Hybrid work remote work

The Remotely Possible Podcast: Insights from Zach Rattner on Empowering Global Remote Teams

There are undeniable advantages of working with a global team that can keep your company running at all hours. But juggling time zones can quickly become a headache—or a significant source of burnout—without a flexible plan.

In the fourth episode of the “Remotely Possible” podcast, I spoke with Zach Rattner, Co-Founder & Chief Technology Officer at Yembo, to discuss how his global team keeps projects moving seamlessly without forcing a structure that frustrates them. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation, including how he builds connections with his remote team and the importance of asking for feedback.  

Introducing Zach and His Fully Remote Team

Yembo is a computer vision company providing estimation services for home services brands (primarily moving and property insurance companies). Its team of approximately 70 people is fully remote, spanning India, the Philippines, Ukraine, and the U.S. 

“If we’re starting a new product, it’s always an inconvenient time for somebody. We’ve had to put together processes and workflows so that people are able to be productive and make meaningful progress when it’s not business hours somewhere else,” Zach said. “I feel like the benefits way outweigh the cons and that you can make 24-hour progress without burning anybody out because everyone’s working an eight-hour day.”

Zach and his team have developed a strategy that empowers each department to decide how they work, focusing on flexibility.

“You should strive for harmony, not homogeneity. Things don’t have to be identical across different teams, but everyone needs to get along,” he said. “One-size-fits-all solutions compromise something in a way that leave things to be desired. Letting each department head figure out what their team needs to do has been a bit more impactful for us. [We’re] able to be flexible and nimble and adapting to the needs of folks on the team, as opposed to trying to impose a top-down organizational structure that makes nobody happy at the end of the day.” 

How To Build Connections And Stay Efficient When Working Remotely

Savvy remote work leaders understand that teams must come together occasionally for some work or at least to get to know each other. And there needs to be a budget for this.

“Shared experiences are what drive a team to gel. If you are remote and not careful about this, you don’t have shared experiences; everybody is a Slack interruption in your day, a little red blip that can show up in the corner,” Zach said. “We aim to go out of our way to make opportunities so that people can get to know each other, get to know each other’s strengths.”

Yembo hosts an annual company retreat, YemboCon, and quarterly executive offsites. If teams are facing a particular problem that’s easier to solve in-person, there is a process to request an offsite. The key, however, is that Zach prioritizes free time during all company offsites.

“The unstructured time is actually super productive,” he said. “You have a unique opportunity when you’re a remote company and you bring everyone together, so I’ve been focusing less on trying to pack the schedule with all these productive outcomes—work meetings and things like that. Leaving enough room in the schedule so people don’t feel overwhelmed. And not just making that OK, but encouraged.”

During day-to-day operations, Zach’s leadership team prioritizes clear communication across teams, ensuring everyone understands what they need to do when they first sign on for the day. Part of this involves using the right tools to assign work and communicate updates, and Zach shares his tech stack in the recording. 

“If someone’s on vacation, they shouldn’t have to go read 100 messages and scroll back to figure out what went on,” he said. “The end result should be somewhere that they can pick it up.” 

At the end of project planning meetings, to foster an environment of continuous improvement, Zach surveys his team to understand if they gained value from the meeting, asking:

  • Did you get what you needed out of it? 
  • Was it helpful? 
  • What would we have done better?

For more of Zach’s insights into running an effective remote team, listen to the Remotely Possible Podcast, episode 4. You can also read his book Grow Up Fast: Lessons From An AI Startup to learn more about the challenges his team has overcome.

Interested in sharing your distributed work experience with our listeners? Apply to be my guest for a future episode.

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The Remotely Possible Podcast: Insights from Adam Dole on Thriving As A Distributed Team

When your company has an inspiring mission, it’s understandable that applicants will flock to you—and you don’t want to turn away the best talent because of geography. 

In the third episode of the “Remotely Possible” podcast, I spoke with a fellow Adam, Adam Dole, Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer at Bento, to discuss how he built a rock-solid culture with his global, distributed team. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation, including the advantages of a remote work model and why it’s essential to prioritize human connection, regardless of the remote work tools you use.  

Introducing Adam and His Approach To Remote Work

Adam has aimed to improve the healthcare system throughout his career, building products, services, and businesses that help people live higher-quality lives. After serving in roles at NASA, Method, Inc., and Not Impossible Labs (among several other companies), Adam founded Bento to eliminate hunger and food insecurity in the United States. 

“We started Bento at the beginning of the pandemic when remote was the default,” Adam said. “We didn’t intentionally want to start a team that was going to be remote/distributed, but it was just what had to happen at that time. Fast forward three years, and we’ve got 25 people not only spread across the United States but internationally as well. It’s been a wild ride personally for me to see how good it can be to have a remote distributed team, especially in the ecosystem that we’re operating in now.” 

Adam recognizes that a distributed model has empowered his team to fulfill their mission in ways that in-person work couldn’t. 

“The advantages are numerous across the board,” he said. “First, just being able to attract talent from any location and not being limited to a certain region—or have to have those conversations with a really talented candidate about what it would require to move them… It’s been a crazy, positive competitive advantage for us, just in terms of our effectiveness to work in a distributed way, for a variety of different reasons.”

The Importance of Prioritizing Human Connection On A Remote Team

Building a strong work culture, regardless of your working arrangement, takes a conscious effort. Remote work has forced Adam’s team to be intentional about how they operate in ways that in-person teams can often neglect.

“There can be this expectation that because people are coming to the office, it’s easier to build culture, it’s easier to get on the same page,” Adam said. “But the reality is, it still requires a lot of intention, and a lot of thought and choosing how to do that. And I think it doesn’t always get prioritized when people just make the assumption that because everybody’s coming to the same office, that’s going to happen. Not being in the same space has really forced us to prioritize that as a company… how we’re going to build culture, how we’re going to make sure we’re all on the same page, how we’re going to interact with each other as humans in ways that might not be as obvious when you’re not with each other in the same room.” 

Adam’s team uses a mix of video conferencing and project management tools to complete their work, including a different tool for happy hours than their usual virtual meeting platform. But the tools don’t matter as much as how you frame them, he says. 

“The tools are necessary but not sufficient,” he said. “What has allowed us to get the most out of these tools—but also perform as a company and to be a company that people want to be at, that people get excited to show up to every day—is because the intention of getting to know each other as humans first, and not relying on the tool to do that for us.” 

How does he accomplish this human connection in a remote culture? For starters:

  • Not every meeting is purely transactional. Adam’s team talks about things going on in their personal lives, and they prioritize this opportunity to do so.  
  • They set clear guidelines around how to use each digital communication tool in a healthy and fulfilling way. The goal is that everyone knows each other well enough that they can interpret their tone through messages.
  • At strategic times during the year, his company comes together in person—just like we do at Frameabe at least once a year. It’s an investment that is well worth it. 

For more of Adam’s insights into building a thriving and human-focused culture as a remote team, listen to the Remotely Possible Podcast, episode 3. Interested in sharing your distributed work experience with our listeners? Apply to be my guest for a future episode.

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Future of work Hybrid work remote work

Why a Virtual Workspace is Essential for Productivity, Whether You Work in the Office or Not

This article originally appeared on Fast Company.

We’re no longer debating whether hybrid work is the future of work. The question now is if leaders should prioritize the in-person experience or the virtual experience to optimize their distributed workplace strategy.

It’s understandable why many executives want to focus on their company’s in-person experience. Shared office spaces carry a perceived sense of normalcy that many have missed, and it is seemingly easier to brush the dust off our old playbooks for designing in-person workplace cultures than it is to tackle the challenges of distributed workspaces. But to achieve the full benefits of hybrid and distributed workforces, and enable all employees to be productive and fulfilled, the virtual experience must be the priority—even if your company primarily engages in person. 

The Enterprise has Been Distributed for Decades

With all the talk about hybrid work and remote work, many people have lost sight of the fact that traditional office environments were often also distributed. We just weren’t as aware of the ways in which the friction between people who sat together and those who worked in distant offices detracted from their experience. 

It has always been rare for an entire company to work from a single building in one location. Large companies had offices globally, or a few regional offices around the country. Over time, team skills and information inevitably became siloed. In the worst cases, company tools and resources were restricted to the corporate headquarters, leaving everyone else—including freelancers and consultants—to fend for themselves. Not a great recipe for a productive and engaged workforce. 

A shared virtual workspace can remove these barriers and empower everyone with the same tools and resources. Now that the future of work is here, we have the opportunity and means to fulfill this potential. 

How a Virtual Workspace Empowers Teams

A dedicated online workspace allows everyone to work together more effectively, regardless of where they are located. To get work done, employees can access the same information, resources, and people through a purpose-built virtual workspace instead of needing to work from a specific office location.  

There are several reasons why it’s smart to align your company around a virtual workspace: 

1. Workplace Inclusivity

More voices can be heard, and people can more easily engage when online collaboration is the standard for your company. Asynchronous communication channels and modern video conferencing solutions give people opportunities to connect and share their feedback. Contrast that with sitting in a conference room, where they may be spoken over or ignored, or putting colleagues in distant offices on speakerphone. Furthermore, people can more easily balance their work and personal priorities when they can access a reliable virtual workplace from anywhere.

2. Analytics

Unlike in in-person environments, everything you do in a virtual setting can be utilized and shared to improve your company culture. For example, you can use a virtual meeting tool that analyzes how much each attendee talks. This data can help you notice if specific people dominate meetings or talk over their peers. 

3. Knowledge Retention

The most effective teams rely on shared templates and central resource hubs that streamline their work. Building your virtual workspace to have rich information libraries means employees have a go-to place to overcome their challenges—instead of asking around the organization and across offices to get the information they need. The key is to train them to navigate your virtual workspace and access these resources effectively.

4. AI Capabilities

When everyone operates from a digital-first mindset, you’ll get the most value from your software—especially AI-powered tools. When you have a bot attend your meeting to take notes, for example, it can automatically transcribe your conversation and analyze that meeting content to generate to-do lists for your team. 

Futureproof Your Organization With the Right Virtual Tooling

Providing an optimal in-person working environment requires your team to first focus on the remote experience. By using the right tools—and training your team to use them effectively to boost productivity and increase knowledge sharing—your team will be more productive and connected with your culture regardless of how they choose to work.

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Future of work

Why Distributed Work Is The Future—And How to Run An Effective Hybrid Team

The future of work is remote and hybrid, and companies that force employees back to the office will quickly realize the disadvantages of fully office-based work.

It’s understandable why many leaders cling to in-office work. It’s what many of us are used to, and, admittedly, some work is performed better in person. But employees expect and deserve the flexibility of distributed work—and your company can achieve greater success by enabling it.

To help company leaders understand how to build an effective distributed team and explore why I built Frameable as a fully remote company, I joined Lisette Sutherland on The Collaboration Superpowers Podcast. Below, I share a few highlights from our conversation and tips for empowering remote teams. 

Why did you decide to make Frameable a fully remote company?

If you want to attract and retain the best talent, you can’t require employees to come to your physical office. 

We’re not back to 2019 in terms of the way we work and what employees expect about their relationship with their employer. Employees need a balanced life. For us, it’s not worth the trade-offs of having a physical office and insisting that we only hire people who are nearby and willing to commute. We’d prefer to benefit from investing in a remote team where people can thrive from anywhere.

What are some of the challenges your team has faced working remotely?

There are some challenges of entirely remote work, but they all have antidotes and best practices to mitigate the effects. 

The primary challenge of remote work is that, no matter how good your toolbox is, you still benefit from spending time in person together (even if you’re not working when you do it). Humans are social, and we need that person-to-person connection. Offsites are one of the things we do to fulfill this need. We hold an all-company offsite twice a year, and as we grow, we may support different teams having offsites across the country or around the world. 

We see many other companies try to get together at least once a year, too. And not just for gathering in a conference room with a novel view. Planning opportunities for team members to engage in social avenues above and beyond sitting in a room together working all day is essential. Host a cooking class. Go on a hike. Take a ropes course. Anything to help people understand each other outside of work will help them work together more effectively. 

For more advice, I recommend reading my Fast Company article about how to build a great company culture in a fully remote company

Are ‘return to office’ mandates misguided? 

There are many explorations of why companies are mandating employees to return to the office, and some are pretty cynical. In some cases, the boss thinks it’s not a big deal to ask people to commute (possibly because their commute is the shortest), or they simply don’t want to work from home anymore. 

From what I’ve seen with most managers, however, they are just used to working in an office. And it’s true there are elements of in-person work that are hard to replicate with the current out-of-the-box toolset that workplace tool providers offer. 

If companies aren’t intentional about adapting their toolkit—not only using the tools but misusing them deliberately to achieve certain things they weren’t designed for—then it’s easy for teams to just sit at home and rely on their calendar to guide their work. And it’s harder to achieve that same level of collaboration and creativity at home if everyone’s just working through their calendar. 

How can leaders create a better team culture remotely?

Enabling a remote culture is a win-win for the employee and the company. 

Research from Nick Bloom at Stanford found that people save 72 minutes commuting each day when working from home. And 40% of those time savings are spent working extra on primary or secondary jobs. The rest of the time goes toward leisure activities—which are essential for preserving one’s well-being—or caregiving activities. When companies give employees the freedom to work from home, workers are willing to split the time they save commuting between themselves and their employer. 

When people are rested, relaxed, and able to invest in their health, family, and well-being, they do better work. And they don’t mind working a little more if they love their job and feel a healthy balance. 

What is a virtual office manager, and how does the role benefit remote or hybrid teams? 

A virtual office manager is vital for companies trying to get comfortable with and effectively transition to hybrid work or a fully distributed team. You can have a sole virtual office manager or distribute the responsibilities across many people. And this doesn’t have to be a full-time position; 10-20 hours a week can suffice for many teams.

A virtual office manager ensures that everyone is engaged and can work effectively with their personal office setup. They help team members overcome challenges and continually assess and optimize the virtual or hybrid workspace so everyone can thrive. Think of it like a traditional in-person office manager but for distributed, remote, and hybrid teams. 

My team created this virtual office manager’s handbook to fully explain how this valuable role can maximize remote employee engagement. 

Why is Frameable focused on Microsoft Teams?

Frameable’s solutions have evolved quite a bit over the years. We created a virtual office that was truly delightful, and then our customers and potential customers expressed that they wanted it to integrate with the solutions they were currently using.

After assessing the core infrastructure providers currently available to power hybrid work—video conference solutions, collaboration solutions, scheduling solutions—we realized that Microsoft would be a valuable place to start!

What does Frameable offer? How does it improve Microsoft Teams?

We offer a family of complementary, interoperable—but distinct—upgrades available through the Microsoft App Store. We designed these solutions to improve the out-of-the-box experience companies and users get from Microsoft Teams. 

For example, During Microsoft Teams video calls, only one person can share their screen at a time. We’ve observed, however, that many collaborative working sessions work better if people can work fluidly—receiving, producing, and note-taking. Our app MultiShare allows multiple people to share their screens simultaneously in a Microsoft Teams call. This helps meetings move smoothly without team members interrupting each other to ask for permission or give a courtesy heads-up that they would like to share their screen.

We offer a diverse set of products that sit on top of Microsoft Teams, and MultiShare is just one example.

Tools That Power Effective Remote Teams

The above topics are just a few areas that Lisette and I discussed. To learn more about what tools my team uses to power our distributed workforce and how we assess which tools we will use next, listen to the full episode here

Listen to our podcast, Remotely Possible, wherever you get your podcasts

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The Remotely Possible Podcast: Insights from Amy McGeachy on HR Considerations For The Future of Work

As companies continue to realize the advantages of hybrid and remote work, it’s critical to not lose sight of the importance of prioritizing human connection and cultivating deep empathy for each employee’s unique circumstances.

In the fifth episode of the “Remotely Possible” podcast, I spoke with Amy McGeachy, Founder of McGeachy Consulting, to discuss her clients’ solutions for overcoming the inevitable challenges of transitioning to remote and hybrid setups. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation, including why empathetic managers will lead us into the future.

Introducing Amy and Her HR Consulting Business 

Amy is an HR consultant for mid-size businesses across various industries, primarily in Oregon and Washington. She also leads an eight-week virtual training series for companies across the country. For more than 13 years, she has helped brands build and evolve their HR strategy. 

“Having employees in different states, or even globally, adds a lot of HR complexity, which I think that employees and most people don’t really think about,” Amy said. “There are a lot of employment laws in different states that are varying and competing, there are a lot of tax laws that are varying and competing. There’s a lot to think about before just hiring somebody in Colorado or California. It has to be a strategic decision.” 

Establish Behavioral Norms for a Healthy Hybrid Culture

Amy shares that it can be challenging to balance the needs of in-person and remote workers, especially during team meetings.

“Probably one of the hardest situations is facilitating a meeting in person and having people calling in remotely and trying to keep that meeting on pace,” she said. “I tend to notice that one group tends to dominate the conversation more than the other.” 

While workplace technologies can help keep meetings productive, reinforcing behavioral norms within your company is vital to overcoming this challenge.

“Policies might exist, but the actual behavioral norms of how we show up in a hybrid environment haven’t completely been established,” she said. “In a year to two years, that’s going to be much more well-defined of how you show up to a hybrid meeting or facilitate a hybrid meeting.” 

For entirely remote companies, Amy advises that it’s essential to budget for in-person meetings at least once a year.

“The opportunity to bring people back together—at times—is a great one,” Amy said. “I have clients that will not be back together in the same way. And what that looks like for them is more emphasis on quarterly meetings [with] everyone coming together in a location. Or maybe it’s every six months. It’s really powerful to build some connective tissue and team build in person.” 

Successful teams will continue to empower employees by providing tailored resources they need to be productive and efficient.

“We have pushed through and broken down barriers we never thought could happen. The most common thing I am experiencing with clients is the need to work through the accommodations process with disabilities,” she said. “Employees need to speak up about what their needs are. And managers are getting much better at having those dialogues with their team members—it’s called the interactive process—and working with HR leaders to support their employees.” 

One of Amy’s clients led a book study group with its managers to help them refine their skills for the new realities of work. She recommends starting with Dare to Lead by Brené Brown if you want to do something similar.

“That book taps into the empathetic manager so much more than our very old picture of a manager,” Amy said. “Working with and understanding people for who they are and being empathetic to their situation and being willing to be vulnerable and unravel a situation—versus just pave over it and move on—those are the managers that are going to lead us into the future.” 
For more of Amy’s insights into HR and culture considerations for hybrid work, listen to the Remotely Possible Podcast, episode 5. Interested in sharing your distributed work experience with our listeners? Apply to be my guest for a future episode.

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The Remotely Possible Podcast: Insights from Rebecca Liu on Adopting a Hybrid Work Approach

You don’t typically think of financial services firms as early adopters of flexible work—given that some of the industry’s CEOs have been outspoken advocates for the return to the office. But, there are many successful global firms that have embraced a hybrid work approach since before the pandemic. In the second episode of the “Remotely Possible” podcast, I talked with Rebecca Liu, Vice President of Global Strategy and Innovation – Travel & Lifestyle Services at American Express. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation about her approach to distributed collaboration and how her team has adapted to hybrid work.

Introducing Rebecca and Her Team’s Hybrid Work Model

Over ten years and several roles at American Express, Rebecca experienced a range of different team dynamics and work styles. Today, as the leader of a 150-person team with members in New York City, Phoenix, Arizona, and the UK, she serves a global constituency across 22 offices worldwide. 

“We try to have an in-office culture where a lot of meetings happen in conference rooms,” she said, noting that VPs and above now work three days per week in the office. “But, because of that global nature of our work, and because so many colleagues are now virtually working…we absolutely need to have every physical meeting be outfitted with the ability to reach out and to connect and to speak to our virtual colleagues.”

“Even if it’s an in-person meeting for [the] majority of the colleagues, we will still make sure that the virtual presence is felt,” she said. “We make sure that there is not just audio-only—that there’s a visual component to their contribution. There’s been a lot of conversations had about the best way to juggle both an in-person experience as well as a globally connected virtual working experience.”

The Importance of the Right Technology to Enable Hybrid Collaboration

Rebecca’s entire organization uses the Microsoft Office Suite and tools that integrate with it, such as WebEx, plus Slack for asynchronous messaging. While this reduces communication friction across time zones, it still has opportunities for improvement.

‘”A positive is that there’s such unity and consistency and uniformity and adoption that everyone naturally, it’s almost like muscle memory and second nature,” she said. She noted it makes it easy to know how to reach each other, no matter what office they are in or their work schedule. But once external parties join the meeting mix, there can be some challenges.

“As soon as you go outside the walls of your own company, you don’t know what other people are using,” she said. “The mismatch of what systematic tools other people use can sometimes create little hiccups in the big meetings.”
For more of Rebecca’s’ insights into leading a hybrid team and fostering global collaboration, listen to the Remotely Possible podcast, episode 2. Interested in sharing your distributed work experience with our listeners? Apply to be my guest for a future episode.

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The Remotely Possible Podcast: Insights from Travis Bogard on Embracing Distributed Work

You can’t open a digital magazine or news site without seeing another headline about distributed work these days. Yet, while it may be new to some industries, it’s actually been around for decades. In the first episode of the “Remotely Possible” podcast, I talked with Travis Bogard, Founder & CEO at Phonon X, a leader who has been part of distributed teams for decades. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation, including the tools he uses, the processes he embraces, and how he makes it possible to have a fully functional, highly creative, distributed team working hard together every day.

Introducing Travis, and His Intro to Distributed Work

Travis’ impressive resume includes stints at renowned companies such as AOL, Samsung, and Uber before founding his current company. With his diverse background in engineering, product development, and team management, Travis brings a wealth of knowledge to the conversation on distributed work.

“I was at AOL—part of the founding team of AOL Instant Messenger,” Travis said. “And [I] was very fascinated early on of how groups that are distributed from each other could communicate and interact.”

He put that experience into action throughout his career, including at Uber—with its San Francisco headquarters integrated with numerous city hubs—and Samsung.

“My team prior to this, I built, was about 300 people across 14 time zones—so, highly distributed, kind of a mixture of some office hubs, and then people who actually didn’t sit in an office at all,” he said. 

It’s no wonder that with this background, he’s chosen—as we have here at Frameable—to build his new team without the constraints of location, too. While most of the team is within 5 hours of each other, they also have an Eastern Europe teammate. So how do they make it all work?

“We focus on our synchronous moments—which is around 7:30 to 10:00—is kind of that sweet spot where we tried to put most of our meetings, that where we want people to be together and be able to come together,” he said. “And then the rest of it is very asynchronous.”

Best Practices for Managing Distributed Teams

Drawing from his experiences, throughout the podcast, Travis shared some valuable insights and best practices for managing distributed teams:

1) Set Clear Goals and Prioritize Effective Communication

Travis emphasized the significance of clearly defining and communicating goals to team members. He stressed the importance of repeated communication to ensure everyone is aligned with the objectives. Additionally, he advocated for documenting and preserving communication for future reference.

2) Encourage Collaboration

Travis believes in fostering a culture of collaboration within distributed teams. He makes a point to encourage team members to connect and actively facilitates conversations between individuals as needed to ensure knowledge and ideas flow seamlessly throughout the team.

3) Embrace Asynchronous Communication

A crucial aspect of managing distributed teams is asynchronous communication. Travis suggested maximizing synchronous moments for essential meetings and using tools such as asynchronous voice messaging platforms to maintain effective communication at other times. This approach allows team members to work independently while staying connected.

For more of Travis’ insights into leading and developing distributed teams, listen to the Remotely Possible podcast, episode 1. Interested in sharing your distributed work experience with our listeners? Apply to be my guest for a future episode.

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How to Build a Great Company Culture in a Fully Remote Company

This article originally appeared on Fast Company.

Companies are increasingly mandating a return to office-based work, with many leaders claiming that it’s too difficult to foster collaboration and build a strong culture remotely. 

Given that 53.9% of employees want to work from home three or more days per week, forcing them back to the office will do little to solve the cultural challenges you may be facing. Further, Gallup polls suggest that in-person interactions alone are not enough to spark collaboration—the key is how leaders consciously build a culture in their distinct settings. 

My highly collaborative company has been fully remote for more than five years, so I know firsthand that it is possible to build a unified, engaged team with a strong culture. Here are my not-so-secret ways how to do it.

Enabling An Employee-Led Culture, Remotely

Your company culture will develop whether you mold it or not. It’s best to take an active role in shaping that experience.

Many teams stumbled in the initial transition to remote work because they thought their tried-and-true culture playbooks would still apply. They don’t. But we now have a much deeper understanding of how to keep remote workers happy and connected to their teams. 

Specifically, the below areas are most critical for building a resilient culture that encourages collaboration and innovation.

Establish and Communicate Clear values 

Your employees need to understand why your company exists and the values that you live by. Job seekers—especially in younger generations—want to work for companies with a clear purpose and values that align with theirs. 

Document your company mission and values, then detail how your team can reflect them in their work using clear examples with do’s and don’ts. Although explaining your values in this much detail may feel overly formal, it will help new and prospective employees quickly embed themselves within your culture (or decide that your company isn’t the best for them, which is also okay).

Companies should include one value around lifelong learning, as it is essential for building a culture of innovation. Create a digital skills roadmap and rework your roles and responsibilities if needed so your workers can excel in their current career paths and continually build the skills your company needs to be future-ready. 

Foster Communication and Collaboration 

Building a truly collaborative culture requires more than starting a company Slack channel and leaving the rest to your team to figure it out. Consciously create programs and spaces for your team to connect, including team members who do not overlap in day-to-day work. Several strategies I’ve seen work include:

• Virtual Mentoring Programs: Pair established employees with new hires in a formal mentoring program, and encourage them to share guidance, feedback, and support regularly.

• Lunch-and-Learn Sessions: Host monthly training sessions during lunch for your team to learn new concepts and connect. Start each session with a short activity to spark engagement.ADVERTISEMENT

• Virtual Water Coolers: Create dedicated channels for employees to discuss non-work topics and encourage them to use those channels during the day.

Each of the above ideas will require time and money to implement. But don’t view this as an expense—it is a necessary investment in your team’s cohesiveness.

Create Opportunities for Social Interaction in Real Life

With a solid set of digital collaboration tools and spaces, your team should be able to excel in a remote setting. That said, you should also encourage team members to meet in real life when possible.

My company brings everyone together twice a year for an offsite in a different location across the country. The key is that we spend that time on social activities that help our team get to know each other as people—not trap everyone in a room and discuss growth metrics and financial goals.

Another way to encourage in-person connection is to allocate a budget to allow employees who are close in proximity to meet up for a monthly lunch. Consider renting a company coworking space if you have several team members who live close to each other.

Recognize and Reward Employees Publicly

One of the most accessible areas to invest in is employee recognition. Your team members need support and encouragement when they exemplify your values and drive meaningful results (monetary or otherwise). 

Recognize and celebrate accomplishments in your team communication channels, such as your instant messaging platform and email. In addition, it can be valuable to adopt an employee engagement and feedback platform. 

Using an employee engagement or feedback platform can help track your employees’ successes. You should also create communication channels for team members to nominate each other. At a minimum, every people manager should regularly celebrate their direct reports and provide occasional rewards to encourage good behavior. 

You Build Your Company Culture One Day At A Time

Building a great remote company culture is possible—you don’t need the confines of an office or cubicle walls to encourage transparency, collaboration, and innovation. 

Agree on your company basics and clearly explain who you are and what you do. Next, document how an ideal employee will reflect those values in their work. Finally, create systems of ongoing feedback to monitor your employee engagement and identify new areas to invest in.

While there is no perfect company culture, teams can work each day to create a better environment where everyone can thrive—regardless of where they choose to work. 

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Why The Virtual Office Is The Next Big Digital Transformation Trend To Shape The Hybrid Workplace

This article originally appeared on Fast Company.

After years of trying to lure employees back to full-time office work, many companies have determined that the future of work is hybrid. 

McKinsey’s The State of Organizations 2023 reports that 90% of companies allow employees to work remotely for some or most of their time, and only 14% of respondents expect remote work opportunities to decrease. Considering that companies can better attract and retain talent through hybrid work—while also boosting employee productivity—it makes sense why hybrid work is here to stay.

Despite the advantages of a hybrid setup, many leaders need help balancing employee needs across both work settings. Teams can become disconnected and disengaged by prioritizing either the in-person or virtual experience over the other. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Leaders can bridge the gap between remote and in-office workers by implementing a virtual office that becomes the hub of both in-person and remote work collaboration.

How Companies Are Failing Hybrid and Fully Remote Workers

Employees overwhelmingly want to work remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their career—98% in a study from Buffer—noting that it is easier to do focused work, manage stress, and avoid distractions from home.

However, there are common challenges companies must address to build a truly effective hybrid work environment. Specifically, Buffer’s study found employees working remotely commonly face the following challenges:

  • Loneliness: Although 75% of remote workers feel connected to their coworkers, 15% express feelings of loneliness. This may be because 21% of remote workers feel they stay home too often. Companies should ensure that workers have the equivalent of a virtual water cooler for non-work discussions and offer opportunities for in-person meet-ups when possible. 
  • Time Zone Struggles: Working across time zones is another common friction point. This challenge may imply teams need tools to help them manage scheduling across time zones and additional solutions or procedures to ensure projects are transferred smoothly between colleagues.
  • Collaboration Disconnect: Nearly 15% of remote workers face difficulty with collaboration and communication, which suggests that companies need different tools or processes to bridge the gap between workers across time zones and locations.

Fortunately, there’s a solution already available to help address each of these issues—the virtual office.

How a Virtual Office Fits Into Your Digital Transformation Strategy To Drive Hybrid Work Success

Building a genuinely equitable hybrid work experience requires you to rethink the employee experience through a digital lens. 

Every experience offered to in-person employees should extend to remote workers. Even more importantly, you need to create a shared virtual space where everyone works, even in your office. 

A virtual office is a place where employees can access all necessary work resources and collaborate with colleagues through a dedicated virtual space. The goal is to seamlessly integrate all the information, technologies, and opportunities given to your team through an intuitive and engaging virtual interface.

To help you get started building your virtual office, I recommend your team follow these steps:

Step 1: Audit Your Software And Tools

Take stock of your teams’ various tools and applications. Document every product and speak to your team members to understand how they use these tools in their workflows. As you document your tools, you will likely notice that individual teams use different tools for similar functions like team messaging or collaborative editing. Group apps by their function, and review your employee feedback about how often they use the tools and any drawbacks. This information will help you choose which tools to keep and which to scrap.

Step 2: Create Digital Information Hubs

Workers should be able to access appropriate resources and information quickly, regardless of where they choose to work. Once you’ve optimized your software options, creating digital information hubs that store commonly used documents and templates that can streamline work is important.

Step 3: Onboard Your Employees

Even the best digital transformation strategy will only succeed if your team members understand the strategy behind your changes. Host a recorded meeting where your leadership discusses your new toolset and explains how to navigate the virtual workspace. Encourage questions and embrace feedback as your team adjusts to their new arrangement. To further help employees succeed, save how-to guides and FAQs in a shared digital library for easy consumption. 

Step 4: Hire A Virtual Office Manager

A virtual office manager is integral to ensuring your employees get the most benefit from your virtual workspace. A virtual office manager’s role will vary based on your team’s specific needs, but commonly helps with planning and managing company events, onboarding new employees, assisting with technical support and setup, and researching new workplace tools and solutions. This Virtual Office Manager’s Handbook provides an in-depth look at a virtual office manager’s typical roles and responsibilities, plus strategies to maximize productivity in your virtual office.

The Office of the Future is Digital

You can only have a truly effective hybrid workforce if you build a digital workspace where everyone can thrive regardless of location. 

Hybrid work is here to stay, but remote workers commonly face challenges when collaborating with their colleagues and building meaningful relationships. That’s why building a virtual office that overcomes these challenges is critical to ensure you provide a consistently delightful experience to all your workers whenever and wherever they are working. 

See what a virtual office can do for your team

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How to Transition from Slack to Microsoft Teams Without Losing Your Culture

Recently, our organization made a shift from using Slack to Microsoft Teams. The transition was not without its challenges, but we learned a lot along the way and are excited to share our experience with others. Many organizations are going through a similar transition as Teams has continued to grow, expanding from 44 million users in November 2019 to over 270 million users by 2022, far outpacing Slack’s 18 million active users.

In this blog post, we’ll outline key differences between Slack and Microsoft Teams from an end-user perspective, provide tips for planning and executing a successful transition, and offer advice on how to get the most out of Teams once you’ve already made the switch. Whether you’re considering a move to Teams or are already in the process, we hope this post will help make your transition as smooth and successful as possible.

Slack vs Microsoft Teams

Slack and Microsoft Teams both primarily function as business messaging apps but there are a few key differences between the two. Below is a chart outlining some of the key differences our team has noticed between the two platforms.

Slack Microsoft Teams
Guest Access Slack offered a more streamlined guest access experience, allowing single-channel guests to easily join one channel for free. We have found guest access to be more limiting in Microsoft Teams. Users need to be granted a licensed account and login to access channels.
Messaging Capabilities Our team misses custom emoji reactions and the drag-and-drop file attachment capabilities within Slack. Teams has opened our eyes to the world of animated GIFs as they are easily accessible to add from within chat. We also enjoy the chat threads that are created directly from video calls, allowing us to easily communicate with specific team members.
Integrations While Slack offered many third-party integrations, you still must leave the platform in order to collaborate. Our team relied on the Google Drive integration to share file access and see document activity but users still had to click and open a browser tab to actually enter the document. Teams has advanced integrations with all Office 365 apps, allowing company member users to easily navigate to shared files from directly within the Teams app. Check out our recently launched Frameable Spaces app for Microsoft Teams as well! This is how our team improves the existing in-call experience with advanced features such as multiple screen shares and a live dashboard of ongoing meetings and office activity.
Video Calls While Slack has video calling capabilities through third-party integrations, we did not use this feature. Teams allows us to easily make video or audio calls to multiple people directly from a group chat.

Planning and executing a successful transition

While we were all accustomed to using Slack and comfortable with its features, we recognized that Teams offered a more integrated and comprehensive solution for our growing workforce. Specifically, we were looking to integrate the Frameable Spaces platform directly into our messaging tool. 

We started by identifying a core team of individuals to lead the transition and serve as a resource for others during the process. This team was responsible for researching Teams’ features and capabilities, creating accounts on the new platform, setting up our teams, and answering questions from staff members.

For a successful transition we recommend:

  1. Map how you plan to migrate from Slack to Teams
    • Create a document outlining the steps and timeline for the transition. This should include converting what were previously Slack “channels” to “teams” within Microsoft, and ensuring the threads have the same privacy settings. Share this high-level view with employees and be sure to explain the reasons behind the transition.
  2. Migrate pinned files
    • If it is important for your organization to preserve historical records, you may want to look into exporting content from Slack. Depending on your Slack service plan, you will have the opportunity to export channels and direct messages. Our team built in a buffer period where employees were able to access both softwares during the transition to alleviate any concerns about losing historical records.
  3. Provide training and resources for employees
    • Be sure to offer training sessions and resources for employees to get familiar with Teams and the features it offers. To help employees get familiar with Teams, offer a mix of group training sessions, one-on-one coaching, and self-paced resources such as video tutorials or online guides. Encouraging employees to seek support as needed can also help facilitate a smoother transition. Be open to feedback and make adjustments as needed to ensure the transition is a success and your team is able to take full advantage of Teams’ capabilities.

While there were some initial challenges and adjustments to make, we are now enjoying the benefits of Teams’ integrated tools and more streamlined communication. Planning and executing a successful transition from Slack to Teams required effort and commitment, but it was well worth it in the end.

Tips for getting the most out of Teams

  • Use the Teams section and create channels for various functions, projects, and interests. Don’t forget to include some channels that help your remote and hybrid teams get to know each other.
  • If you find a group or a project is getting lost in group chat threads, create a dedicated channel so ideas, documents, and comments stay in one place.
  • Adjust your notifications so they work for you! Make sure you turn notifications on for important channels and adjust how and when you receive meeting reminders.
  • Explore apps and integrations to enhance your experience.
  • Customize or re-order the apps on the left-most panel so the tabs you use most are always readily available.

Improve remote work within your Microsoft Teams instance

If you are considering the switch to Microsoft Teams or are in the process, improve your experience with Frameable Spaces! Nurture your company culture from anywhere with the insights and visibility you need to understand how your team gets things done with the birds-eye view of activity. Book a demo to learn more!

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