5 Ways to Replicate the Office in a Virtual Work Environment

5 Ways to Replicate the Office in a Virtual Work Environment

Whether you’re launching a new remote company or you’re making a permanent shift from in-person to virtual work, you might feel that you need to replicate the in-office experience online. However, trying to recreate an exact duplicate of office life may not be the right way to go.

For starters, it’s almost impossible to recreate the unique experience of working in person in a virtual setup. What’s more, trying to replicate the office could mean you’re missing out on the best parts of remote work, which could ultimately harm your business.

Not Exactly the Same

Businesses often measure success the same way: a product that delivers, satisfied customers, and a team that believes in the company’s mission. And while remote and in-person companies can have similar successes, they are often successful for very different reasons!

In-person companies often rely on synchronous communications to get things done. And this works because people are usually in the same place at the same time, making real-time discussions a snap. But this is often unique to in-person work because, well, everyone is together.

Remote companies, however, often hire talent from around the globe. This means more—if not all—communication happens asynchronously. And it works as long as the company culture supports it and staff are given the tools to make this communication style a success.

One other thing to consider is that one of the reasons why people choose remote work is because they don’t want to work in an office. From nosy coworkers to distractions galore, there are many reasons why people look for remote companies. If you’re trying to recreate an in-person experience online, you may end up disappointing staff who want nothing to do with it

How to Replicate an In-Person Office Online

There are some parts of in-person work that you’ll likely want to recreate in your remote office. Here are five examples, along with suggestions for implementing them in a virtual setting.

1. Less Is More

It’s true that working remotely often means working alone. And though there are advantages to that, some managers worry that employees might feel lonely. While that’s a valid concern, some companies think that scheduling more meetings is the solution.

Scheduling more meetings ultimately means more face time, or, at least, more together time. However, more meetings won’t necessarily combat employee loneliness and can, in fact, lead to less productivity over time. Between Zoom fatigue and a lack of time to focus and work on tasks, more meetings in a virtual office may bring staff together more, but they may get less done.

To help remote staff feel more connected to their coworkers, create intentional opportunities for them to meet up with others as they choose. Allow them to sign up for virtual coffee breaks that pair them with someone they don’t normally work with to recreate spontaneous meetings in the break room. Or, have different teams get together for lunch-and-learns so they can learn more about what other departments do. 

Remote work doesn’t automatically mean staff will be lonely. Many understand that they are part of a team and find ways to connect with others as they need to. But giving remote staff a chance to connect with coworkers as they choose helps them bond and grow as a team, which can help them engage more with their job and the company.

2. Keep In Touch

Though creating opportunities for staff to meet is crucial to building a remote team, don’t abandon all meetings! Remote work doesn’t mean “work alone and never speak.” Your company still needs regular, synchronous communications. This helps ensure everyone is on the same page and in the loop about the company and team happenings.

For example, an all-hands meeting once a month gives the CEO an opportunity to update the entire company at once about things that impact the company. Teams can meet synchronously twice a month to give everyone a chance to share professional or even personal updates. When working on large-scale or intense projects, teams can consider meeting weekly when more frequent communications may be necessary.

3. Acknowledge Your Employees

When an employee’s birthday rolls around in a regular office, coworkers often celebrate in the conference room with cake and other tasty treats. But when a team operates remotely, birthdays and work anniversaries can come and go without any sort of acknowledgment. 

Consider sending a small gift to employees to help acknowledge these dates. A bouquet of flowers or a cupcake goes a long way toward replicating the office and letting staff know you care about and recognize them. 

4. Get Together Offline

At some point, your remote team may want to have actual faces to go with all of those emails and IMs they receive during their workday. So see about setting up some IRL meetings for your workers. 

And while all-inclusive, all-staff company-wide retreats are ideal, even smaller get-togethers with staffers who live near each other can pack a big punch. Encourage your workers who can get together for dinner or drinks to do so—on the company’s dime.

5. Create a “Watercooler”

It’s the hub of every traditional office—the proverbial watercooler. Of course, in a virtual office, there’s no single meeting place for people to hang out and chat. So, create a virtual watercooler with the tools that can help you mimic a company’s Keurig!

There is a slew of communication programs that your company can use to help keep cohesion among your remote workers. Look for the ones that will work best for your organization and keep encouraging your team to use them so that communication—whether it’s for work or fun—is always flowing.

Encourage team members to respond asynchronously (so they don’t feel pressured to jump in when it’s not convenient for them). And to help get the ball rolling, try asking a random question once a week. You never know where the great “pie or cake” debate might take you!

Similar but Not Identical

Ultimately, a company’s success often isn’t about where you work. It’s about the team’s culture and having the right tools to get things done. And when it comes to a remote company, trying to recreate the in-person office just won’t do. But with a little creativity, some ingenuity, and a lot of help from today’s technology, you can create a virtual work environment that is fun, exciting, and boasts a happy, connected, and productive remote team!

To learn more about running a remote team, check out our Q and A’s.

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By Rachel Pelta | Categories: Remote Management

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