For years now millennials and working parents have been requesting to work from home. Often their requests were declined on the basis of, “If we let you work remotely, we’ll have to let everyone.” Then 2020 came along, like a naughty adolescent reluctant to abide by any rules, and determined to shake things up. Suddenly those bosses that previously said no, really did have to let everyone work remotely.
Overnight, companies across the globe were thrown into working remotely, with no plans in place to support employees or managers. A good chunk of the working population who could work from home, had always been denied the opportunity to do so, thus having zilch experience.
Some companies were quick to adapt and invested in development designed especially for remote working, such as our very own virtual working workshops. Other organisations had an attitude of ‘this is temporary’ and set out to simply survive until they could bring everyone back into the office.
Without knowing what to expect, or how to prepare for the new normal of remote working, many have been unable to convert their team culture into the virtual world. Gone are the days of water cooler gossip, hugs in the corridor, pranking your colleagues, and lunchtime games of pool. For some, those moments have been replaced by multiple trips to the fridge to see if any snacks have magically appeared, more time stroking pets, and trying to guess what emergency service vehicle you can hear for the seventh time today.
“It all feels so formal now”, one of our clients told us recently as we consulted with them to help them recreate the fun culture of their now empty offices. It got us thinking about our very own virtual culture. Our in-house team has grown to 8, half of which I have never met in-person and maybe I never will, yet we have an informal, enjoyable working culture. What exactly makes our culture so great? I asked the team and here are some of their favourite things:
1. “Got a min?”
As a remote team, we’re used to interruptions. Since we can’t look over the desk to see how busy our colleagues are, we simply type a message into MS Teams asking for a chat. Either we get ignored (because they’re drowning in work), or we get a response to say ‘sure’ or ‘give me 10 mins’. We might have a really basic work related question but the chances are we'll natter for 10 minutes before we get to the work stuff. If spending 10 minutes distracted from work whilst you chat with colleagues was the norm in the physical office, then be sure to mirror that in your virtual office.
2. Show me your GIFs
The VTT team often conduct an entire conversation using GIFs, memes, and emojis… not a single word typed. We GIF to announce our arrival at work, I often use the most spectacular entrance possible to reflect how I would behave in a physical office. (Yes my ego really is that big that I need EVERYONE to know I have arrived) We GIF to announce our lunch, our departure, the crazy stuff going on in the world, our successes, and our whoops moments.
3. Quiz time!
If you’ve ever attended one of our Virtual Workshops or Virtual Train The Trainer programme, you’ll know we like to pass the baton. Every week one of our teammates holds the quiz master baton and has the opportunity to test our intelligence. (You’d like to think we’re a clever bunch working in Learning & Development, but let’s just say our general knowledge doesn’t serve all of us that well!) Each week the quiz master shares 30-40 questions and gives the team 2-3 days to reply with answers. Each week the themes seem to get more bizarre too!
4. Show and Tell
Cameras are always on in our team. Turning up to a virtual meeting with your camera off is the equivalent of walking into an in-person meeting with a cardboard box on your head. If you show your face in a physical meeting then be sure to show your face in a virtual meeting. One thing that comes with cameras being on, is we get exposed to our colleagues lives in a way we otherwise would not. I’ve seen more cat’s backsides in 2020 than in the first 30 years of my life. The team love an excuse to showcase their favourite teddy during important work meetings, or get distracted by the purchase of a new Groot shaped plant pot - only to discover half the team don’t know who Groot is! 😲
5. OMG Meetings
You know those days where you’d walk into the office after something big happened in the world and everyone is talking about it. Like the death of MJ, Donald Trump becoming president, Brexit, or like a bat flu spreading across the entire world and changing humanity as we know it forever and ever… Yeh those big discussions where it’s practically lunch time before anyone has actually started work. It’s worth replicating that in the virtual world. 2020 has not been short of huge events so make space to talk about it. We had an hour’s meeting dedicated entirely to chat about the BLM movement earlier this year. The conversation was not work related in any way and the only purpose was to give everyone that time to either express themselves or absorb the thoughts of others - just as they would have in a traditional office space.
Virtual working is here to stay, eventually it may become a blend of remote and office working but most businesses will not return to pre-2020 working ways. Therefore it’s worth investing time and effort into creating an incredible working culture. Maybe begin with clarifying what about your old office culture was so great and ideate ways in which to mirror that in your remote office.
You can also get in touch with us to see how we can help you create the virtual working culture you desire.