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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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4 Quick and Free Games to Play with Your Virtual Team in Microsoft Teams

Whether you’re part of a fully remote organization or joining calls with clients across the country, you’re bound to find yourself joining a video call and needing to fill a few minutes while everyone logs on. While Mondays are great for asking folks about their weekends and catching up on the usual small talk, by the time Wednesday rolls around you might find yourself searching for new ways to make the most of the first five minutes of meeting time before digging into your agenda.

We’ve curated this round-up of the best free, work-friendly games you can install today to Microsoft Teams or other video applications so you can banish those awkward silences and start hosting the virtual meetings everyone is excited to attend. 

Install these before your next virtual meeting

Frameable Anagrams

If you and your team have been fans of Wordle, you’re sure to love this new game that teammates can play solo or during a meeting. Unscramble letters to make words from 3-6 letters long. Playing Anagrams is a great way to collaborate with your team to solve a quick and new puzzle every day. 

Race to complete puzzles with your colleagues in a meeting or play by yourself as a quick brain break throughout the day from the Anagrams app in the Teams sidebar.

Kahoot Trivia

For the days when you have a few more minutes or want to break out into teams to build connections, a round of Kahoot trivia is a great way to get everyone’s attention and start your next meeting off on a positive note. 

Install the Kahoot add-in to connect your existing Kahoot account and access trivia games without having to leave Teams. Kahoot is great for quick, fun trivia questions everyone can take part in, engaging breaks during long meetings, or checkpoints during learning sessions to be sure your lessons are effective. 

Microsoft’s Games for Work

Last fall, Microsoft released its Games for Work application to provide users with classic games like Microsoft Solitaire, Microsoft IceBreakers, Microsoft Minesweeper, and Microsoft Wordament in their in-call experience.

Microsoft’s native games application is a great option for large meetings, with options for up to 250 players at once so you can engage and excite even your biggest gatherings or break the ice in smaller groups and kick-off calls with a quick, fun game. 

Polly for Quizzes

Polly is an excellent addition to meetings as you can develop quiz questions based on your upcoming meeting topics, your organization’s history, pop culture or current events, and plenty more. Many organizations will have already approved and installed Polly, so playing it should be a breeze.

You can also start with polls to kick off meetings: ask your team what drink they’re currently enjoying, what they’ll have for lunch, brain teasers, and more. 

Create moments for connection and celebration

While it is common to simply think that connection with remote colleagues, clients, or teammates will come with time, it’s important to create space for these small, fun moments to happen as they are crucial for building a sense of connection with your team. These interactions help foster trust between coworkers and help to remind us that we are working with real people with real emotions who want to celebrate big and little wins alike. Although every meeting is different, I’m sure most of us wouldn’t mind an extra dash of fun here and there.

Add Anagrams to Microsoft Teams and explore all that Frameable has to offer with our full suite of productivity enhancements.

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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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6 Tips for More Effective Virtual Training

Virtual training has become essential in the new age of work, and it comes with benefits!

Virtual training sessions are less costly than renting out a venue and catering a meal for hundreds of trainees, meaning you can allocate that budget elsewhere. And because you can record a virtual training session, you can repurpose its content to provide lasting value. Further, people with accessibility needs can join virtual training sessions more easily from wherever works best for them.

Given this incredible potential, companies should ditch their old new-hire process and build a modern training strategy to reflect the needs of remote and hybrid work. 

How To Host Successful Virtual Training Sessions

Effective virtual training offers many of the same elements of in-person training—small group exercises, Q&A, and hand-outs—while using the digital environment to its fullest potential.

As you restructure your new hire training, consider these best practices for hosting virtual training sessions:

  • Include Breaks Between Training Sessions: Employees need a mental break between training sessions. Breaks also allow them to grab a snack or use the restroom. Ideally, you should provide at least one 5-10 minute break per hour to achieve optimal retention.
  • Provide Engaging Content: Trainees are most focused when given visually engaging presentations and opportunities to interact with the training content. When creating your training slides, include brief details on slides and use bullet points when possible. Further, you should continually outline the processes you are working through and create opportunities for new hires to analyze and think critically about what they are learning. 
  • Recap Material Twice Daily: At the end of a training day, summarize key points and ask team members what concepts stood out. Host a similar conversation the following day and ask if there are questions that trainees may not have realized they had when you initially covered the material. 
  • Vary Your Training Structure: Your training content should be as easily accessible as possible, whether it’s a presentation, video, or hands-on project. Experiment with each training structure and switch up your style across training sessions to keep the content engaging.
  • Ask Employees How They Like to Learn: Employees have different learning styles and may prefer to consume your training content in specific ways. Ask employees about their training experience and how they prefer to learn. Consider catering your training to individual needs and creating resources that repurpose the content for different formats.
  • Create Spaces to Connect: Whenever possible, enable trainees to collaborate during the training. Onboarding is a valuable opportunity for them to get to know each other and build a meaningful connection. 

Virtual Training Is Essential For A Fulfilling Employee Onboarding

Regularly seek feedback about your company’s training and ask employees how you can improve their training experience. By experimenting with different training structures and repurposing your content for new formats, you can appeal to the range of different learning styles within your company.

One of the most common times you train employees is during their new employee onboarding, which can make or break your new hire’s future with your company. Don’t worry: we’re here to help. Download our virtual onboarding ebook for a complete walkthrough of how to deliver a fulfilling virtual onboarding experience, including how to develop a virtual onboarding plan and strategies for engaging new hires. 

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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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7 Smart Ways to Engage New Hires With Virtual Onboarding

80% of new hires say they’ll leave their company if they receive a poor onboarding experience. Can you blame them?

It is exciting to join a new company, but also anxiety-inducing. If companies fail to help their new hires transition into the virtual workplace smoothly—either by not providing guidance on how to get started or leaving questions unanswered—then anxiety can turn into frustration or upset. And that’s far from an ideal first impression. 

A fulfilling onboarding experience will give new hires a clear understanding of their role, how they can navigate their virtual workspace, and ways to collaborate with their teammates effectively. Most importantly, the experience has to be engaging. Let’s explore proven ways to engage new hires so you can get them started on the right foot.

How to Engage New Hires During Virtual Onboarding

Every new hire should feel included and ready to hit the ground running in their new role. To help you achieve this, we’ve compiled the top seven tips for engaging new employees:

1. Establish Communication Norms

Explain your common company lingo, meeting styles, and critical projects to all new hires. This will help them more easily transition into the team. Ideally, you should document your standard verbiage, workflows, and meeting styles and save this information in a commonly accessible spot for your team.

2. Start Building Relationships From Day 1

New hires will be eager to meet their manager, mentor, and direct teammates. Schedule 1-on-1 meetings throughout the new hire’s first week to introduce them to the people they will be working closely with. If your company has 12 or fewer people, you can even schedule 15- or 30-minute meetups with everyone. The purpose of these meetings is to help new team members get to know their coworkers and understand how their role fits within your company’s bigger picture. 

3. Encourage Engagement Throughout the Virtual Office

Understanding how employees can engage with their colleagues in a virtual office is often challenging. During a new hire’s onboarding, show them how to venture to different “locations” in your virtual workplace and use statuses to indicate their availability. Explain how various team members use the space’s functionalities and tools, and encourage new employees to experiment with these capabilities to find out what works best for them.

4. Pair New Hires with An Orientation Buddy

After the new hire finishes their initial onboarding paperwork and administrative tasks, pairing them with a coworker who shares similar responsibilities is helpful. Have the new hire shadow their colleague and attend the same meetings, discuss their tasks, and frequently debrief throughout the day. This is a valuable opportunity for the new hire to observe the team dynamics and ask questions about navigating the virtual workspace.

5. Provide Training and Resources

Give all new employees the necessary resources and training to thrive in their roles. Overview your company’s products or services and provide an organizational chart and employee handbook. Help the new hire understand how to use your company’s virtual office software, and host several training sessions detailing these tools and how to use them (and be sure to brush up on these virtual training tips). 

6. Set Clear Expectations of Individual and Organizational Goals

A healthy culture requires every employee to understand their individual goals and how they can support the company’s mission. Outline and explain your new hire’s individual responsibilities and how these responsibilities support your company’s purpose. By knowing responsibilities from the start, new hires can prioritize their workload and stay focused. By understanding the company’s goals, they can have a better sense of purpose and a drive to accomplish those larger goals.

7. Inspire Collaborative Learning

Include your new employee in group discussions to showcase your company’s collaborative process. Doing so from day one will demonstrate how they can start in their new environment in the right way and effectively collaborate with their peers. These collaborative discussions will also help the new hire observe the team structure and each teammate’s work style. 

Employee Success Starts With Virtual Onboarding

Every new hire deserves an engaging virtual onboarding experience that equips them for success in a hybrid work culture. Building connections for new hires from day one and providing a full breakdown of how your company speaks and works will set them up for sustained success—and, ideally, a long career with your company.
There are a lot of factors that go into building an ideal virtual onboarding experience and keeping a virtual workspace running. It often helps to hire a virtual office manager who can prioritize your employee experience and orchestrate a fulfilling onboarding experience. Download our virtual office manager’s handbook to learn the processes, tools, and strategies that will empower your virtual office manager to maximize your team engagement

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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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A Manager’s Checklist of Opportunities to Build Meaningful Connections in Virtual Offices

Building a healthy and collaborative workplace culture requires a consistent strategy, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

Employees who feel connected to their company’s culture are much more likely to thrive and stay. And those happy employees can even be up to 20% more productive than those who are dissatisfied. The key is to help employees build genuine relationships with their peers to foster healthy communication and overcome potential conflict—and that’s easier said than done.

Managers play a major role in building connections in virtual offices and reinforcing the company culture. For those who may be new to managing virtual teams, it can be challenging to know where to focus your effort to drive the best results. Let’s explore the main opportunities for managers to connect employees, regardless of where they are based.

5 Ways to Connect Employees Across Your Distributed Workforce 

To perform their best, virtual and hybrid workers need a clear understanding of their “purpose at every level.” This means that everyone—from your entry-level employees to executive leadership—should feel confident that they are working toward your mission with purpose.

Rallying virtual employees behind your company mission requires a different approach for each level, and relationships will make or break your experience. Implement these strategies for building relationships in virtual teams to strengthen your culture:

  • Prioritize Your Virtual Onboarding: Your company needs to make a solid first impression on all new employees. To do so, create a virtual onboarding plan that provides a smooth transition into your company and clearly explains how new hires can succeed as part of your distributed team. Onboarding is also the ideal time to get to know new hires and encourage them to share their outside-of-work interests and previous work accomplishments. Not only does this help new hires start building their own internal network, but it also gives leaders more insight to connect employees based on their commonalities and shared hobbies. 
  • Establish Mentorship Programs: Pairing early career professionals with mid and senior-level employees can be incredibly effective for building relationships and breaking down potential cultural barriers. New employees can more quickly learn about your company’s culture and understand their potential career progression with guidance from their mentor, and both the mentor and mentee will benefit from the new relationship. 
  • Create Space for Non-Work Conversations: In the physical office, a company’s water cooler or kitchen was a hub for quick conversations and friendly banter. Likewise, virtual workspaces should also offer places for employees to chat about matters not related to work. Consider creating dedicated channels in your communication tools for employees to talk about personal hobbies and interests, and offer open networking rooms where employees can catch up throughout the work day.  
  • Start Meetings With an Icebreaker: Team meetings are a key opportunity to check in with employees. At the start or end of your meetings, host a quick conversation where everyone can share something about their week or personal life or recognize each other for their accomplishments. Taking a few minutes from each meeting to focus solely on your employees as humans can spark connections and help them build and find commonalities. 
  • Live By Your Values: When implementing the above strategies, your team needs to live the values you are trying to nurture. Encourage managers to dedicate time each week to actively work on building relationships within their team, and openly discuss the challenges that people are facing. 

Start to Build Employee Connections on Day One

There are challenges—and distinct advantages—to building genuine connections in fully remote, distributed, and hybrid teams. Try out a few different tactics, and find out what works best for you and your team. But ask for ongoing feedback and be open to adapting as your team grows and develops. 

One of the most important times to help an employee embed themselves into your culture is during their new hire onboarding. The onboarding process presents many key opportunities to connect employees and establish a healthy foundation that will help them overcome any challenges they face in your virtual workspace.

To bring a new-found sense of community to your virtual or distributed team, add Spaces to Microsoft Teams and see what a virtual office can do for your team’s productivity.

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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.

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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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