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How to simulate the office online

Gretchen Wegner Reaches Through The Screen
To combat the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality, remote teams are always trying to increase camaraderie and improve communication.

There’s a certain magic that happens when a team clicks. But morale isn’t something that can be forced or manufactured. So how do we create closeness even though we’re far apart? How do we reach through the screens?

Here are my top tips for how to simulate the office online.

 

Use great equipment and minimize background noise

Gone are the days where we have to lean over the conference room microphone so the remote attendees can hear us. We can even use special cameras to zoom in on the white board we weren’t previously able to see. Technology has come a long way and prices have become very reasonable.

The goal when working remotely is to increase the bandwidth as much as possible. So invest in great conference room equipment or a noise canceling headset. Have your meetings from locations where the sound of dogs barking or coffee shop noises don’t degrade the conversation you’re trying to have.

Embrace video

I know that many people don’t like using video. Maybe we’re in our comfy clothes or we have a messy room we don’t want people to see. However, being able to see each other is a very powerful connector. When we don’t use video, there’s an entire “sense” that we are not taking advantage of. Body language and gestures relate a lot of valuable information. And seeing each others working spaces adds a personal touch which can contribute to a sense of camaraderie. So put on that professional shirt, clean up the visible room behind you, and turn your video on!

Work out loud

John Stepper introduced me to the concept of Working Out Loud. It means narrating your work and making it more observable to others. This is a technique for keeping everyone on the same page. It can be as simple as sending a daily message to your team with what you got done that day. It could be done using a Twitter hashtag. It could also look like keeping your Skype or instant message status accurate so everyone knows when you’re available.

We need to adopt the mentality of “the more I share, the more powerful I become”. The interesting thing about working out loud through social networks, is that you become a little more open, a little more transparent, and you give people better opportunities to figure out how they can trust you. This is not just for the sake of being social, it’s being social for the sake of getting the job done within your networks. We become more transparent and more clear in terms of what we do at work. It reduces the friction. That’s what most managers don’t understand: social networks are not just another broadcast communication channel. They are  an engaging conversation channel. And conversation is a two-way street. Always! No excuses. That’s why it’s called conversation. – Luis Suarez, Chief Emergineer and People Enabler

Along with video, it’s helpful to have a group instant messaging system. In an office, we pick up on what’s happening by overhearing conversations or running into people. Virtual teams can replicate this kind of interaction with group instant messaging systems like Slack or HipChat.

Schedule unstructured time

Virtual coffee, lunches, and even virtual dance parties are a fun way to get together and shoot the breeze on virtual teams. Since we can’t run into each other at the coffee machine, we need to be deliberate about our “random interactions”.

Show appreciation

Remote workers can feel especially disconnected and focused on their own worlds. it’s important to acknowledge contributions and accomplishments. Kudobox.co is my favorite way of showing appreciation for my virtual colleagues.

 

Check out these tips on the Collaboration Superpowers podcast.

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