with small talk might seem like a bore, but it’s an important part of setting the mood right. You can find many tips for first impressions here: https://axiomq.com/blog/5-ways-to-make-a-good-first-impression-online/. A normal meeting has many people using webcams and, usually, there’s an oddity or two or something of note to use for this.
While this may seem antithetical to making a product fast and efficiently, having some time to see the other members of a team is important for anyone. Very few people work completely alone, but seeing an icon on a computer screen rather than an animated face can make even the most seasoned computer veterans start to distance themselves from their work.
Psychologically, the most efficient team members are engaged, connected, social, and have a vested interest in the success of the product they are creating or helping to create. Webcams are a necessity for this, with generous exceptions allowed of course. No one should be expected to be presentable at home 100% of the time, but most of the time is easily a great way to keep a team’s head in the game.
Creating a strong remote work culture requires time taken out to talk, attention paid to details, and a strong personal flair. No one likes a useless conversation, and this is especially true for online workplaces. If something isn’t clear, anyone with any responsibility should feel comfortable asking questions.
While the value of initiative is appreciated under tight deadlines, knowing the deadline is a very important part of creating a great workplace environment. Expectations should be especially clear since things like timezones, file submissions, and permissions for specific actions are an issue for online environments.
Be forgiving when technology gets in the way, even if your workplace is fully remote. Think about it like this: how could someone be expected to print something without knowing where the printer is?
Everyone should know at all times in the company how to reach their team lead, their coworkers, and anyone in between. This is non-negotiable even for physical environments. Walking into your boss’s office might be intimidating but, for various reasons, it has to be done. Programs for remote work actually have an advantage here, since a private message is a lot more casual than knocking on a door.
Programs for work-related instant messaging are numerous and easy to set up. Click here for a few that have stood the test of time and the recent surge in remote workplaces.
Many online instant-messaging programs allow for messages to the entire company, statuses, and other easily visible markers. A proper leader knows that even if they said that the employees can ask questions, it isn’t a positive experience unless it is perfectly clear at all points in the process.
Status and availability should be very clear from the beginning. You should also consider having fallback measures in place in case you aren’t directly available during a regular time. This can be anything from a simple do-not-disturb status to something as thorough as a team message dictating where to go for a concern.
Communication is key for employees, and it extends in the other direction as well. Make yourself a focal point of a team and the people in that team will consistently work much better together. Conflict may occur, but with a clear central point, even the most explosive orbiting collisions become only a small issue.
Just because your workplace is online doesn’t mean the webcam will be the only form of communication. Focus less on your appearance in meetings and not only will your team members notice, but also they will loosen up themselves.
While instant messaging and online meetings can be a pain, online work environments have distinct advantages that make them well worth the effort. If you can create an atmosphere you can be proud of at the beginning, the end result will be an effective team that communicates and creates in equal measure for the good of the company.