How to maintain a team culture without an office space

Tina Fey once said that: “In most cases, being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way.” At By Ninja our Creative Overlord has taken this notion to the extreme - our team is made up of diverse highly trained specialists, but we all work remotely, so you could certainly say the big boss is very much out of the way. Nevertheless, working remotely does sometimes present challenges, especially when it comes to maintaining an effective and positive team culture. Here are some tips on how we’ve overcome the hurdles of working without a centralised office space to ensure a happy, thriving team environment:

 

ACKNOWLEDGE THE BENEFITS IN WORKING REMOTELY

Empowering employees to work remotely can have significant advantages, which are important to acknowledge. These are:

Reason 1: Better satisfaction

Employees that have flexible, remote working situations tend to report higher satisfaction in their workplace and greater loyalty to their employer, leaving them less likely to be seeking alternative employment. A better retention of staff results in less turnover, which can be both costly and damaging to a business and its brand. Therefore working remotely has real perks, for both employers and employees.

Reason 2: Improved overall wellness 

Flexible working arrangements also lead to improved wellness in a number of ways. Firstly, the flexibility of remote work allows employees to have a much better work life balance. This means they’re more likely to have lower levels of stress, have more time to take care of their health and spend time with family and friends, all of which contribute to overall improved wellness, physically as well as mentally. Further, they’re less likely to be exposed to illness in the workplace, meaning your business will often breeze through the snuffly season without the same disrupting impact that would be seen in a centralised office.

Reason 3: Access to top talent

When you expect all of your employees to work within a centralised office, you’re limited to the talent in your geographical location. On the other hand, working remotely allows you to expand your pool of talent, by allowing you to locate top talent outside of your business commuting radius. By allowing remote workers, you’re giving your business the opportunity to have the best and brightest working for you. Not to mention, the prospect of flexible remote working arrangements is a pull for top talent seeking to reestablish a better work/life balance. Essentially, it means you can be more selective about who you work with, choosing the best rather than the closest.
 

Reason 4: Cost savings 

Remote working arrangements can have cost savings for both the employer and the team. Firstly, for the employer, having an entirely remote team means you’re able to avoid out of pocket expenses associated with having an office such as rent, fit out and other general overheads ordinarily required to keep it running. Even if you have a partially remote team, you’re able to decrease the office size and therefore your running costs. 

Further, remote employees can see sizable financial savings too in the areas of transportation, food, clothing and childcare.

Reason 5: Better productivity

With reasons 1-4 clearly resulting in more satisfied, healthy and qualified employees, it seems unsurprising that remote working can lead to better productivity. Happier, loyal employees tend to produce better quality work and will go the extra mile for their employers. Working remotely also means less distractions, meaning employees can potentially work smarter and accomplish more in their time than they would if they were expected to attend the office. 
 

Acknowledging the benefits of working remotely and that it can be immensely satisfying and rewarding for everyone, has helped our team establish a happy, open and collaborative working environment.

 

MEET AND GREET

Even though you’re not “in” the office, you should still have the pleasure of meeting your workmates. It’s especially important if you want to build the requisite trust needed to create and maintain a positive team environment.  Why? Because connections are important in any business, especially agile programs. Having a good rapport between staff encourages personal connections, which builds trust, minimises missed expectations, eases self-organisation and boosts morale. At By Ninja we always make a habit of introducing our new team mates to each other initially through an introductory email, before following this with a face-to-face via Skype, Zoom or FaceTime.

 

COMMUNICATION IS KEY

Good, honest communication is possibly the most important element in maintaining a positive team environment. It’s key to building trust which is vital in any creative environment, but especially a remote one. Thankfully, with current technology it’s easier than ever to have great communication between remote workers. Our team touches base through numerous channels - email, messenger and video conferencing apps, as well as the occasional phone call, which ensures we’re able to make sure lines of  ensuring we are able to keep the lines of communication active and open. Setting communication standards from day dot also helps define the appropriate behaviours that foster our collaborative environment, such as prompt responses, speaking respectively, keeping everyone relevant to the task in the loop via frequent progress updates and being open about current capacity. While it seems like common sense, spelling this out early ensures everyone is on the same page.

 

SETTING CLEAR PROJECT BRIEFS

No matter what communication standards are set within the workplace, information can occasionally be misconstrued or just missed.  Naturally, this could occur if you were in the same office, but it’s also a problem that remote workers are not immune to. Thankfully, at By Ninja we’ve found this problem can be overcome by setting clear project briefs. How do we do it? Easy, by following these two easy steps:  

  • Step 1: We draft the brief before confirming its content with the client. This process both allows us to confirm our scope of work and ensures we are able to pass on the right information to the team. 
  • Step 2: Confirm the brief with the team. After sending a copy of the brief and allowing enough time for review, we then follow up with a confirmation phone call or video conferencing, ensuring we’re able to answer any questions and clear up any ambiguity.  

By following these two steps we’ve helped streamline our project assignments and handovers, allowing for clarification and collaboration. It results in our team feeling confident in their understanding of the task and expectations, leaving everyone on the same page.

 

INVEST IN GOOD PROJECT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE

Investing in good project management software is a lifesaver. Why? Because these programs sync all information in a single, accessible hub, empowering your team members to make important decisions together. In fact, a good program improves your performance as a team, by helping keep track of progress and common operations by streamlining contribution, as well as assembling and displaying progress data in a logical, understandable manner. A good program, also allows your team members to be assembled on a single board, promptly notified and alerted, and also stores all relevant discussions between all parties in a searchable database.

Further, by having an effective management system, you should be able to minimise your arcane paperwork, by utilising the program’s advanced scheduling capability, which applies both to task and project management. This should limit errors too, making your business appear more efficient and professional, while eliminating frustration and stress caused by such errors for both your employees and your business. 

 

 

Therefore, working remotely can be exceptionally beneficial to both your team and your clientele, by significantly increasing employee satisfaction and wellness and allowing access to the very best talent, leading to better productivity and results. It is also beneficial from a cost point for you and your team, allowing you to be more competitive in the market. While, naturally, working remotely does present challenges in establishing and maintaining a positive team culture, these can be overcome through good organisation such as setting clear briefs and good project management programs and most importantly being committed to positive, respectful and active communication.