How do you keep a sense of team when everyone is geographically dispersed?

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One of the problems associated with becoming a remote worker is the loss of team feeling.  We find that organisations who have a great culture start to introduce remote working, home working, hot-desking etc, only to discover that they are loosing something of the sense of team.  

Talking with an organisation recently, they sighted how there was such a ‘great fun’ culture in the office, bbq’s, ice cream vans, cake at any opportunity even champagne flows relatively frequently.  But the increase of remote working was starting to have an impact.  I witnessed a team huddle in the office, but comment was made ‘has anyone thought to include the remote workers of the team in that huddle?’  Possibly not.  

It’s a common issue; take the people out of the office, and the office will change its dynamic.  It’s possible that this is one of those things that will change the organisation, and it will never be the same again!  That does not mean however, that there is nothing that managers can do it improve the sense of team.  I would suggest it just makes it more critical for managers to be thinking about this and injecting in new practices to help compensate for what is being lost.  

Meetings have a new purpose.  

One thing that managers of remote workers need to understand, is that all physical team meetings now have a new purpose.  There is something to add to the agenda that’s just as important as the list of work issues.  That is ‘catching up’.  

Working physical presence meetings into the life of the remote team is not optional, it’s a vital dynamic that will help to maintain a good team spirit.  Especially if we design-in catch up time.  We should encourage this time to chat, strengthen relationships and most importantly share what’s going well and what’s been a struggle.  In part it’s going to inject back in, the element of social learning that’s lost the  moment we stop being in the same room.  It shouldn’t be optional either.  It’s too easy to tag an hour on the end of a meeting and suddenly find half the team are rushing off.  Three meetings in and you will probably give up on it!  Alternatively, make it happen in the middle of the meeting, cut out a ‘catch up’ break mid process to ensure everyone gets involved.  

Investing in team needs to be high on the agenda of all managers of remote workers.  Involve the team in coming up with ideas, they’ll have plenty I promise you.  

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain.