If you’ve been working remotely like us, you know the WFH (work from home) life has come with its pros and cons. I think we can all agree it’s awesome to not sit in traffic for 45 minutes every day, but it’s also challenging when your only in-person coworker is your cat.
On the topic of coworkers, having a tight-knit team is super important to us. It’s how we work so efficiently and seamlessly on projects, and it also makes our work a lot more fun! Working remotely challenged us to find unique ways to stay connected. When we added two new team members this year (AKA Terry and Mariann), we knew we would have to be especially creative in making sure everyone felt connected. Here’s what we learned:
1. Obstacle: Onboarding new team members virtually
Sonder Solution (SS):
Starting a new position can feel overwhelming for a lot of folks, even in person. When you aren’t face-to-face, it can be easy for important housekeeping items to be missed. We found that setting up important items for our new team members before their start date (like email, Slack, project management logins, etc.) helped a lot on their first day and allowed for a less hectic/stressful first interaction. It gave us more time for other onboarding tasks like time-offs and payroll without creating an information overload.
2. Obstacle: Introducing our company culture
Strong communication has been crucial for successful remote work in general, but especially when helping our new team members feel welcome. We chat often through Slack and have frequent impromptu Zoom calls. We found video calling to be especially helpful when getting to know one other. It allows for easier communication and gives the opportunity to read each other’s body language to build a more personal connection. We removed as many barriers as we could with these tools to make communication feel even more seamless. Setting up integrations between Slack and Zoom makes video calls a breeze. Even though we can’t lean over our desks and talk to each other, we still see a lot of value in having non-work-related conversations and getting to know one another outside of our work roles. We start each of our Monday meetings by just chatting about our weekends, sharing stories, etc. We’ve maintained and shared our team culture through constant communication and helped our newbies get a sense of what our team is all about. One small thing we always do is say good morning and goodbye every day (usually over Slack, and usually with gifs). It can feel monotonous to not be surrounded by the liveliness of our office every day. We found introducing small bits of fun helps bring some of those elements back into our lives.
3. Obstacle: Feeling comfortable in new roles
It’s always really important that our entire team supports one another, but it was especially critical when welcoming new team members remotely. We focus on creating a helpful environment that thrives on open conversations, and we wanted to make that apparent ASAP to our new members. We found it beneficial to do small check-ins throughout the day to ensure everything was going smoothly/be available to answer questions. Hopping on quick Zoom calls for longer discussions or walk-throughs is always great.
4. Obstacle: Ensuring an efficient workflow
This solution came pretty naturally. We already had solid workflow processes that older team members had been using for quite some time. The most important thing was just making sure the new members were familiar with the process, had access to our project management tools, and were comfortable diving in. Emphasizing an environment of open communication was critical again (in short, it’s critical in everything we do), in case someone was struggling with timelines, needed more support, etc.
5. Obstacle: Varying schedules
Flexibility and trust are everything. Working remotely works so well for us because there is a high level of trust throughout the team. If someone needs a midday break to refocus or needs to start later to take care of their kids, that is A-okay. We all trust the work will get done, and any time that is missed during our “regular” working hours will be made up elsewhere. Micromanaging isn’t our style. Having trust and flexibility within the team allows everyone to work within their lifestyle while still making sure we all hold each other accountable for our projects.
Working from home has come with its hurdles, but it’s also welcomed a lot of new opportunities to enhance the way we work and support our team’s work-life balance. We’ve learned just because certain aspects don’t happen organically anymore doesn’t make them any less important. We recently introduced monthly one-on-one meetings and virtual team hangouts to make sure we still have those important bonding moments as a group. They take a bit more planning than they used to, but they are still every bit as valuable (maybe now more than ever).
We aren’t sure when (or if) we’ll ever fully return to an office, but we ARE hopeful that we’ll all be able to meet in person soon. Until then, Zoom calls will continue to be our go-to, cats will continue to join our meetings, and gifs will keep being our main mode of communication.