Let’s face it: It’s a digital world. Unless you live under a rock, you know what Facebook is. And since you’re reading my article, my guess is you’re nowhere near a cave. And if you are in a cave, reading this next to a smoldering fire, then my assertion that we live in a digital world has even more meaning, because woah! You have wifi in your cave. But anyway.
Thanks to widespread Internet access, more companies than ever before are now able to adopt virtual workforces and hire remote employees. It’s easy set up base in Manhattan while hiring employees who live and work in San Francisco, London, or even Tokyo. Let’s call it, “Workplace Globalization.”
This trend has led to more diversity in companies, wide outreach to consumers, and yes, access to much larger talent pools. As remote work becomes the new norm, the days of being anchored to a cubicle for a standard eight-hour workday are rapidly receding into the past.
But now that we can hire teams that extend across multiple time zones, we face brand new hiring challenges. Not only must we now learn the perfect way to manage our remote teams, but we also have to figure out how to create thriving, engaging, and enjoyable company cultures when the company’s employees are scattered across the four corners of the world.
Ryan Rogowski, CEO and cofounder of the language translation app Waygo, became a pro at managing his remote team before the virtual workplace was a certifiably booming trend. Though he started his team in China, Rogowski now has employees in four different states and three different countries. This means he has had to adapt some unique practices in order to maintain team morale.
Replicating the Office When Everyone Works From Home
“When it comes to building a strong company culture, I think there are two elements at play,” Rogowski says. “The first is replicating the kind of culture you’d build in an office environment where you see your workers everyday.”
Waygo accomplishes this by holding weekly planning conferences via Google Hangout. This platform allows his team members to meet face to face (via video) and gives each employee an opportunity for to highlight and discuss what they’re working on.
“The key is keeping everybody on the same page every week,” Rogowski says.
In addition to weekly conferences, Rogowski’s team also holds a weekly virtual happy hour. Everyone hops into a video chat, pours a drink wherever they are, and the party starts. The idea is to give employees the chance to hold fun, non-work related conversations with one another – the kind you would have during a traditional happy hour get-together.
Get Together Regularly – and Make Sure It’s Fun
For Waygo, the second element to building a great company culture is the quarterly team retreats the company holds.
“We have everyone come to the office headquarters in San Fransisco or Rhode Island for a week,” Rogowski says. “We work for a day or two, and then do fun bonding activities the rest of the week.”
Though more practical for smaller teams, company retreats offer a chance for employees to work together in person and develop deeper levels of rapport, happiness, and job satisfaction.
There’s an underlying theme at play in all that Waygo does to build a strong company culture for its virtual workforce: communication.
“I think contact and communication are big parts of our success,” Rogowski says. “A lot of times, when you’re working remotely, it feels like you’re working alone. But constant communications and connection can help tremendously.”
The key takeaway from it all? No matter what kind of company you are, communication has been and always will be the No. 1 ingredient for any kind of team symbiosis. And I think there’s a lesson in that, whether your employees are 600 miles away or two cubicles down.
Happy employees = happy company.