How to create recurring in person interactions for remote workers
From one month to another, remote work undeniably gains ground in these new times. As we learn to consider remote work a normality, leaders have to find creative solutions to a new type of need: that of providing their teams with sufficient in person interactions. Regular face to face meetings, in large or small groups, remain a key factor of performance and involvement in remote work as they did before. We’re not eliminating these interactions by working remotely, we’re just giving up the surplus of meetings and hours spent at fixed desks.
The old tradition of Christmas parties
While reading the book “Remote. Office not required”, one line from the first chapters struck me: “you’re probably already doing it.” On closer look, even when we go to the office daily, we work with various partners who are not physically close to us. This thought led me to another picture: the annual meetings with colleagues from all over the country that I have attended in my years of corporate experience. After months of practically working remotely from each other, it was a celebration to just hang out together. In the case of newcomers this was also an opportunity to associate a voice or a photograph with the real human in front of our eyes.
A few days later, with everyone back at their desks, the working atmosphere was completely different. Across the whole network, there was a kind of renewed pact. The same thing happens when we’re not working from a fixed office. Regular in-person meetings between employees really work – they refresh the team’s energy, boost performance, complete professional or human aspects that cannot be covered otherwise.
Why do we need to provide recurring offline meetings to our remote employees?
• First of all, because we connect more easily to people we have met in person at least once in our lives. We work better without that barrier of formalism imposed by not knowing someone closely yet. When we can associate a name or a voice with a human being that we actually had before our eyes at some point, we no longer sense the feeling of confusion and reserve from the days when we only met online.
• Face-to-face meetings are also an excellent opportunity to integrate new colleagues who have not yet had the opportunity to interact directly with the rest of the team.
• Beyond the human, empathetic and social component, regular in person meetings between remote employees are also necessary for purely pragmatic reasons:
– by organizing working groups, projects can be accelerated when a deadline is close and additional joint effort is needed;
– by bringing people close on a regularly basis, everyone gets a clearer overall picture about ongoing projects;
– by facilitating offline meetings, new directions for the future of the business can be debated and established.
Offline meeting options for remote workers
Depending on the specifics of the business, the size of the organization and the geographical spread of the teams, leaders can opt for different forms of reuniting remote employees in the “real” world. Of course, these solutions must currently be adapted to the still uncertain context of the pandemic, but they remain valid guidelines for companies that will continue to opt for fully remote or hybrid working schemes.
• Small group work meetings with punctual goals. As we mentioned, sometimes this kind of meetings are necessary at different project stages. Where can people join? Coworking spaces are a perfect solution if you do not have a sufficiently spacious or well-equipped office or if you simply want to give your employees the freedom to choose their meeting place.
• Regular meetings – usually annual – with the whole company. It is worth noting the example of all-remote organizations like GitLab, with employees from different parts of the globe, which meet periodically for a few days, thus combining some general business presentations with memorable opportunities for socializing and human connection.
• Meetings between local teams. Those who live nearby or are part of the same team can regularly meet in small groups. Whether we’re talking about going to a restaurant together, a weekend in the mountains, working together from a coworking hub a few days a month, or any other ritual set according to their needs and preferences, recurring opportunities can be created for meeting in local groups.
• Conferences and workshops. Employees appreciate the opportunities to keep up to date with the latest progress in their profession, while the company benefits if it supports the continuous training of its specialists. In addition to accessing new information, going to conferences and workshops allows remote teams to enjoy mutual presence in a both useful and pleasant way.
Contrary to extremist views, remote does not mean isolation, nor drastic abandonment of old working habits. First and foremost remote means having options about the place we usually work from. Actually, the fact that we meet less with our colleagues can be seen as an advantage: those rarer moments will be more productive, happier and truly meaningful for everyone.
When do you prefer to meet in person with your colleagues?