There have been a variety of articles published on how to optimize working remotely. This article, however, describes things InfoTrust does to help virtual team members feel closer as a team. Effective virtual teams are built on trust and commitment—and like any relationship, there are things each party can do to make the partnership as strong and effective as possible.
The Hybrid Life
InfoTrust’s work setting is that of a hybrid virtual team. Although headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, with offices in Chicago, Dubai, and the Philippines, by embracing a remote work culture fully remote team members may be found in 20 states plus Canada and Europe. For these remote or virtual team members, the work culture and feeling of membership is potentially much less defined. InfoTrust, however, does a great job to make remote staff feel closer as a team member by establishing a strong sense of culture and authentic sense of belonging. All InfoTrust meetings are virtual so that remote staff are included—this way everyone in the company can participate. The virtual office community is Slack and not only is it a means of efficient team communication, but also frequently the virtual water cooler for discussion. InfoTrust also makes use of Bonusly, so that team members can publicly recognize others by giving bonus points for a job well done. Integrated with Slack, the recognition and rewards platform is a fantastic way to enrich the culture of InfoTrust’s hybrid virtual office. Some of the successful organizational practices of InfoTrust include:
- Weekly town hall meetings that include not only business and team updates but also acknowledgement of birthdays and anniversaries
- Quarterly business and financial updates for total transparency
- Virtual contests and challenges for universal participation
- Weekly optional meetings to explore and learn other interests
- Sending holiday and party items to remote staff for celebrations
- Bringing entire staff together once a year to the corporate home office city
- Assignment of an onboarding buddy for new hires
- Makes extensive use of Slack including a variety of informal channels (like #adulting and #whatmadeyourweek)
- Use of a recognition and rewards platform to allow peer acknowledgements and accolades
- A map of team member locations to help facilitate face-to-face opportunities
These actions to make remote staff feel closer as team members also have benefits to office team members. Accommodating and authentically including virtual team members allows everyone—both office and virtual team members—the option to work remotely should they choose or be required as we learned from the recent pandemic.
Diversity is also present within individual working styles, some preferring either more interconnectedness or isolation than others. In instances where one is more inclined to be less expressive or promotional, enjoyment and satisfaction can be achieved by “quietly thriving”—knowing that your contributions are helping your team and larger organization become successful. Even as a virtual team member who is more reserved, management and colleagues will take note.
My Personal Work-from-Home Experience
For me, I try to participate in virtual meetings with a camera on and in an informal meeting, I select a background of my environment that is interesting (like my family’s log cabin). Also given the occasion, I wear a shirt that is an expression of myself like an Austin FC team jersey. I also schedule meetings with other team members to get to know them better. Finding things in common or learning/sharing new culture enables a better connection within a diverse organization like InfoTrust.
As an extrovert, the role of a virtual team member can be challenging. To maintain the satisfaction of the role as a virtual team member, I have done some things to feel connected and less isolated. In addition to attempts to get to know my colleagues better, I look for opportunities to do things with others in my home town or just get out. For me, joining a gym and yoga studio has really helped, as well as meeting up for group bike rides. Another option to help me connect is working in various locations when I can. As a change of setting from the “home office,” I am extremely fortunate to work from the family farm. I also will go to local coffee shops, parks, or the downtown library when not having to participate in meetings or require the use of multiple monitors. Although I do miss the physical office comradery, I am doing what I can to remain a happy, productive and an effective team member.
More Than Remote Work
As the name implies, trust is a foundational value at InfoTrust. Success as a virtual team member requires not only dedication and discipline, but also trust. Frequently in the form of giving both coworkers and management the benefit of doubt, a functional virtual office setting requires trust. For virtual team members, when trust is lost doubt reigns and the proverbial glass will be frequently perceived as half empty.
Successful virtual teams are built on trust and commitment and like any relationship, there are things each party can do to make the partnership as strong as possible. This includes not only virtual team members but also employers. Everyone plays a role to optimize dynamics of the hybrid virtual office. The organization practices implemented by InfoTrust tightly align with the company’s core values. A hybrid virtual team by definition is diverse. InfoTrust takes ownership of ensuring everyone regardless of office setting can and will thrive.