Workforce.com has an outstanding article from February of this year, This Party’s Electric: Culture, Cocktails and Remote Co-workers, about some creative, effective ways companies have created a sense of team among remote workers. This article is about paid employees, but these practices would also work for those engaging online volunteers, in many scenarios.
The article notes that:
- All 70 of the employees at FlexJobs, a telecommuting job service, work virtually, and many employees have never met in the same room, in-person. To build team culture, the FlexJobs leadership team uses collaboration technology to come up with fun ways to help employees develop relationships outside of work, including a twice-monthly virtual yoga class over Skype run by an employee with a yoga certification, and a trivia-themed happy hour using Sococo, an online virtual workplace, where employee teams gather in virtual rooms to brainstorm answers to questions posted by the CEO. “You would be surprised by how well it all works,” said Carol Cochran, FlexJob’s director of people and culture.
- Katie Evans, senior communications manager at Upwork, an online talent marketplace formerly known as Elance-oDesk, created a “get to know you” exercise, and had remote employees submit three facts about themselves. She shared the facts anonymously with the team, then employees met using Google Hangouts video to guess which facts went with which person. “I thought it would last for 30 minutes, but it lasted two hours,” she said. “Everyone had a lot of fun.” The party made her realize that you don’t need to be live and in person to build company morale, and you don’t need to use complicated technology to make virtual celebrations fun. “The value is in the face time and storytelling, not the platform,” she said. Now she hosts quarterly all-company parties and smaller teams have begun using collaboration tools for team coffees and weekly “rocks and roses” meetings where everyone shares their best and worst moment of the week.
The key in these and other examples from the article is that these remote workers do already know each other, to a degree, through work – they work together already, they’ve interacted enough to know each other’s names and roles.
For more advice on working with remote volunteers, or using the Internet to support and involve volunteers, check out The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook. Tools come and go – but certain community engagement principles never change, as the aforementioned Workforce.com article confirms. Successfully working with people remotely is a very human endeavor that people who are amiable, understanding and thoughtful tend to excel in.