While a remote workplace might be comprised of every tech tool and toy under the sun, it’s still very much a human experience with real people running it. And to make the most out of the experience, you should try to personalize your workplace as much as possible. Need some help? These three tips can help make the process a whole lot easier.

Below are three ideas for humanizing a remote workplace:

1. Create face-to-face contact.

With oodles of apps, it’s definitely easier to dash off a quick message than have an actual conversation with your colleagues. But IMs and emails can come off feeling cold, be misconstrued, or leave your intended recipient feeling like you don’t really want to connect with them. So when it makes sense, try a more human approach to your interactions. For starters, some (not all) remote meetings can be done via video conference, so that employees can see their fellow colleagues. Being able to watch someone’s reaction (versus trying to figure out what they’re really feeling) can help workers bond more with each other.

And instead of sending yet another email, call your employees on the phone every once in a while. Just be sure to make this a semi-regular practice, or otherwise they might panic—and assume the worst—if the boss suddenly wants to speak with them on the phone. Hearing words of encouragement or praise (as opposed to reading them on a screen) can make all the difference between having a sterile remote work environment or not.

2. Make it personal.

You might be drowning in deadlines, but that doesn’t mean that every interaction you have with your team has to be about work. While talking shop with your colleagues can get the work done, it doesn’t do much for morale. So spend some time checking in with your team about what they have going on in their lives. You can make it a casual quarterly check-in, where you spend some time speaking with your worker about how he’s doing, if he’s satisfied with his work performance, if he’s happy in his position, areas in which he needs to grow, things he would like to learn, and so on.

But beyond that, make time to talk about everything extracurricular! Find out how his veggie garden is growing, what his kids think of their new schools, and what hot new restaurant he took his partner to for date night. Taking the time to connect with them on a personal level can humanize the remote workplace in great ways.

3. Get them together.

Even though you might have team members sprinkled all across the country/continent/globe, that doesn’t mean that they always have to be separated from each other. Many remote companies swear by the benefits of retreats, which are designed to help disseminate the latest company information and also build stronger bonds between colleagues. Typically done annually, an effective company retreat should be at once informative and interesting. They shouldn’t be all work and no play—instead, they can consist of meetings, games, role-playing, and above all, team-building activities that get your workers to know each other on a deeper level.

It isn’t difficult to remove the sterile factor from a remote work environment and replace it with practices and policies to help humanize the remote workplace, and in turn, make a better workplace for everyone.

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